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Why 2021 champion Gotz is not returning to DTM this year

Maximilian Gotz says a major change in Mercedes’ involvement in the DTM led to his exit from the series, but he hopes to make a comeback in the coming years.

Podium: Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD

Mercedes unveiled its six-strong driver roster for the 2023 DTM season at the end of February, headlined by Lucas Auer, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel. But fellow works driver Gotz was curiously absent from the announcement, despite having clinched the 2021 title on Mercedes’ return to the DTM.

The 37-year-old is instead expected to compete in other GT3 categories and endurance races in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, although his exact programme is yet to be revealed.

The decision to drop Gotz from the line-up follows a reduction in Mercedes’ budget for the DTM, and wider changes in how it provides factory support to the teams.

After a year in which it was represented by an impressive eight cars, Mercedes has downscaled its involvement to just six entries in 2023, spread equally across Winward, HRT and series newcomer Landgraf.

Only one car in each team is directly supported by the factory, clubbing what it calls a ‘performance driver’ clubbed with a junior racer.

Winward previously had both Auer and Gotz in its three-car line-up in 2022, but it was left with space for just one works driver this year.

Although Winward was interested in keeping Gotz's services, Mercedes eventually elected to drop him from the DTM in favour of a programme elsewhere in its GT3 racing portfolio.

"We fought for a long time to get something done," Gotz referred to Winward team boss Christian Hohenadel in an interview with Autosport’s German language sister title Motorsport-Total.com. 

"We really tried everything, but in the end it was an internal AMG decision to set it up like this now.

Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

"AMG's plan was clear relatively early on that they wanted to do six cars with two or three teams. Because of this new idea of putting juniors in [each team] and only supporting one car, the 'constellation' came about like that.

"Luggi [Auer] was with Winward for a year longer and they planned with Luggi relatively early on. That's why it came about that way."

Gotz raced in the last two DTM seasons in the famous pink colours of Austrian water treatment company BWT.

However, it is understood that BWT has not renewed its contract with Mercedes in response to the German manufacturer raising the leasing rates for its production cars, adversely impacting the cost of operating the BWT fleet.

Individual teams will still be able to sign a contract independently with BWT, but it must be noted that Winward’s #1 AMG GT3 ran in all-pink livery last year due to a deal that was directly done with Mercedes. Gotz also has a long-standing private sponsorship deal with BWT that is not linked to his employer.

Mercedes’ DTM boss Thomas Jager, however, insists that the developments surrounding BWT didn’t impact Gotz’s future in the category.

"That has nothing to do with it at all," Jager told Motorsport-Total.com.

"We have a very intensive programme for Maxi in other series. DTM didn't come up because of the density of the programme and the overlaps. 

“Of course, he would have liked to do DTM, but we're not in a position where we finance the whole operation and say you have to take the driver now. It's always a combination of team, sponsor and us.

“All wishes and constellations have to be taken into account. And that has simply turned out to be the way it is wanted."

Ricardo Feller, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3, Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Ricardo Feller, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3, Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Gotz, who said he will be involved in at least two other series, has no qualms about not getting a chance to return to the DTM and add to his 2021 title and three race wins.

"I'm proud to be a Mercedes-AMG works driver and I stand behind their decisions, just as they stand behind me," he said.

"That's also what makes it special that we deal with each other openly and honestly and no one is angry when something doesn't come about. I owe them a lot - and vice versa."

The German also believes the decision was not impacted by his results in 2022, when he slipped to 11th in the standings and scored just a single podium finish at Spa.

Interview: Gotz on his sluggish title defence

"That has nothing to do with performance or anything. Because if you look at the results, there was Maro Engel behind me, also [David] Schumacher and [Arjun] Maini. I had a super strong second half of the season.

"If you look at the qualifying average, let's take out Hockenheim, where there was chaos qualifying with red flags and so on, I was the best [among Mercedes drivers]. 

“And I turned up the pace in the second half of the season. You can't put it down to results. Or say you didn't deserve it."

That said, Gotz doesn’t want to rule out a return to the DTM, citing countryman Nico Hulkenberg securing a comeback in Formula 1 this year with Haas after being sidelined for three seasons between 2020 to 2022.

"It's not goodbye forever, see Hulkenberg," he said. "Who would have expected that he would also get another Formula 1 cockpit? 

“I never say never. It would be nice if I could attack again in the DTM.

"I'm not the youngest anymore, that's clear, but experience is what counts. And the successes I've had so far count, too."

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