Michelisz hopes Lopez and Muller stay in WTCC after Citroen exit
Honda driver Norbert Michelisz says he is hopeful that Citroen factory duo Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller remain in the WTCC even after the impending conclusion of the French marque's works programme.
Citroen, unbeaten in the WTCC in either drivers' or manufacturers' standings since its arrival in 2014, will cease its factory programme in the series in 2017, opting to instead focus on the World Rally Championship.
And that means that, for both reigning champion Lopez and WTCC's most successful driver ever Muller, a future in the series is yet to be secured.
When asked whether he was looking forward to being among the title favourites in 2017 with the Citroen works team exiting the category, Michelisz told Motorsport.com: "I hope that, if Citroen leaves, there will be still some support."
Citroen privateer team Sebastien Loeb Racing has been touted as a potential successor to the works team, with Yves Matton having confirmed in the off-season that the idea of having SLR run up to five C-Elysee cars from 2017 onwards was on the table.
Michelisz continued: "I also hope that we will also have Lopez and Muller in the championship. For me, as a sportsman, the highest satisfaction is to beat really tough opponents.
"I don't want to say that it would not be the same without that but, on the other hand, the value of success is the highest with the strong competition like we have with Citroen.
"I really hope that they will stay and also that they will get some support from Citroen, slight developments with the car."
Lopez already too far ahead
Five rounds into the WTCC season, Lopez's lead has skyrocketed to 69 points - and will grow further once the stewards make a final decision on the reallocation of points after Honda's Morocco exclusion.
And Michelisz reckons the Argentinian is likely to manage his advantage to the very end of the season.
"I know him, he's intelligent," Michelisz said. "I don't want to say he's in an easy position, but he doesn't have to drive like he did the first five events.
"For him now it's just taking this advantage to the last race and then to win the championship.
"I think it would need a huge amount of bad luck for him to lose this title - maybe it sounds strange after five race weekends, but we saw in the last two years that he is a top driver. And I don't expect him to do stupid things for the rest of the season.
"And we also saw that the Citroen is a brilliant car, I have to say, and there's not a lot of technical problems - I expect it to be very difficult to fight."
Moscow WTCC: Monteiro leads Honda 1-2-3 in Friday test
Moscow WTCC: Catsburg puts Lada on top in first practice