Benz driver about Wehrlein return: colleague or rival?
How the Mercedes DTM drivers react to Pascal Wehrlein’s return and what they expect from the former DTM Champion in the 2018 season
After a two-year break Pascal Wehrlein will return to the DTM in 2018. After winning the championship in 2015, the Mercedes driver switched to Formula 1, where he competed for the Swiss Sauber team, among others. At the season opener at Hockenheim (4. till 6. May) the 23-year-old returns to the Stuttgart team’s cockpit and sets himself high goals: “I am particularly looking forward to having a car with which I can show something, clinch a good result and hopefully make it to the podium and to victory,” said the Mercedes driver in an interview with’Motorsport-Total.com’.
The German regrets that 2018 will be the last year of the Stuttgart DTM and together with his five team mates there is only one goal: “We want to bring the title back to Stuttgart again” His brand colleagues will face the return of the former DTM Champion with mixed feelings. Because with Wehrlein not only a colleague returns to the ranks of Mercedes, but also a competitor in the fight for the title.
“I find our driver squad incredibly strong. With Pascal a character has returned. Gary Paffet and Paul di Resta can also conjure with such cars. They make few mistakes and are all brutally fast. We can pull each other up,” says Lucas Auer, who also gets along well with Wehrlein privately.
Three DTM Champions at Mercedes
Paul di Resta followed a similar path to Wehrlein: after winning the DTM title, he switched to the top class. The Scotsman knows exactly what difficulties the Germans will face: “It is more difficult to return than to leave. It will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts again, because he doesn’t have much time because we will stop at the end of the year,” said the former Force India pilot.
“He’s a great guy and a former champion – we now have three on our team,” says Gary Paffett about the returnee and adds: “He will have to learn a lot, because the cars and tyres are different. There is a lot for him to do, but he doesn’t have much opportunity to drive, because the test drives are limited. He’s gonna be tough for him.”
The Briton points out that the DTM field is close together and he expects a tough fight for the championship, in which Wehrlein will also take part: “He is one of six Mercedes drivers who are trying to win the title. After the first race weekends we’ll see how he fares. He works very hard to be as well prepared as possible. And just like all of us, he wants to win.”
“If the others are better…”
Mercedes knows that Wehrlein needs time to adjust to his new DTM cars: “Of course I expect him to fit in well with the team again and to appear as a team player. He has all the sporty ingredients needed to be successful in the DTM. He was already champion and can become champion again at any time,” says Mercedes DTM team boss Ulrich Fritz.
No pressure would be built up, because “he himself wants it to work most of all”. The Stuttgart drivers will start their DTM farewell season with a “very strong squad”, but who will be number one internally has not yet been determined before the start of the season.
Edoardo Mortara, who moved from Audi to Mercedes before last season, knows how difficult it is to get used to a new environment and prevail against strong team colleagues. Of course, we are all rivals,” explains the 31-year-old. The man from Geneva does not want to be distracted by Wehrlein’s arrival and wants to concentrate on his personal performance.
“If the others are better, then they are better. It’s up to me to do a good job. And, if I do a good job, I can be at the front of the music,” adds Mortara. At the season opener at Hockenheim the 18 DTM drivers will exchange blows for the first time and then it will become clear who will prevail in the manufacturer’s internal positioning battles.