Paffett's DTM return plans put on ice, Buhk keeps seat

Factory Mercedes driver Gary Paffett will not contest the 2021 DTM season, having already skipped the opening three rounds, with his replacement Maximilian Buhk set to see out the season.

Paffett's DTM return plans put on ice, Buhk keeps seat

Two-time champion Paffett was set to make a highly-anticipated comeback in the DTM this season after signing a deal with Mucke Motorsport to drive a factory-supported Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Clashes with the Formula E calendar prevented the 40-year-old Mercedes FE reserve from taking part in the opening two rounds at Monza and Lausitzring, before travel restrictions between the UK and Belgium thwarted the Briton's plans to race at Zolder earlier this month.

He was expected to finally make his DTM return at the fourth round of the season at the Nurburgring next weekend, but it has now emerged that he will sit out the rest of the season.

According to Autosport's sister title Motorsport-Total.com, the Mucke team is believed to be very happy with the performances of Paffett’s substitute and GT3 regular Buhk, who managed a best finish of sixth in the opening weekend at Monza.

With the continued risk of Paffett missing more races due to the pandemic, an agreement has been reached for Buhk to continue for the rest of the season.

"We regret having to make this decision, but it is the right one and gives everyone involved in planning security for the [rest of the] season," confirmed team boss Peter Mucke.

"There is absolutely no question that Gary is a very good driver but the problems we have at the moment due to corona cannot be dismissed.

Gary Paffett, Mücke Motorsport

Gary Paffett, Mücke Motorsport

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

"Paffett had no realistic chance of coming here even to test [the car]. You have to be fair to him as well. That's why it's currently better that Maxi continues.

"He knows the car, he knows the systems, he knows the team, and so we can certainly work best in this arrangement."

Before the season had started, Paffett was only due to miss the Lausitzring event to fulfil his Formula E duties.

However, the addition of the Puebla race in Mexico created a second overlap between the two championships, before the spread of the Delta COVID-19 variant in the UK made it harder for British drivers to visit other countries in Europe, putting paid to his plans to race at Zolder.

The news has dealt a major blow for the DTM, which was hoping to secure the services of the 2005 and 2018 champion after losing its most recent title winner Rene Rast to Formula E. 

While Buhk is now due to remain with Mucke for the remainder of the season, he will not be present at Hockenheim due to a clash with his primary championship ADAC GT Masters.

It is unclear who could take Buhk’s place for the penultimate round of the season on 2-3 October, but it is understood that Paffett is not in contention for the seat.

The 23-time DTM race winner has limited race experience in GT3 machinery, having been away from active competition since 2019, and is still getting to grips with the brake-by-wire system on Mucke Motorsport’s Mercedes.

Maximilian Buhk, Mücke Motorsport

Maximilian Buhk, Mücke Motorsport

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Meanwhile, GT World Challenge Europe champion Luca Stolz will make his DTM debut at the Nurburgring in a Mercedes entered by Toksport.

It brings the Mercedes contingent up to nine, with the Haupt Racing Team fielding an additional entry for team owner Hubert Haupt.

The addition of Toksport’s entry will expand the grid at the Nurburgring to 22 cars, closer to the figure last witnessed in 2016, when Mercedes, BMW and Audi all fielded eight factory cars each.

In addition to the one-off entries for Haupt and Stolz, ex-Formula 1 driver Christian Klien will also be present at the Nurburgring as part of his part-season programme with McLaren squad JP Motorsport.

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