Pascal Wehrlein back to Mercedes DTM team after losing F1 seat

Mercedes' 2015 DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein will return to the German touring car series this year, having lost his seat in Formula 1 in the off-season

Pascal Wehrlein back to Mercedes DTM team after losing F1 seat

Wehrlein, 23, won the DTM on his third attempt in 2015, his title paving the way for a switch to F1 for the following year.

The German impressed in his two F1 seasons with backmarker teams Manor and Sauber, scoring their only points of the two respective campaigns.

But he was ultimately replaced at Sauber by Ferrari-backed Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc, and was unsuccessful in finding a seat elsewhere on the F1 grid for 2018.

"I have fantastic memories with DTM, not least because of my title win in 2015, but also because of the strong team spirit and the many nice experiences with the guys," said Wehrlein.

"I have followed DTM closely during my time in Formula 1 and have been to some races to visit and support the team.

"Things have changed a lot in DTM since my last race at the season finale at Hockenheim 2015.

"But I like challenges and I cannot wait to get on track for the first time with our new car. The first tests cannot be here soon enough."

The upcoming campaign will be Mercedes' last in the DTM, as it switches focus to a works programme in Formula E instead.

Mercedes has not managed a sustained DTM title challenge in the two years since Wehrlein's initial departure.

Joining Wehrlein in the 2018 line-up will be fellow past champions Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett, as well as Lucas Auer and Edoardo Mortara.

"Pascal quickly established himself in DTM and became the youngest champion in the history of the series in 2015," said Mercedes DTM boss Ulrich Fritz.

"The joy in the team about Pascal returning to DTM for our final year is huge.

"Many friendships were built at the time when Pascal was with us and even when he was racing in Formula 1, we didn't lose contact.

"In the meantime, DTM has changed with new cars, new tyres and new regulations. But we are confident that, with his experience and commitment, he will adapt quickly."

Wehrlein's return means at least seven DTM champions will be competing in the series in 2018.

Only one place on the grid is unfilled, with Mercedes yet to name a sixth driver for its roster following the departures of Maro Engel to FE and Robert Wickens to IndyCar.

Daniel Juncadella, who raced for Mercedes in DTM in 2013-16 and held a reserve driver role last year, is understood to be the most likely candidate.

DTM 2018 line-up

Audi: Rene Rast, Jamie Green, Mike Rockenfeller, Nico Muller, Loic Duval, Robin Frijns
Mercedes: Lucas Auer, Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta, Edoardo Mortara, Pascal Wehrlein, TBA
BMW: Marco Wittmann, Timo Glock, Bruno Spengler, Augusto Farfus, Joel Eriksson, Philipp Eng

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