Mercedes has announced its eight drivers for the 2016 DTM championship with GP3 Series winner Esteban Ocon replacing the F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein.
After dominating the German touring car series last year, claiming the drivers' and teams' titles, Mercedes has opted for continuity by retaining seven drivers in its line-up. The only change is enforced as 2015 champion Wehrlein steps into F1 with Mercedes-powered Manor which has opened the door for reigning GP3 winner Ocon.
Ocon, a Mercedes junior who acted as the manufacturer's reserve driver in DTM last year and made his DTM debut at Hockenheim as stand in for an unwell Daniel Juncadella for Friday practice, will combine his rookie DTM campaign with his role as Renault's F1 reserve driver and relishes the challenge.
"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,” Ocon said. “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."
Ulrich Fritz, head of Mercedes-AMG DTM, sees continuity as key and has given his driver squad with one simple goal: to defend its titles.
“When you start the season as defending champions, it's hard to have any other goal than winning the championship,” Fritz said. “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.
"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.”
As expected Juncadella, Paul Di Resta, Gary Paffett, Robert Wickens, Christian Vietoris, Maximilian Gotz and Lucas Auer have all be retained by Mercedes for 2016.