Analysis: 2016 DTM Season
The 2016 DTM season was notable for a brilliant debut winner, a fantastic quadruple success, some spectacular charges through the field, impressive rookies and no shortage of action for the more than half a million fans who watched the 18 races live at the nine race venues. Let's take a look back at the most memorable moments for the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team during the past season.
The Mercedes-AMG DTM drivers made 15 podium appearances between them during the 2016 DTM season, including four victories achieved by three different winners. In the 18 races during the 2016 campaign, five different drivers made it onto the podium: Robert Wickens (five times), Paul Di Resta (four times), Lucas Auer (twice), Christian Vietoris (twice) and Gary Paffett (twice). In the rain-affected Saturday race in Moscow, the first four places were monopolised by Mercedes-AMG DTM drivers. Wickens got the season off to a great start with P2 in the curtain-raiser, while Vietoris and Di Resta brought it to a satisfactory conclusion with a joint podium appearance in the final race. 'A double podium at the end of the season - that's precisely what we had hoped for,' said Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz.
Welcome to the Hall of Winners
Sunday at the Lausitzring belonged to Lucas Auer. He started the day by claiming his second DTM pole position in a thrilling qualifying session by a margin of 0.082 seconds and then converted it into his first DTM victory. In only his 23rd DTM outing, he entered the record books as the first Austrian winner in the history of the DTM. 'My phone exploded on Sunday,' said Auer wryly after being congratulated from all quarters on his maiden win. 'In the evening, we celebrated together in Berlin, but on Monday I switched back from party mode to preparation mode for the Norisring.' Spoken like a true winner...
Best place on the grid
18 races means 18 qualifying sessions and also 18 pole positions. The three constructors divvied these up between them, each claiming six. Five different members of the Mercedes-AMG DTM squad started from P1 this year: Paul Di Resta, Christian Vietoris, Robert Wickens, Gary Paffett and Lucas Auer. But only the Austrian among them managed to pull off the feat twice, paving the way for his victory at the Lausitzring and for a second-place finish in Race 2 at the Nürburgring. It's worth noting that the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM started from pole at six of the eight venues on the race calendar, indicating that the car was indeed competitive on different types of track.
All-out attack in the race
Robert Wickens arrived in Budapest for the penultimate race weekend of 2016 still in with a chance of taking the title. In addition to his two victories at Zandvoort and in Moscow, he also gave a convincing demonstration of speed with three fastest race laps at Hockenheim (first visit), Spielberg and Zandvoort. Amid the dunes of the North Sea coast in the Netherlands, the Canadian achieved the hat-trick of victory, pole position and fastest lap. Also setting fastest race laps this season were Paul Di Resta (once) and Daniel Juncadella (twice). 'I am happy to have finished fourth in the championship,' said Wickens. 'This is a good performance.'
2016 was Gary Paffett's 14th season in the DTM. The 2005 DTM champion is still one of the strongest racers in the field. At the start of the campaign, he had to prove this twice. In the second race of the season at Hockenheim, the Englishman was handed a drive-through penalty for 'unsafe release' which dropped him out of the Top Ten and cost him a potential podium finish. Despite this setback, Paffett put in a strong combative performance to work his way back up to fifth. He then laid on an equally spectacular charge through the field on the following race weekend at Spielberg: Paffett had already moved up ten places when a brush with Audi man Timo Scheider (Audi) dropped him down the running order to 13th place. It's not often that multiple overtaking from the rear of the field is rewarded in racing, but the plaudits Paffett earned for this display were well deserved.
King of the Nürburgring
Lucas Auer and the Nürburgring - the perfect fit? The special affinity the Austrian feels for the circuit in the Eifel forest became apparent in 2015 when he claimed his maiden DTM pole position at the Nürburgring. He did the same thing again in 2016, posting the fastest lap times in both qualifying sessions. But not only that: in qualifying for Sunday's race, he also clocked the fastest lap of the entire weekend with a time of 1:22.728 minutes, equivalent to an average speed of 157.92 kilometres per hour. His three fastest sector times combined gave a theoretical time of 1:22.449 minutes - faster than the sector combinations of all the other drivers. The 'King of the Nürburgring' put the icing on the cake with a podium finish in the second race - and all of this on his 22nd birthday.
Unfortunately, the hoped-for podium did not materialise, but the quadruple victory in Moscow was a very special experience for Maximilian Götz. He set two personal bests on the Moscow Raceway: Götz pulled off his best qualifying and best race result in the DTM on Saturday with P4 on the grid and fourth place in Race 1. 'This shows once again that qualifying is the be-all and end-all of the DTM,' said Götz thoughtfully. 'If you start from the front, you can compete with the front-runners.'
The debutants' ball
Two rookies made their DTM debut this year as members of the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team. But somewhat surprisingly, they never competed against one another! Esteban Ocon drove the FREE MEN'S WORLD Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM for the first five weekends of the campaign. After scoring his first DTM points at Zandvoort, he was recruited by the Formula 1 outfit Manor Racing during the series' summer break. With effect from the Moscow weekend, his cockpit was taken over by the team's test and reserve driver Felix Rosenqvist. And what an inspired move that was! The Swede finished in the points at his first attempt and took P8 in the second race in Budapest. In parallel, he was putting in strong performances in a Mercedes-AMG GT3, not only finishing as runner-up in the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps but also claiming a maiden win in the Blancpain GT Series in Barcelona.