Four shoot it out for vacant Merc seat.

Mika Hakkinen's recent decision to hang up his helmet has created an opening at Mercedes for fresh blood, and with an upcoming test at Mugello in the pipeline, four names appear to be leading the chase.

Renger van der Zande, Yelmer Buurman, Cyndie Allemann and Maro Engel all raced Mercedes-powered cars in Formula 3 this year – the first three in the F3 Euroseries and the latter in the British championship. Whoever impresses the most around the Italian circuit towards the end of this month may find themselves rewarded with a drive in one of the three-pointed star's 2006-spec C-Class' in next year's DTM.

Engel triumphed three times in British F3 – including in both the curtain-raiser and finale – en route to the runner-up spot in the end-of-season standings with Carlin Motorsport, while Buurman and van der Zande respectively claimed sixth and eleventh in the Euroseries title chase, as rookie Allemann – the first female European Karting champion in history – failed to score.

With Hakkinen vacating his 2007-spec mount, either Paul di Resta or former champion Gary Paffett are tipped to be promoted to fill the breach, with the former expected to test the 2007 machine at Mugello alongside the four young hopefuls. Alex Margaritis and Daniel la Rosa are also candidates to fill the Finn's seat at HWA AMG.

di Resta recently got to test a McLaren-Mercedes F1 car as a prize for clinching the 2004 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award.

Paffett, meanwhile, has made no secret of the fact he hankers after his big break in F1, and has been repeatedly linked with Prodrive's 2008 entry. Should that fail to materialise, he is eager to be given the equipment with which to fight to regain his DTM crown after finishing ninth in the series in a year-old machine this year, four spots behind di Resta in a 2005-spec car.

“Once you get that winning feeling back, you want it every time,” www.touringcartimes.com quotes the Englishman as saying. “Next year I want to keep racing, and my options in F1 look limited.

“I really enjoyed coming back to the DTM, but I want to fight for the championship again. That means driving a new car, but it's up to the team to decide.”

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mika Hakkinen - AMG Mercedes [pic credit: DTM Media]
Maro Engel (GER), Carlin Motorsport Dallara Mercedes
Yelmer Buurman (NL), Fortec Dallara Mercedes
Start [pic credit: DTM Media]
Start [pic credit: DTM Media]
Marco Wittmann - BMW M4 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Robert Wickens - Mercedes AMG C-Coupe [pic credit: DTM Media]
Christian Vietoris - Mercedes AMG C-Coupe [pic credit: DTM Media]
Adrian Tambay - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Adrian Tambay - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Adrian Tambay - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Timo Scheider - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Mike Rockenfeller - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Mike Rockenfeller - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Vitaly Petrov - Mercedes AMG C-Coupe [pic credit: DTM Media]
Gary Paffett - Mercedes AMG C-Coupe [pic credit: DTM Media]
Miguel Molina - Audi RS5 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]
Maxime Martin - BMW M4 DTM [pic credit: DTM Media]

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