The Mercedes-AMG DTM line-up for 2016 can be neatly summed up as the status quo – with an added dash of French flair. After winning the drivers’ and team championship last season, the Mercedes-AMG DTM team will retain seven of the eight drivers for the 2016 season.
New face on the grid
19-year-old Esteban Ocon will be a new face on the grid, but the Frenchman is no stranger to the Mercedes-Benz family. As a Mercedes Junior, Ocon won last year’s GP3 Series, which races on Formula One weekends, and he attended every DTM race as a Mercedes-AMG DTM test and reserve driver in order to gain valuable experience. Reserve driver Ocon made his debut at a DTM race weekend when he stood in for an unwell Daniel Juncadella during Friday practice for the 2015 season finale in Hockenheim.
With DTM champions Paul Di Resta (2010 champion, seventh DTM season) and Gary Paffett (2005 champion, thirteenth DTM season) plus Robert Wickens (fourth DTM season) and Christian Vietoris (sixth DTM season), the Mercedes-AMG DTM squad for the upcoming season includes four experienced DTM race winners. Spaniard Daniel Juncadella, who will be starting his fourth year in the DTM, is another well established driver in the field.
Maximilian Götz and Lucas Auer will both be entering their second DTM seasons in 2016. The two rookies scored their first successes in their debut season. Auer secured his maiden DTM pole in Race One at the Nürburgring, while Götz registered his best DTM result to date with a top-five finish in the same race.
Road to Hockenheim
The eight Mercedes-AMG DTM drivers are preparing for the new season this week at the annual fitness camp in La Manga. The first tests of the year will take place in Monteblanco, February 23rd-25th. The 2016 DTM season gets under way on the weekend of May 6th-8th in Hockenheim.
Gary Paffett (Start number 2): “I’m looking forward to 2016. I had a good season last year with ART during which we learned a great deal together. I myself improved a lot compared to 2014 and have set the benchmark high for this season. I want to continue in the same way this year and do better than last year’s three podium finishes with race wins and challenging for the title if everything goes well.”
Paul Di Resta (Start number 3): “Last year was a great one for our team. Now I want to get back in the car after the long winter break and can’t wait to see the new generation of our Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM out on track. Hopefully, our performance will be as strong like in 2015, so that we can fight for the championship. That is obviously my goal for this season. Everyone in the team wants to pick up where we left off last year with Pascal.”
Robert Wickens (Start number 6): “I’m really pleased to be back in the team for 2016. 2015 was not a particularly strong year for me. The Norisring was definitely the highlight of my season with a win and a second place. The second half of the season didn’t go too well, but I’m confident that I can start the 2016 season with new energy.”
Christian Vietoris (Start number 8): “We’ve had a really long winter break. Last season didn’t go brilliantly well for me, so I’m looking forward to getting another crack at going on the offensive. My goal is to be one of the top Mercedes drivers, which I succeeded in doing both in 2013 and 2014. It’s now time to get racing again.”
Daniel Juncadella (Start number 12): “It’s great to be back. It’s been a long time since the last race, so I’m looking forward to getting back in the car and starting the new season. I’ve got a clear objective. I aim to win at least one race, the sooner the better, because it then becomes easier to be among the front-runners.”
Lucas Auer (Start number 22): “It’s great to still be part of the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team in 2016. I’ve recovered from last season during the winter and have trained hard. Lots of things should come easier in my second DTM season. It’s important to continue to improve, especially in qualifying, and to regularly finish in the points. I’m confident that our car will be competitive. I can’t wait to get back in it.”
Esteban Ocon (Start number 34): “It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series. I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity. Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race. I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”
Maximilian Götz (Start number 84): “The gloves are off after my rookie year. I had a strong second half of the season and will try to repeat that performance. I’ve trained hard during the winter and am proud to still be part of the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team. The conditions and expectations this year are different to 2015. My goal this season is to finish regularly in the Top Ten and maybe even get a shot at the podium - something I had a shot at twice last year. It would be great if I could pull it off this season.”
Ulrich Fritz, Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM: “We’re aiming for stability in the team after a successful 2015. Esteban Ocon has learned a lot as our test and reserve driver and is ready for his rookie season in the DTM. Esteban proved his talent last year by winning the GP3 Series title. Of course, he still has much to learn, but with his seven team-mates, he can draw on the combined experience of 31 DTM seasons. When you start the season as defending champions, it’s hard to have any other goal than winning the championship. But everyone knows just how competitive the DTM is and it won’t be an easy task. I would like to especially thank our reigning DTM champion, Pascal Wehrlein, who has taken the next step in his career for 2016, as he will be tackling a fresh challenge in Formula One. Pascal remains part of the Mercedes-Benz family, and we wish him all the best in what we hope will be a successful F1 career.”