Robert Wickens' IndyCar form offering hope to Mercedes DTM drivers

Robert Wickens' strong start to his IndyCar career is a great advert for Mercedes DTM drivers as they try to secure 2019 chances, says team boss Ulrich Fritz

Robert Wickens' IndyCar form offering hope to Mercedes DTM drivers

Mercedes will quit the DTM at the end of 2018 to move into Formula E.

Wickens was a Mercedes DTM driver between 2012 and '17, but switched to IndyCar with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports following Mercedes' DTM exit announcement.

The 29-year-old has impressed in IndyCar, taking pole and nearly winning on his debut in St Petersburg and earning two podium finishes since.

Fritz called Wickens' performance "a strong showcase for the strength and the quality of DTM" as his former Mercedes team-mates consider their futures, and said DTM returnee Pascal Wehrlein had provided the same during his Formula 1 stint.

"In general Wickens doing so well in IndyCar shows the potential of our drivers," Fritz said.

"Also Wehrlein in Formula 1 showed great performance.

"OK, it didn't turn out in the end on a long-term basis, but at least he showed good performance and shows what DTM drivers, and I mean all of the DTM drivers, are capable of doing."

Wickens' former Mercedes DTM team-mate Gary Paffett admitted he did not expect the Canadian to start so strongly in IndyCar.

"It surprises me that it's been so good so quickly," said Paffett, who believes his 15th DTM season this year is "quite possibly" his last one given Mercedes' impending exit.

"I'm not surprised that he has been successful because he is very talented, as he showed in DTM.

"But to happen that quickly, he nearly won his first race, nearly won the second race [at Phoenix, his first on an oval] is certainly better than I expected, probably better than he expected.

"He has obviously made the transition to IndyCar very well and I hope that he can continue racing in the front.

"Hopefully he is telling everybody how good the rest of us are."

Fritz hopes he can find a place for all six of his current DTM drivers in other championships within Mercedes' ranks, but admitted there were no certainties.

"I would say yes, but I can't guarantee," he said.

"I don't even know if everybody wants to stay with us. That is a question that has multiple aspects."

Mercedes-affiliated HWA entering FE for the 2018/19 season offers two extra seats for the brand's disenfranchised DTM drivers.

There are also customer-run Mercedes programmes in series such as Blancpain GT, the IMSA SportsCar Championship and Super GT.

"There is not only Formula E, there is customer racing programmes and whatever," added Fritz.

"And maybe there are guys like Wickens who just want to join other series, we have to look at that."

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Series DTM
Drivers Robert Wickens
Author David Gruz
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