Why 2021 champion Gotz is not returning to the DTM this year

Mercedes revealed its six-strong driver roster for the 2023 DTM season at the end of February, headlined by Lucas Auer, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel. But fellow driver Gotz was curiously absent from the announcement, despite having clinched the 2021 title with Mercedes’ return to the DTM.

The 37-year-old is expected to compete in other GT3 classes and endurance races in the Mercedes-AMG GT3, although his exact schedule has yet to be revealed.

The decision to withdraw Gotz from the series follows a reduction in Mercedes’ DTM budget and wider changes to the way it provides factory support to teams.

After a year in which it was represented by an impressive eight cars, Mercedes has reduced its entry to just six entries in 2023, split equally between Winward, HRT and the series’ new Landgraf.

Only one car in each team is directly supported by the factory, clubbing what it calls a “performance driver” club with a young racer.

Winward previously had both Auer and Gotz in its three-car line-up in 2022, but was left with room for just one works driver this year.

Although Winward was interested in retaining Gotz’s services, Mercedes ultimately opted to drop him from DTM in favor of a program elsewhere in the GT3 racing portfolio.

“We fought for a long time to achieve something,” Gotz told Winward team boss Christian Hohenadel in an interview with Autosport’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com.

“We really tried everything, but in the end it was an internal AMG decision to set it up like this now.

Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo: Alexander Trienitz

“AMG’s plan was clear relatively early on that they wanted to do six cars with two or three teams. Because of this new idea to put the juniors. [each team] and supporting only one car, the “constellation” thus arose.

“Lugie [Auer] they were with Winward for over a year and they designed with Luggi relatively early. That’s why it came out that way.”

Gotz raced the last two DTM seasons in the famous pink colors of the Austrian water treatment company BWT.

However, it is understood that BWT has not renewed its contract with Mercedes in response to the German manufacturer increasing the lease rates for its production cars, adversely affecting the running costs of the BWT fleet.

Individual teams will still be able to sign a contract independently with BWT, but it should be noted that Winward’s #1 AMG GT3 was launched in a brand new livery last year due to a deal made directly with Mercedes. Gotz also has a long-standing private sponsorship deal with BWT that is not linked to his employer.

However, Mercedes’ DTM chief Thomas Jager insists the developments surrounding the BWT have not affected Gotz’s future in the class.

“That has nothing to do with it,” Jager told Motorsport-Total.com.

“We have a very intensive program for Maxi in other series. DTM did not emerge due to schedule density and overlaps.

“Of course, he would like to do DTM, but we are not in a position to fund the whole operation and say you have to get the driver now. It’s always a combination of team, sponsor and us.

“All desires and constellations must be considered. And that just turned out to be the way they wanted it.”

Ricardo Feller, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3, Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Ricardo Feller, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3, Maximilian Gotz, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3

Photo: Alexander Trienitz

Gotz, who has said he will take part in at least two more series, has no qualms about not getting the chance to return to the DTM and add to his 2021 title and three race wins.

“I’m proud to be a Mercedes-AMG Works driver and I stand behind their decisions, just as they stand behind me,” he said.

“That’s also what makes it special that we deal with each other openly and honestly and nobody gets angry when something doesn’t happen. I owe them a lot – and vice versa.”

The German also believes the decision was not influenced by his results in 2022, when he dropped to 11th in the standings and recorded just one podium finish at Spa.

Interview: Gotts on his lackluster title defense

“It’s not about performance or anything. Because if you look at the results, there was Maro Engel behind me. [David] Schumacher and [Arjun] Maini. I had a very strong second half of the season.

“If you look at the qualifying average, let’s take out Hockenheim, where it was chaos in qualifying with red flags and so on, I was the best [among Mercedes drivers].

“And I picked up the pace in the second half of the season. You can’t leave it to the results. Or say you didn’t deserve it.”

That said, Gotz does not want to rule out a return to the DTM, citing compatriot Nico Hulkenberg who secured a return to Formula 1 this year with Haas after being out of action for three seasons between 2020 and 2022.

“It’s not goodbye forever, look at Hulkenberg,” he said. “Who would have expected that he would get another Formula 1 cockpit?

“I never say never. It would be nice to be able to attack the DTM again.

“I’m not the youngest anymore, that’s for sure, but experience is what counts. And the successes I’ve had so far count too.”

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