DTM 2017: Nürburgring – Analysis
What a weekend! The Nürburgring has seen many legendary races in its 90-year history, including some of the most chaotic rain-affected races ever. Over the weekend, the DTM produced two mega exciting races at the Ring, adding two more, particularly memorable chapters to the annals of the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Team with a quadruple victory on Saturday and a one-two win on Sunday. Not for nothing is the brand with the three-pointed star still the most successful at the Nürburgring with 32 victories to its name.
Race 1: Top four places in rain-affected race
As befits a race weekend at the Nürburgring, typical Eifel weather prevailed during the first two days with the first race on Saturday suffering particularly. 'It was a brutal race with rain, then a drying track, then more rain. The whole day was very tough,' said subsequent winner Lucas Auer.
The Nürburgring specialist had started the race from pole position and fought his way forward again after his pit stop. Lucas: 'At times, it was a bit confusing out there, because I emerged from the pits in P4 or P5 and didn't quite know what was going on, but that was in the heat of battle. Then, towards the end, I once again found I was getting good pace out of the second set of rain tyres.' His speed was to bring him his third win of the season and second place in the standings, just one point down on championship leader, Mattias Ekström, after Saturday's race.
Auer's team-mates completed a result that was almost perfect by finishing in the Top Ten and by taking the top four places at a rain-soaked Nürburgring. 'I'm extremely happy, and this result will give everyone a real lift,' said Paul Di Resta, who booked second place behind Lucas. 'A result like today, where we've locked out the podium, is fantastic.'
This was Paul's second podium of the season after his win in Hungary. Robert Wickens joined him on the podium after securing his third podium finish of 2017. Robert: 'That was a confusing race. It was definitely one where I was wishing that I had team radio. I never knew precisely where we were, but I was really fortunate.' Robert was on his in-lap, getting ready to switch to slicks, when it began to rain again. 'So I decided to stay out and hope for the best.'
The decision turned out to be dead right as was the case for the other drivers. Team Principal Ulrich Fritz was full of praise for his crew. 'Our strategy was excellent. We kept calm in situations that mattered and made the correct decisions. This was the right way to come back after the weekend in Zandvoort, for sure.'
Race 2: One-two win in the Eifel
Robert Wickens, who sped to victory on a dry track in his black Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM. The Canadian, who had taken his maiden DTM victory at the Nürburgring in 2013, secured his sixth win in his 80th DTM race at the very same venue.
Rob: 'That was a crazy race. Unfortunately, Luggi spun in front of me. That was lucky for me and unlucky for him. From there on, we had a good strategy and were able to undercut a bunch of people. But I had to work really hard for it, and I had to get past a lot of guys after the stop.'
In the course of the race, Robert also had a tough scrap with BMW driver Marco Wittmann. 'We had a few minor contacts, but all in all, it was a really good fight,' said Robert after the race. Both drivers sustained damage to their cars in the battle. Robert: 'After we made contact in Turn 1, my steering wasn't straight anymore and some flicks were missing. I was really lucky that the race wasn't one lap longer, because Paul was pushing like crazy. I'm really happy that the race ended when it did.'
The aforementioned Paul Di Resta took his second podium of the weekend. 'I was leading by the middle of the race, but our pit stop wasn't good, unfortunately - that cost us a couple of seconds,' he told us. 'At the same time, I'm happy with my two second places this weekend. It's a great result for the team. If someone had said to me before the weekend, 'You can have two second places. They're yours', I would have jumped at the chance.'
To his rear, Maro Engel secured a place in the Top Five for the second time within 24 hours, and yet even more might have been possible for the winner of Sunday's race in Moscow: 'Unfortunately, I slipped up badly in qualifying this morning, which cost us a Top Six start,' said Maro with remorse. 'I have to apologise to the team for that, so I'm all the more delighted to have progressed through the field from P14 to P5. With two Top Five finishes this time round, it was a very good weekend for me.'
It seemed in the dying stages of the race that Gary Paffett would be able to repeat his tenth place from the previous day. The British driver was in P10 until the final lap but lost the position when Maxime Martin (BMW) caused him to spin. Gary fell back to 14th place. Gary: 'Towards the end of the race, I caught a bunch of cars with Timo Glock, who was struggling. I tried to get past, but all the guys in their BMWs were driving into me. It was just really annoying.'
Team Principal Fritz echoed the words of the 2005 DTM champion: 'We've seen today that the season has really hotted up - it was a bruising encounter with little compunction about elbowing others out of the way.' All in all, he was, of course, very happy with the weekend: 'After monopolising the top four positions yesterday, we secured a one-two victory today. A result of this quality is certainly well deserved by the team.'
The title fight: Roller-coaster for Lucas Auer
Lucas Auer and the Nürburgring enjoy a very special relationship. It was at this track that the Austrian secured his first DTM pole position and where he achieved his maiden victory in the first race in the Eifel. Even before the weekend, Lucas had said: 'It seems as if the corners and I suit each other nicely.'
Saturday with his third Nürburgring pole and the win were clear proof of that. Nevertheless, not everything went according to plan in the Eifel. The second race started promisingly enough. Lucas improved his position to third place at the start and was maintaining P3 behind Paul Di Resta and Marco Wittmann when the bolt came out of the blue. Lucas spun and dropped way down the field.
'Unfortunately, I made a mistake at a critical moment in the race. I have to take full responsibility for that,' said Lucas after the race, in which he placed 13th, finishing out of the points. 'I am really sorry, because the guys work so hard and don't deserve this. I know it sounds bad at this moment, but mistakes are human and unfortunately are part of the sport.'
Team Principal Ulrich Fritz gave him a pat on the back. 'It's a pity for Luggi, of course, but mistakes happen in sport,' he said. 'I'm sure he's annoyed with himself, but he'll get over it soon enough.' Lucas still has every chance of success in the championship. In the run-up to the two final race weekends, his home race at Spielberg and the finale in Hockenheim, Lucas is only nine points behind the leader Mattias Ekström (Audi).
From the Eifel, drivers and teams will head to Styria in Austria for the penultimate race weekend of the 2017 DTM season. Races 15 and 16 will take place at Spielberg, 22nd - 24th September.