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Ulrich Fritz remains “realistic” on Mercedes’ chances in 2016

Photo: Daimler AG With the 2016 Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters season set to get underway in the first weekend of May at the iconic Hockenheimring, Mercedes-AMG DTM goes in as the hunted for the forthcoming 18 races at eight different race tracks.

With a varied line-up that provides both youthful vigour and experience in equal measures, the Stuttgart line-up has a new addition in the form of ART Grand Prix’s Esteban Ocon, as reigning champion Pascal Wehrlein opted to move into Formula One with Manor Racing, following in the footsteps of Scotland’s Paul Di Resta.

The new C63 AMG DTM has finally undergone its first barrage of tests ahead of the season  opener, with Ulrich Fritz under no illusions that they are there to win titles and races, especially after a very improbable season last year.

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Now that the three manufacturers have had a chance to experience the new format with a steep learning curve, they will be as prepared as ever to rise to the challenge, but not without its pitfalls.

“The DTM is the toughest series in the world as regards to competitiveness, in my opinion,” explained Fritz, who also stated that the car’s aerodynamic properties are not yet fully realised.

“Everything has to be perfect to win the title in this series, and I am careful with my predictions for precisely that reason.”

Coupled with the fact that the apparent “design line” that has forced Mercedes to compromise their efforts, they have also had to contend with the performance side of the vehicle, which remains under fixed technical regulations for all three brands.

“The car now looks really great, for sure, but it also presents us with one or two more problems that currently need solving,” he said.

Fritz was also quick to dismiss any speculation about how BMW and Audi had faired in their pre-season testing efforts, but felt pretty comfortable about the progress that the Stuttgart outfit had made with the new car.

“I think we are on the right track. What will be crucial is how quickly we can find the right setup for our car. Our competitors certainly have an advantage in that respect. Nothing has changed for them on their cars, so they can totally rely on their experience from the last few years.”

He was also happy to talk about the new performance weight system that has been put into place for 2016, after many drivers and teams felt that a team-based performance aspect was the wrong direction to follow.

“In the medium term, the new performance weight regulation puts the cars on a more equal footing, and then after that, it’s mainly down to the driver,” he said, explaining that the fans are wanting to see the drivers fight tooth and nail all year, rather than being compromised.

“The DTM is a drivers’ championship. We have spectacular cars, but few people know who is actually sitting in it. That did not go far enough.

“Not only do we have three German premium brands competing in the DTM, but also, the best touring car drivers in the world. Paffett vs Ekström, Di Resta vs Spengler, that’s what people want to see.

“The drivers must be the main emphasis. And so in that case, there is always bound to be some kind of conflict or another.”

Fritz also admitted that Wehrlein winning the drivers’ title at the penultimate race of the season at Hockenheim was a complete surprise, but also said that he feels the “usual suspects” will be in contention over the new few months.




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