The FINANCIAL — Mercedes-Benz is expanding its successful young driver programme in the 2012 season with a junior team for the German Touring Car Masters.
Roberto Merhi (Spain, 20, Junge Sterne Mercedes AMG C-Coupé, Persson Motorsport), Christian Vietoris (Germany, 23, Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG C-Coupé, HWA) and Robert Wickens (Canada, 22, stern Mercedes AMG C-Coupé, Mücke Motorsport) will be contesting the world’s most popular touring car series behind the wheel of a DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé as members of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team.
By Daimler, serving as role model and mentor to the Junior Team will be Michael Schumacher; the veteran MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula 1 driver will bring all his experience to bear from seven world championship titles and 91 Grand Prix victories. Schumacher himself also benefited from the Mercedes-Benz programme in the years 1990 and 1991, when he lined up alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Karl Wendlinger with Sauber Mercedes in the Sports Prototype Championship. Schumacher, Frentzen (156 Grand Prix starts, 3 wins, 1997 World Championship runner-up) and Wendlinger (41 Grand Prix starts) all succeeded in making the step up to Formula One.
Christian Vietoris enters his second DTM season in 2012. The 23-year-old finished his rookie season on four points, his best race result being fifth place in the race at Oschersleben. Roberto Merhi and Robert Wickens are both about to make their DTM debut this season.
Merhi has been a member of the Mercedes-Benz young drivers programme since 2008, winning the 2011 Formula 3 Euro Series title in a Dallara-Mercedes as well as the first-ever FIA Formula 3 International Trophy. As a reward for this success, he was invited to test drive the new DTM Mercedes AMG C-Coupé at the end of the 2011 season.
Wickens won the 2011 Formula Renault 3.5 World Series championship, posting five victories along the way. Later that same year, he gained his first experience of Formula One in a series of test drives for Marussia Virgin Racing and Lotus Renault GP. In 2009, he finished second in the Formula 2 standings, repeating this result in the GP3 Series the following year.
Encouraging young talent in motorsport has a long tradition at Mercedes-Benz. Since the inaugural Formula 3 Euro Series in 2003, 13 drivers have made the breakthrough to Formula One after learning their trade with a Mercedes-Benz Formula 3 engine. 33 percent of the Formula One grid for the 2012 season started out in Formula 3 with a Mercedes-Benz engine – reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel and former champion Lewis Hamilton, 2010 DTM Champion Paul Di Resta, Kamui Kobayashi, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hülkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Bruno Senna.
The Mercedes-Benz young drivers programme can also point to similar successes in other top motor racing series. Of the nine Mercedes-Benz DTM drivers in the 2011 season, five (i.e. more than half) competed in Formula 3 with Mercedes-Benz engines.