Robert Wickens has taken a route increasingly well-travelled as he attempts to keep himself in the frame for an F1 drive, opting to join the Mercedes line-up in the DTM.
The Three-Pointed Star has taken the decision to relaunch the successful Junior Team initiative made famous by the triumvirate of Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the early 1990s, and includes Wickens in its 2012 line-up, alongside reigning F3 Euroseries champion Roberto Mehri and GP2 convert Christian Vietoris.
While the German has the advantage of having already spent a year in the 'tin-top' series, Wickens is hoping to get up to speed quickly and, if all goes well, propel himself back into the F1 'green room', having been overlooked for even a testing role in 2012, The Canadian, a Red Bull protégé on his way up through the junior ranks, won last year's World Series by Renault and tested positively for the Marussia Virgin team, leading to hopes that he may be included in the Russian-financed team's plans for the coming year. Instead, with Charles Pic taking the second race seat alongside Timo Glock and no-one yet confirmed for the third driver role, Wickens has taken matters into his own hands in order to remain 'on track'.
"The DTM is a fantastic series - you're competing against top-notch drivers," the 22-year old commented, "I'm proud that Mercedes-Benz are giving me the chance to show what I am capable of in this environment in the Junior Team. My main aim will be to finish every race and to deliver decent performances."
Mercedes' youth development programme has proved a useful stepping stone to F1, with no fewer than eight of this year's 24 F1 drivers having previously been powered by the Three-Pointed Star in F3. Having raced in the F3 Euroseries, Wickens finished second in the F2 standings in 2009, repeated that result in GP3 in 2010, before winning last year's WSbR crown, which earned him an F1 test outing with Lotus Renault GP to add to his Marussia Virgin experience.
"Here at Mercedes-Benz, we have a tradition of nurturing promising young drivers and talent-spotting the stars of tomorrow that goes back almost as far as the earliest Mercedes-built racing cars," vice-president of motorsport Norbert Haug emphasised, "The youth factor is entirely consistent with the DTM, even more so now that the series has been broadened out to include the three most successful premium marques in the world.
"Roberto, Christian and Robert have a lot to learn, but that will not be a problem, as they are all three avid learners, and have excellent role models in Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger, the successful trio who made up the Mercedes Junior Team in the late eighties and early nineties, and who have still not finished making motor racing history."
Mehri and Vietoris both still harbour F1 ambitions, and will join Wickens in viewing the success currently being enjoyed by Paul di Resta, who spent four years in the DTM before being promoted by Mercedes to a race seat with F1 customer team Force India.