© Getty Images

Engel returns to DTM with Mercedes for 2017, set to miss two FE rounds

Leave a comment

Maro Engel will return to DTM in 2017 with Mercedes after being named as part of its trimmed down line-up for the new season.

Mercedes, Audi and BMW agreed to reduce their entries from eight to six drivers for 2017, with the new season due to begin at Hockenheim on May 7.

Engel raced for Mercedes in DTM between 2008 and 2011, and has remained a factory driver for the German marque since leaving the series, tasting victory at the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 2016.

Engel will race alongside Gary Paffett, Lucas Auer, Paul di Resta, Robert Wickens and Edoardo Mortara in DTM this year for Mercedes, with Felix Rosenqvist, Maximillian Götz, Daniel Juncadella and Christian Vietoris losing their seats.

“I definitely have some unfinished business with the DTM,” Engel said. “I am very pleased to that I’ve been able to battle my way back into the squad over the past few years and that I now have a chance to prove myself in the coming season.

“I have fantastic teammates who I’ve obviously known for a long time. That’s why I’m sure I won’t have any problems settling in.”

Engel is also signed up to race in Formula E during its third season with Venturi, but NBC Sports understands that the German will miss races in Paris and Brussels due to clashing DTM commitments.

Audi’s Loic Duval is in a similar position, racing for Faraday Future Dragon Racing in Formula E, and could also join Engel in dropping out of two rounds of the all-electric series.

Rosenqvist had been facing a similar dilemma heading into 2017, but the ex-Indy Lights racer confirmed in a statement that Formula E was his priority this year.

“I really enjoyed racing in the DTM with Mercedes last year, and I learned a lot about how to deal with the pressure that comes with representing a top-line manufacturer,” Rosenqvist said.

“It’s a fantastic championship, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t possible to combine it with Formula E this year, which is obviously a shame.

“I’ve had a strong start to the season with Mahindra; I’m currently fourth in the standings and we’ve been putting a lot of effort into the development of our package.

“It’s impossible to say how we’ll fare now that we get to circuits that the others know, but we are in a good position and we’re working flat out to try and get our first win. That requires my full attention at the moment.”

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

Getty Images
1 Comment

Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.