Mercedes-AMG Team Muecke Motorsport has confirmed that Maximilian Buhk will replace Gary Paffett at the German team for the remainder of the 2021 DTM season.
Paffett missed the first two rounds of the campaign at Monza and the Lausitzring due to clashes with his role as an advisor the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team.
The 2005 and 2018 DTM champion then skipped last weekend’s Zolder event due to him being unable to enter Belgium without undergoing a quarantine period.
Buhk stood in for all three of those DTM rounds and scored points in the first races of the Monza and Lausitzring weekends behind the wheel of the Muecke Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo, which uses the Schaeffler Paravan ‘Space Drive’ steer-by-wire system.
A statement from Muecke Motorsport on Thursday said that “travel restrictions and the Corona pandemic” prompted a decision to switch full-time drivers.
British citizens who are fully vaccinated or hold an urgent reason for travel can travel to Germany – where the DTM is based -for any purpose while those who have not completed a full vaccination program are subject to a 10-day quarantine.
“We regret having to make this decision, but it is the right one and provides planning security for the season for everyone involved,” commented Muecke Motorsport team principal Peter Muecke.
“There is absolutely no question that Gary is a very good driver. But the problems we have at the moment with Corona cannot be explained away.
“Gary has no realistic chance to come here to test. You have to be fair to him, too. That’s why it’s currently better that Maxi continues to drive.
“He knows the car, he knows the system, he knows the team, and that’s why we can certainly work best in this setup.”
Paffett, who said he was “very disappointed” at relinquishing his full-season drive, will continue to be involved in Schaeffler’s Space Drive development program.
“The situation is very frustrating,” he said. “I’m very disappointed that I won’t be able to compete in the DTM this season. I’m especially sorry for the team and my fans, who must have been really looking forward to celebrating a reunion in the DTM.
I am very happy to be part of the Schaeffler Paravan project. The tests with the Space Drive System were very convincing. I will continue to be a brand ambassador for Schaeffler Paravan and will be able to support the development of the Space Drive System and other future projects.”
Buhk will juggle his expanded DTM role with a full-time drive in ADAC GT Masters. The two German GT3 series face one date clash in early October between the DTM weekend at Hockenheim and ADAC’s visit to the Sachsenring.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to be part of the DTM Space Drive project and hope that we can continue to improve,” said Buhk.
“My goal is not only to finish in the points, but also to be on the podium. Clearly, that has to be the goal. We will continue to do everything we can to further develop the system under the tough conditions of the DTM and gain important insights.
“We are on a very good path. The DTM is a special GT3 series; the format is different, you sit alone in the car, the pit stops are made without the minimum time usual in other series, and the whole environment is different.”