Wonderful atmosphere, enthusiastic fans – that neatly sums up the Spielberg race track, on which Formula 1 is staged and also made a terrific venue for the second race weekend of the DTM season. However, for years now, it would appear that a Spielberg ‘jinx’ plagues the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team.
Flashback to the 2013 DTM season. Robert Wickens is disqualified while in the lead. One year later, the ‘Push-him-off’ incident. Again, the Canadian is one of the drivers involved. Timo Scheider pushed Wickens and eventual DTM champion Pascal Wehrlein into the gravel.
“It would be nice to get into the headlines for positive reasons this year, say with two high points-scoring results,” said Wickens ahead of the weekend. “Ideally, I would like to see the entire field in my rear mirror, just as long Timo does not pop up there. Then it could be a great weekend.” Unfortunately, Robert’s two requests for the team were to go unfulfilled...
Race 1: Tough position right from the start
It was clear that the Mercedes-AMG DTM drivers would have their work cut out right from the start in qualifying for the first race on Saturday. “The qualifying in the DTM is always crucial,” said Lucas Auer. In fact, just two tenths of a second covered the Top Ten in the first qualifying session. However, only championship leader Paul Di Resta managed to move up into seventh place and secure a position in the Top Ten on the grid.
“It was obvious we would face challenges with the new car on circuits where we have not competed in it before,” said Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz. “Unfortunately, that proved to be true today. In the end, the car simply did not work as we had hoped.” Not only was the Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM new, the track had been newly resurfaced for this season.
Still, Di Resta was able to take seventh place at the finish and secure some points towards the overall rankings, which secured him the lead in the drivers’ standings. “Somehow, it seems the relationship between Spielberg and us does not want to end happily,” added Fritz. That was to be confirmed on Sunday.
Race 2: Gary Paffett goes on another charge
Sunday began with another tricky qualifying session. Grid position 21. This was not what Gary Paffett had hoped for in the second race, but the British rolled up his sleeves and with another gutsy top-class performance showed just what a superb thoroughbred racing driver he is. He was ranked 18th after just five laps (including safety car period).
Paffett began to push steadily from Lap 22 onwards. He tells us about the special tactical trick he had up his sleeve: “I saved up my DRS for the final sprint and caught up with the guys in front relatively easily.” He overtook one car after another within the space of five laps and fought his way up into twelfth place. On Lap 35, he overtook Adrien Tambay (Audi) in the battle for eleventh place and went in pursuit of Timo Scheider, who was in front of him in the last points-scoring position.
Then came the final lap. “Timo Scheider made a mistake in Turn 2, and I moved to pass on the inside,” explained Gary. “At that point, he simply pushed me off onto the grass.” That cost Paffett two places, so he was left with P13 in the end. “Gary was in line to take one match point but was again forced off track by Timo Scheider on the final lap,” said Ulrich Fritz. “Last year, there was the ‘Schieb-ihn-raus!’ (Push him off!) incident, and now this. I just cannot understand it.”
Robert Wickens had already had a contact in the race with another Audi driver. “I pulled off a good manoeuvre on Nico Müller in Turn 6,” said the Canadian. “He pushed me onto the grass on the inside, but then for some reason, I received a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.” After that, Wickens no longer had any chance of achieving a better result and was very disappointed, as you can imagine: “I’m feeling that I’ve been robbed of a better result.”
However, his fastest lap time of 1:23.446 minutes on Lap 40 indicated that the pace was there. “Which at least gives us some hope for the Lausitzring,” said Fritz. “When you can retain the lead in the championship after such an unremarkable weekend, then you would probably say that we have come off lightly. Still, what happened at Spielberg is obviously not what we aspire to.”