Mercedes factory driver Gary Paffett will make a surprise return to single-seaters with an appearance at the forthcoming Marrakesh Formula E test.
The 2005 DTM champion will drive one of the two Venturi cars in Morocco on January 14 alongside the already announced Michael Benyahia.
Although Paffett has not competitively raced a single-seater since a one-off Formula 3000 appearance at Imola in 2003, he has held two significant testing/simulator roles, one with McLaren between 2006 and 2014 and the other at Williams since 2016.
Paffett has been one of the most successful DTM drivers of the last decade, having taken four runners-up positions in addition to his 2005 championship success.
The 36-year-old will be the third Mercedes contracted driver to sample a Venturi Formula E car after current racers Maro Engel and Edoardo Mortara. Paffett becomes the fourth Mercedes factory driver to take part in the Moroccan test after Paul di Resta, Daniel Juncadella and Maximilian Gunther were confirmed at Jaguar, Mahindra and Dragon respectively.
E-racing365 understands that Paffett’s test drive request came directly to Venturi from HWA. The German manufacturer is keen to learn as much as possible about the all-electric series before its official entry in 2019.
Paffett, who has raced for eight seasons with HWA in DTM, is known to be looking at potential future drives as 2018 is likely to be his final DTM season after Mercedes took the decision to stop its program to concentrate on Formula E.
Venturi announced a partnership with the Mercedes affiliated HWA organization just before the Hong Kong opener in December.
It is a deal which Venturi owner and President Gildo Pastor described to e-racing365 last month as being “important for Mercedes to arrive in Formula E with as much knowledge as possible, so we are helping each other.”
HWA on behalf of Mercedes is still believed to be evaluating the potential of masterminding an acceleration of Mercedes Formula E entry which is scheduled for season six.
A possible entry using a customer powertrain is known to have been discussed for the fifth season starting at the end of 2018.