The Moscow Raceway 80 km northwest of the Russian capital hosted the DTM for the third time last weekend. For the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team, the sixth race weekend of the season brought a number of successes, including the first victory in Russia. Thanks to his achievements, Pascal Wehrlein leaves Moscow second in the DTM drivers’ standings with only a six-point deficit on Mattias Ekström in the lead. gooix/Original-Teile Mercedes-AMG now head the team standings with a 23-point lead after twelve of 18 races.
Wehrlein: The overtaking manoeuvre that brought victory
Wehrlein had watched his opponent in front of him for practically the whole race. He then made the overtaking manoeuvre that decided the fixture four minutes from the end. In the last turn, he made as if to attack on the outside and then pulled over to the inside to pass the BMW driver. "That was a great race and the right reply to Spielberg," said Wehrlein after his second win. "I knew that the tyre degradation on the BMWs is usually slightly higher, so I had to be patient for a little while before mounting a well-planned overtaking manoeuvre. It was, though, a bit of a surprise attack that succeeded."
Wehrlein was directly behind the leader Marco Wittmann until Lap 19 after starting in second place. The distance between the two shrank on the two occasions that the safety car came out but was never more than a full second even when they were back racing. Wehrlein gradually cut the deficit to three tenths and then to a tenth of a second over the laps prior to mounting the overtaking manoeuvre. "Marco defended with everything he had but raced very fairly," said Wehrlein, paying tribute to his opponent. "This is exactly how a scrap should be. I’m absolutely delighted with the race."
Wehrlein used his speed to good advantage after taking P1. He pulled out a lead of 1.8 seconds over the remaining four laps to the chequered flag. There was also praise from Heaf od Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz: "That was an action-packed race with a deserving winner. Pascal drove a great race."
Paffett & Wickens: Best charges of the DTM weekend
Wehrlein’s overtaking manoeuvre in the fight for the victory was a tremendous achievement, but the charges made by fellow Mercedes-AMG drivers, Gary Paffett and Robert Wickens, in the first race at the Moscow Raceway were equally as brilliant. Paffett started from P20 on the grid but was already up in 15th place by the end of the first lap. After eleven laps of the 3.931 kilometre track, Paffett was in P11 and already within 1.9 seconds of a points‑scoring finish.
Paffett gained two positions and moved into P8 on Lap 20 as Wehrlein was taking the lead. He overtook Tom Blomqvist in the battle for seventh place just two laps later. He pulled away from the BMW driver by more than a second over the remaining two laps. The 2005 DTM champion moved up a total of 13 positions during the race.
"Great race. Really good fun", said Paffett after crossing the finish line. "I avoided the accident in Turn 1, and then the car was really strong. I caught up with the other drivers, overtook, and got into the points. I didn’t think that it was going to be that good after starting from P20."
Canadian Robert Wickens, who improved ten places to twelfth during the race, also mounted a strong charge up the field. The achievements of the two drivers are even more impressive when the two safety car periods are taken into account. Saturday’s race which lasted 40 minutes plus one lap was the shorter of the weekend’s two races, so it’s all the more remarkable that Gary and Robert were able to gain so many places despite the two safety car periods. "I’m just full of admiration for Gary, who started from P20 on the grid and then moved up to P7 in this short race," said Ulrich Fritz, acknowledging his achievement.
Three-way fight in second race in Moscow
Fans of Wehrlein were hoping that their man would make similar good gains in position in the second race on Sunday. The 20-year-old started the twelfth round of the season at the head of the standings after his victory in the first race. However, his chances of a second success in Moscow were limited after starting from P11 on the grid.
Until Lap 9, Wehrlein was directly up the gearbox of Edoardo Mortara’s car in twelfth place. After passing him, Pascal headed into the pits after twelve laps to change tyres. However, he was not alone. Several other drivers came into the pits at the same time. "I had to brake sharply because it was very busy with traffic," said Wehrlein. "And then after the pit stop, Mortara was ahead of me again."
An exciting three-way battle for eighth place developed between Mortara, Nico Müller and Wehrlein on the laps that followed until the end of the race. In the scrap, Müller benefited from the fact that he was always able to deploy DRS, as his fellow driver was in front of him. "So I had little chance to even overtake," said Pascal. At the finish line, just eight tenths of a second separated the three of them.
Speedy mechanics: Car repaired overnight
Without a doubt, the mechanics of Christian Vietoris toiled extremely hard. The first race of the weekend was over for Christian after the first turn. Miguel Molina spun in the first corner as everyone jockeyed for position, and the driver following in the car bearing #8 had no chance to avoid him.
"I had no time to react or to see anything. Because of that, I hit him full on," said Christian, who injured his knee slightly, after the race. "My car is really badly damaged, but I hope that my team will get it fixed for tomorrow. Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed."
His team’s tireless efforts paid off, and Christian’s Original-Teile Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM stood ready for action in the pits on Sunday morning. "I’d like to mention once again what a great job my team did in repairing my car so quickly in less than a day," said Christian in praise after the second race. "I’d like to say a big thank you to my team for their hard work. Now I’m looking forward to Oschersleben." And not without good reason.
Next stop: Oschersleben
From the Moscow Raceway, the DTM now heads to Oschersleben where the seventh race weekend of the season will be held from 11th-13th September in the Motorsport Arena Oschersleben. Christian Vietoris has some particularly fond memories of this circuit. He secured his maiden DTM victory there last year, so it’s the perfect place to erase the tough Moscow weekend from his memory.
Weather conditions were changeable for the race in Oschersleben last season, 2014. Vietoris made his first pit stop directly after the formation lap in order to switch to full wets. He only stopped one more time in an exciting and eventful race that included three safety car periods. That enabled him to take the lead shortly before the end of the race, and he defended P1 to the finish line.
"I’m absolutely delighted," said Christian after the race. "My team did a fantastic job today with the pit stops and strategy – this victory belongs to everyone in the crew." The following statistics show how well his strategy worked: Over the 44 race laps of the demanding Oschersleben circuit, Vietoris gained 15 places on his grid position.
Looking ahead to 2016: The new DTM car
Mercedes-Benz also gave us a glimpse of the future of the DTM during the race weekend in Moscow. The Mercedes-AMG DTM Team presented the first sketches of its new vehicle for the 2016 DTM season on Saturday morning.
"The new Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupé will again set new standards for driving dynamics and design. So, the vehicle provides the ideal basis for our DTM car," said Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz. "I’m already looking forward to seeing the new Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM compete in 2016. Our aim with this vehicle is, of course, to continue the Mercedes-Benz success story in the DTM."
The most successful car in DTM history is one of the forerunners of the 2016 Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM. The AMG Mercedes C-Class achieved 85 victories in 159 races.