DTM 2017: Hockenheim II – Analysis
Hockenheim II 2017 - DTM Analysis: Exciting season finale contested against a magnificent backdrop
The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team travelled to their home race at Hockenheim with a determination to round off the season in style. The 2017 DTM campaign had begun at Hockenheim in early May on a high with a victory for Lucas Auer. The team were therefore entitled to think that the year might end with a home victory or at least a podium. But ultimately, it was not to be. However, one of the most exciting DTM seasons of the past few years reached a fitting climax against a magnificent backdrop in front of the 152,000 fans who came through the gates over the full weekend.
Race 1: Four Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTMs in the Top Ten
In the first of the two races contested over the weekend, the team found themselves in a far from promising situation after qualifying. Edoardo Mortara at the wheel of a BWT Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM was the best placed of the team's squad of drivers, starting from fifth on the grid, which was also the position he finished in.
'That was a long race, but I don't think we could have done more today,' said Edo. 'Overall, I think that we did just about everything right. I had a good qualifying and a good start. I was always able to attack when necessary, but we were just a little bit slower than our opponents towards the end, and we were down on pace slightly.' Consequently, he was unable to mount any sort of attack: 'It was a pity, because we had a good scrap with them in the first stint. But ultimately, P5 is a good result for me.'
Robert Wickens came sixth after spending most of the afternoon driving in splendid isolation. 'I fell back to P7 after the pit sequence, because Rocky was incredibly quick,' said the Canadian. 'I tried to overtake Rene Rast on the second-to-last lap, but unfortunately I couldn't make it work and had to settle for P7.'
Joining Edoardo and Robert in the points on Saturday were Lucas Auer and Gary Paffett. Lucas gained seven positions during the course of the race to cross the line one place behind Robert in eighth. Gary moved up the field by three places and finished in ninth.
'We achieved points-scoring finishes with four of our Mercedes cars. That's what was good about today,' said Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Ulrich Fritz. 'It's obviously a pity to finally be out of the fight for the championship. Qualifying was certainly key in putting the top positions out of reach today.' The team therefore had every reason to feel confident going into the last race of the season on Sunday.
Race 2: Creditable fourth place for Gary Paffett
Gary at least semi-fulfilled this promise, though only in the race itself. The 2005 DTM champion was once again unhappy about the way the qualifying went: 'Qualifying was again disappointing with P9, unfortunately. That was a bit frustrating, because the car had more to give.'
Gary proved that in the race, which he later described as having gone 'perfectly'. The Englishman gained five places to improve on his P9 in qualifying and finish the last race of the season in fourth place, just missing out on the podium. 'I had to fight a bit at the start but subsequently managed to find my way back up into P8,' said Gary, describing his 14th points finish of the season. 'We then stayed out for a long time, longer than most drivers.'
It was a strategy that enabled him to make good several positions towards the end: 'I had the freshest tyres after we'd pitted, and the car was just incredible in the race. Its pace was amazing and very different to everyone else's in the second stint. It was a really good race.'
However, the final encounter of the 2017 DTM season did not measure up to expectations. 'We obviously wanted to end the season with a podium,' said Ulrich Fritz. 'But Gary's strong P4 finish was at least enough to give us second place in the manufacturers' championship.'
Also making a contribution to this outcome were the points scored by the two 'Pink Panthers', as Edoardo Mortara finished the race in ninth place followed by team-mate Lucas Auer in tenth. 'Qualifying was great - we got everything right today,' said Lucas. 'Again, at the start, everything went very well, and I improved to take third place. After that, we were down on speed.' The tyres did not hold out as long as he had hoped, and so Lucas lost some positions in the race.
It was a similar story for Edo, whose day was adversely affected by a technical defect in qualifying: 'That always creates problems in the race when you're constantly trying to overtake other cars. At one point, our strategy wasn't looking at all bad. But when I caught up with the rest of the field in the second stint, something must have happened to the car.' It is possible that he drove over some debris on the track or took one of the kerbs too hard. 'After that, the pace was no longer very good, and I was struggling right through to the end.'
The 2017 DTM season: Second place in the manufacturers championship
After 18 thrilling races, the 2017 DTM season has reached its conclusion at Hockenheim. The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team goes into the winter break having registered seven points-scoring finishes in the two races. Meanwhile, Audi driver Rene Rast is celebrating as the newly crowned DTM champion.
'Congratulations to Audi, Dieter Gass and Rene Rast on their well-deserved championship success,' said Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff. 'To win this highly competitive DTM series as a rookie in his first year is an amazing performance. Audi had the best package this season and again produced an exciting battle for P1 in the final race.'
The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team end the season as runners-up in the manufacturers' classification. The three-pointed star accumulated 568 points to put it just ahead of BMW in this category. 'But let's not forget to give our team a mention for taking us to second place in the manufacturers' classification,' stressed Toto. 'It was a close fight with BMW, but we won in the end.' Now the team has the long winter break in which to prepare for the resumption of battle in the 2018 DTM season.