Two first places for Mercedes-Benz: After seven of nine race weekends in the 2015 DTM season, the brand with the three-pointed star leads both the drivers’ and the team standings. However, Races 13 and 14 in Oschersleben proved extremely testing for the Mercedes AMG DTM Team. While Team gooix/Original-Teile Mercedes-AMG extended their lead in the team standings to 36 points in Oschersleben, Pascal Wehrlein now has a 14 point-lead in the drivers’ championship on second-placed Mattias Ekström (Audi) with four races to go before the end of the season. However, Wehrlein was faced with a number of challenges during the weekend on his way to the top of the standings.
Wehrlein: Really tough with any power steering
"That was the toughest race I’ve ever driven," admitted Pascal after the 40-minute race on Saturday at Oschersleben in which he finished fifth. However, the 28 laps of the 3.696 kilometre track were made doubly difficult because, not only was he up against strong opponents in the fight for vital championship points, the 20-year-old suffered a power steering failure early in the race, which made matters worse.
"I had just put pressure on Augusto Farfus," said Wehrlein, recalling the moment when he lost the usual response from his power steering. From then on, he had to contend with an extra two kilograms of force needed each time he turned the steering wheel. The steering wheel was very difficult to move at times, and then it eased a little once again. "It was unpredictable," said Pascal, who was, however, determined not to abandon the race under any circumstances.
"I knew that fifth place would give me the lead in the championship," he told us. "Ten points can make all the difference in the end. It’s a good result under the circumstances, but more would have been possible without the problem, as we know that the BMWs often run into problems with tyres towards the end of the race."
Tear-off visor had got stuck in cooling system
The team found out after the race why Pascal had to perform this tour de force: A tear-off visor had got stuck in the cooling system, which ultimately led to the failure of the power steering. The visor probably came from one of the single-seater racing cars competing in the DTM support programme at Oschersleben.
Wehrlein was rewarded for his fighting spirit. Rather than choosing to simply take the easy way out and give up, he gritted his teeth and secured ten valuable points for fifth place. As championship rival Mattias Ekström finished out of the points in P14, Pascal reclaimed the championship lead.
Fellow Mercedes-AMG DTM driver Daniel Juncadella also achieved a points-scoring finish with P10 in the first race. "I’m relatively satisfied with the result," said the Spaniard after his sixth finish in the points this season. "My goal has always been to secure points, and I’ve done that."
Championship lead in the DTM extended
Conditions for Wehrlein in the second race were better than in the first. While he had tackled the first race from sixth place on the grid, he was in third place on the second row on Sunday. Paul Di Resta (grid position five) and Christian Vietoris (grid position eight) also started the race from the top four rows of the grid. Gary Paffett in eleventh position was just outside the Top Ten.
Everything went smoothly until the first turn. "My start was okay until the first turn, but then I was on the outside and would perhaps have been spun, if I’d not left the door open," said Pascal, who prevented a crash at the start but dropped down into fifth position as a result.
The first few metres of the race were even tougher for two of Wehrlein’s team-mates. "Two drivers in promising positions – Christian Vietoris and Gary Paffett – lost ground directly as a result of the collision at the start, and their vehicles were so badly damaged that they were off the pace in the race." said Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz. "That was a disappointing race for us – one we’d already lost at the start."
The circuit characteristics of the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben that make overtaking a tricky exercise were an additional factor. As a result, the gap between António Félix da Costa in fourth place and Wehrlein directly behind him remained almost constant during the entire race. They were separated by just 0.666 seconds at the finish. Di Resta crossed the finish line in sixth place behind Pascal.
"I thought on the whole that we might perhaps be a bit stronger in the race, but it was only enough for fifth place in the end. Still, I can be pleased with my position in the overall standings." As his title rival Ekström again failed to score points in the second race, Pascal was able to extend the lead at the top of the DTM standings which had alternated between himself and the Audi driver from Sweden in the previous five races.