Esteban Ocon, the 19-year-old reserve driver of Renault Sport F1 Team, will race next year in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series for Mercedes-AMG, replacing defending DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein. The deal comes as a collaborative effort between Mercedes-Benz and Renault. Ocon is still affiliated with Mercedes-Benz as a junior driver, but was announced in February as the third and reserve driver at the re-launched Renault team. He is expected to participate in several free practice sessions with Renault this season in addition to his DTM slate. Over the last two years, the Frenchman has won both the FIA European Formula 3 Championship (2014) and GP3 Series Championship (2015), beating out drivers like F1 rookie sensation Max Verstappen along the way. Ocon has also tested for Lotus, Force India, and Mercedes in Formula 1 in the last two years. "It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series. I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity," Ocon said in a press release on Thursday. Ocon is stepping up to the DTM in place of Pascal Wehrlein, who has been rewarded for his championship last season with an F1 drive at Manor Racing this season. He joins a stable of Mercedes drivers that will remain otherwise unchanged from last year: 2005 DTM champion Gary Paffett, ex-Force India driver Paul di Resta, former Formula V8 3.5 champion Robert Wickens, GP2 race winner Christian Vietoris, 2012 European F3 champion and RaceDepartment alumni of honour Daniel Juncadella, and second-year drivers Lucas Auer and Maximillian Götz will drive the Silver Arrows' other seven entries in 2016. "After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race. I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible," Ocon added. He drove in the Hockenheim finale in place of an ailing Juncadella, who later recovered and drove the remainder of the weekend. "Esteban proved his talent last year by winning the GP3 Series title. Of course, he still has much to learn, but with his seven team-mates, he can draw on the combined experience of 31 DTM seasons," said Ulrich Fritz, head of the Mercedes-AMG DTM team. "When you start the season as defending champions, it’s hard to have any other goal than winning the championship. But everyone knows just how competitive the DTM is and it won’t be an easy task." Ocon made the decision to join the DTM in favour of stepping up to GP2, citing a superior level of team support, an ultra-competitive grid, and cost-effectiveness in DTM over GP2 as his incentives to make the switch to the silhouette car series. Should Ocon step up to F1 next year, he will join Wehrlein and Di Resta amongst a handful of drivers who have moved up to F1 via full-time participation in any incarnation of the DTM: Roberto Merhi, Marcus Winkelhock, Christijan Albers, Alexander Wurz, and Giancarlo Fisichella are among the others. Will Esteban Ocon meet his goals in his first season in DTM? Will the move help or hinder his chances of reaching Formula 1? Leave a comment below and discuss!