Mercedes confirms 2011 driver line-up
26 April 2011
Prior to the season launch event at Wiesbaden, Mercedes-Benz has confirmed the nine drivers that will represent the marque in the 2011 DTM series.
Following the departure of 2010 Champion Paul di Resta to race in Formula 1 with Force India, two newcomers -Christian Vietoris and Renger van der Zande - will join Gary Paffett, Bruno Spengler, Ralf Schumacher, Jamie Green, Susie Stoddart, Maro Engel and David Couthard.
During the 2010 season, 22-year-old Vietoris competed in GP2, the supporting series to Formula One. He had previously competed in the Formula 3 Euro Series for Mücke Motorsport in a Mercedes-Benz-powered Dallara car in 2008 and 2009, finishing as runner-up in his second season with four wins. 25-year-old van der Zande competed in the 2010 GP3 series (also a supporting race event on GP weekends), having contested before the German Formula 3 Championship, the Formula 3 Euro Series and the British Formula 3 Championship in MB-powered cars under the wing of the Mercedes-Benz young driver scheme between 2006 and 2009
Vietoris, (Junge Sterne AMG Mercedes C-Class) and van der Zande (stern AMG Mercedes C-Class) will not be the only drivers racing a 2008-spec C-Class: they will be joined by Susie Stoddart (28, TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes C-Class), Maro Engel (25, GQ AMG Mercedes C-Class) and David Coulthard (40, Deutsche Post AMG Mercedes C-Class).
The 2009 AMG Mercedes C-Class that will be raced by the four HWA drivers starts the forthcoming season with real pedigree, having scored eight victories in the eleven races of the 2010 season. Reigning DTM champion Paul Di Resta and runner-up Gary Paffett claimed three victories each. Third-placed Bruno Spengler contributed two more wins for Mercedes-Benz, with the ninth coming from Jamie Green driving for the Persson team in a 2008 AMG Mercedes C-Class at the Norisring - this marked the car's third consecutive victory at the track.
Lining up for the HWA team are: Gary Paffett (30, THOMAS SABO AMG Mercedes C-Class), DTM Champion in 2005, DTM runner-up in 2004, 2009 and 2010, test driver for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One team; Ralf Schumacher (35, Salzgitter AMG Mercedes C-Class), the third-most successful German Formula One driver ever with six Grand Prix victories under his belt; Bruno Spengler (27, Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG C-Class), DTM runner-up in 2006 and 2007 as well as third-placed driver in 2010. Returning to the HWA team is Jamie Green (28, AMG Mercedes C-Class) from Leicester (England), Formula 3 Euro Series champion in 2004 and winner of the last three races at the Norisring in Nuremberg with the same car.
This marks a return to the current specification car for Jamie Green, and he is relishing the challenge.
"It's a great feeling to know that Mercedes-Benz have decided to reward my efforts in recent years - including those three victories in Nuremberg and my performance as best driver in a year-old car in 2009 and 2010 - by giving me a current AMG Mercedes C-Class,” he said. “I'm aiming to repay the confidence they have shown in me by turning in some good results this year."
Meanwhile, Gary Paffett is also relishing the twin challenge of competing in the DTM whilst undertaking his duties as test driver for Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes.
"The DTM season 2011 brings new challenges, especially those that come with the change of tyre supplier to Hankook,” he reflected. “Our tests with the new tyres have been very promising, and I am fully motivated about the upcoming season with our new sponsorship partner THOMAS SABO. My objective this time round is to improve on last year's result by one position."
Another driver having to manage two jobs this year is BBC F1 commentator David Coulthard, who is looking to improve on his steady start to life in the DTM.
"My first DTM season was a learning year,” he said. “My year of apprenticeship is over - now I'm looking to make some real progress. After scoring my first DTM point in the grand finale in Shanghai in 2010, I'm hoping to please my fans this season with more point-scoring finishes."
Fellow Scot Susie Stoddart is hoping to emulate her countryman by continuing to improve on her first points scoring finish last season, despite racing an older car.
"My first DTM points last season were long overdue,” she said. “When you're driving last year's model, it's by no means easy to finish among the points, but once again, I'll be giving it everything I've got."
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, is looking forward to extending their successful record in the series, having won 63% of all DTM races contested since 2006.
"The 2010 DTM season was a highly successful one for our brand as well as for our teams,” he admitted. “Securing nine wins in eleven races, the team championship and the top three positions in the drivers' championship, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was quite literally in a class of its own. Current title holder Paul Di Resta has built on this success to make the step up to Formula One where he will still be driving a Mercedes engine for his new team, Force India."
"The new season brings a new tyre partner for the DTM series by the name of Hankook, so I'm sure that the cards will be well and truly reshuffled as a result. From our perspective, we certainly don't have any divine right to victory and, as ever, we will have to work hard to earn every good result. Everyone in our teams is full of enthusiasm for the challenge ahead."
by Jon Gurr