Paffett: Wickens' IndyCar success flatters Mercedes DTM drivers
Gary Paffett reckons his former DTM teammate Robert Wickens' strong start to his IndyCar career shows the strength of Mercedes' remaining drivers in the series.
Wickens was a Mercedes DTM driver between 2012 and 2017, but switched to IndyCar with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports following the German marque's decision to quit the DTM at the end of 2018.
The 29-year-old has enjoyed a strong start to his rookie IndyCar season, narrowly missing out on a debut win at St. Petersburg, scoring two podiums and sitting sixth in the standings.
Paffett admitted that he didn't expect Wickens to start so strongly in IndyCar, and hopes that the Canadian's performance flatters the remaining Mercedes DTM drivers.
"It surprises me that it's been so good so quickly," said Paffett, who admitted that 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."
Mercedes DTM boss Ulrich Fritz added that Wickens' successes in IndyCar demonstrated his drivers would be able to flourish in other catgories, given the chance.
He said: "I think in general Wickens doing so well in IndyCar shows the potential of our drivers. Also [Pascal] Wehrlein in Formula 1 showed great performance.
Okay, 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.
"It [Wickens' IndyCar season] is again a strong showcase for the strength and the quality of DTM."
While Fritz reckons he can find a place for all six of his current DTM drivers in other championships within Mercedes' ranks, he said it's not a guarantee.
"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 Formula E for the 2018/19 season offers two extra seats for the brand's disenfranchised DTM drivers, but the Stuttgart-based manufacturer also has cars entered in series such as Blancpain GT, IMSA, Super GT and the BTCC.
"There is not only Formula E, there is customer racing programmes and whatever so," 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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