It was a bittersweet weekend for the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team as the series made its return to Budapest. While Daniel Juncadella was celebrating a hard-fought first podium in Sunday's race at the Hungaroring, Robert Wickens was left to rue missing out on a last mathematical chance of winning the DTM title. 'It meant that we effectively ruled ourselves out of the drivers' championship today,' said Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz with evident disappointment. 'That's a real shame.' Then, late on Sunday evening, came the next shock. Juncadella and BMW driver Marco Wittmann were handed late disqualifications, as the floors of their cars did not comply with the regulations.
Daniel Juncadella: Disqualification costs first DTM podium
And yet everything had started so promisingly for Juncadella. A chaotic opening to the race, a super start and a bit of luck: these were the ingredients that sent Daniel Juncadella on his way to the result he had long been waiting for. From eleventh on the grid, the Spaniard catapulted his Mercedes AMG C 63 DTM into third position on the opening lap. 'I made another mega start,' said the man in the number 12 car. 'I've been doing really well with my starts for quite a few races now. I was up there in third place after the very first lap. Incredible!'
But he still had another 35 laps to get through on the demanding Hungaroring before realising his dream of a maiden DTM podium. 'Overall, it was a very emotional race for me,' recalled Juncadella directly after the race. 'Given the circumstances, I just couldn't believe that I was in third place. But my car was perfect. My thanks go to the guys. This podium belongs to them too.'
Relatively early in the race, Juncadella managed to pull out a lead of around three seconds on the pursuing BMW of Marco Wittmann. The current championship leader continued to lose ground on Juncadella until the Spaniard took his mandatory pit stop on Lap 19. Juncadella ultimately crossed the finish line eight seconds ahead of the fourth-placed driver. 'My first podium in the DTM - that was certainly the most beautiful race of my career so far,' said Juncadella. 'I never really expected it because, up until the second race, it didn't look like it was going to happen this weekend.'
Juncadella had set himself the clear objective of a Top Three finish during the final two race weekends of the season. 'My target is still to make my first DTM podium appearance this season,' he announced in the week leading up to the races at the Hungaroring. 'In view of my improved form in recent weeks, I think there's a good chance of that. Because things are going so much better now than earlier in the season, and I'm confident that I can do it.' Until late his disqualification late in the evening, Juncadella was as good as his word.
'Congratulations to Dani on his first DTM podium,' said Ulrich Fritz. 'He's been close on so many occasions in the past, and now it's finally worked out for him.' He had twice come close to a podium, finishing fourth at the Norisring in 2013 and fourth again at the Lausitzring in 2014. This season too, he looked to be in with a chance of achieving his main objective when a no-fault collision in the first race at the Nürburgring cost him the opportunity of battling for a Top Three finish.
His Mercedes-AMG DTM team-mates were delighted for the likeable Spaniard directly after the chequered flag. 'I'm happy for Dani and congratulate him on his first podium,' said Maximilian Götz, who spent some holiday time in Ibiza with Juncadella and Christian Vietoris during the summer break. 'Congratulations to Dani on his first DTM podium,' added DTM rookie Felix Rosenqvist. 'He's really deserved that in his fourth DTM year, and I'm very pleased for him.'
Felix Rosenqvist: Second points finish on third race weekend
On Saturday, another Mercedes-AMG DTM driver was causing a stir. On only his third race weekend in the touring car series, Felix Rosenqvist managed his second points finish. 'Given the circumstances, it was a good race and I'm pleased with eighth place - my best ever DTM result,' said the Swede. 'It gets better each time.'
Ulrich Fritz drew what comfort he could from the weekend: 'Two Mercedes in the Top Ten means that we've at least limited the damage. More was not possible.' The eight Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM touring cars were the heaviest in the field in first qualifying which plays such a crucial role on the twisty Hungaroring circuit. At 1,135 kg, they weighed 25 kilos more than the Audis and 17.5 kilograms more than the BMWs. For the first race, the BMW and the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team were able to offload five kilos, while the Audis were five kilos heavier.
Robert Wickens: Excruciating weekend in Budapest
It was a disappointing weekend for championship contender Robert Wickens. In the first race, the Canadian succeeded in fighting his way from P17 to finish in the points. 'That was probably the best we could do today in the race,' said Wickens. 'My goal was to finish in the points. Before the start, that seemed like an almost impossible task. Fortunately, I managed it.'
Unfortunately, the second race was effectively over for him before it had even started. 'I never thought today would turn out like it did, never in a million years,' he explains. 'I got the wrong slot on the grid. I just made a stupid mistake which I didn't notice.' He was then instructed to start from the rear of the grid, but despite that setback, he battled his way through the field to cross the line in twelfth. 'That would have been a decent performance in Budapest under normal circumstances, but today, I threw away any mathematical chance I had of lifting the title by making one stupid mistake. That really racks me off big style.'