Wehrlein missing ‘wheel-to-wheel’ DTM battles

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2015 DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein says he misses the series’ “cool” wheel-to-wheel fights, with the Manor F1 rookie in attendance for the opening round of 2016 at Hockenheim last weekend.

After competing in two half-seasons of the DTM, the Mercedes protégé became the youngest ever driver to win the Germany-based touring car championship last season. This helped Wehrlein land a full-time role in F1 though it took protracted talks for him to join Manor.

The 21-year-old has enjoyed a strong start to his career in the top flight, often battling for positions with the likes of Renault and Sauber in the midfield. Still, Wehrlein admits he misses the sort of door-banging action that is often de rigueur in the DTM.

“The fights are really cool, proper wheel-to-wheel action with contacts,” he said. “You can’t do that in F1. The scraps were lots of good fun, really great. Also, I made many friends in the paddock and in our team over the years. I’m really good friends with my mechanics.

“We weren’t just workmates at the track, we’re still good buddies, and it was really great to see them all again.”

Although watching from sidelines “felt weird” to Wehrlein, he was able to see the progress of Esteban Ocon, as the Frenchman combines his Renault F1 commitment with a maiden campaign in the tin-top category.

“This year, he’s in a similar situation to the one I found myself in when I joined the DTM.” replied Wehrlein when asked to give advice to his fellow Mercedes junior. “You first have to get used to the racing series and to the car, but there are no major problems in making the switch.

“We can all drive a racing car quickly. What makes the difference in the DTM is finding the last tenth of a second, that’s tricky. You also need experience with setup. As regards to drivers, the DTM is in no way inferior to Formula One.”

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