Scenic hills, green forests and rolling countryside - it's not only DTM fans who find the Eifel enchanting. Lucas Auer knows this sort of landscape from his native Austria. Maybe that's the reason why the Mercedes-AMG DTM driver and the Nürburgring (where he claimed his first DTM pole position in the 2015 season) seem to have such an affinity for each other. On the seventh race weekend of the 2016 DTM campaign, 72,500 spectators turned out to see the Austrian once again demonstrate this special relationship with the Eifel.
Race 2: Podium for birthday boy Lucas Auer
This was a 22nd birthday that Lucas Auer won't forget in a hurry. Three fastest qualifying sessions out of four at the Nürburgring and the runner-up spot in the race itself: 'That's a nice birthday present for me.' Though it has to be said that nobody did Auer any favours in the second race at the Nürburgring. On the contrary, he had to fight with determination for his second podium of the season.
'Early on, I had to defend hard against the BMW,' said Auer. 'I gave it everything I'd got and stayed ahead. After that, I even managed to pull out a small lead over Marco Wittmann, and I thought it would be enough.' Until a few laps from the end, Auer retained that lead. But then Edoardo Mortara struck. 'He came flying on fresh tyres and I had no chance against that,' conceded Auer. 'All the same, I'm happy with second place. It's a great result for our team.'
Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz was fulsome in his praise for the Tyrolean: 'That was a strong performance from Lucas - he did a great job today. Towards the end, though, Edoardo Mortara was on fresher tyres and simply faster.'
Gary Paffett and Daniel Juncadella finished seventh and ninth to bring the Nürburgring weekend to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion. 'Today was a better day than yesterday,' said the Englishman. 'It went really well for me after that, and I was on target to take P4 or 5. But then, Jamie Green came out of the pits and attacked me from way back down the field. Unfortunately, he sent me into a spin and that cost me two or three places. P7 is a good result in the circumstances, but more was possible.'
Race 1: Paul Di Resta ekes out vital points
Saturday in the Eifel was also dominated by Lucas Auer in the early stages as the Austrian set the fastest lap in qualifying. But because of a third caution of the season incurred in the previous race at Moscow, he had to serve a five-place grid penalty. Consequently, he started his 30th DTM race from P6.
'I didn't get my start right, unfortunately,' said Auer afterwards. 'If you don't get a good start, then it totally ruins your first lap.' He ultimately crossed the finish line in seventh position, one place behind fellow Mercedes driver Paul Di Resta. The Scot was pleased with this respectable result.
'P6 is a good result in view of the extra weight,' stressed di Resta. 'Frankly, it has to be said that we had our hands tied behind our back today,' said Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz. 'The extra weight that we had to carry after qualifying was simply too much for us to accomplish anything in the race.'
And the statistics prove the point: in the first race, the eight Mercedes-AMG C63 DTMs weighing in at 1,130 kilos were clearly the heaviest cars in the field. By comparison, the Audis came in at 1,115 kilos (15kg lighter) on the scales and the BMWs at 1117.5 kilos (12.5kg lighter).
In the second race, the weight difference was even greater: the Mercedes-AMG C63 DTMs weighed 1,135 kilograms, i.e. five kilos heavier than on Saturday. While the weight of the BMWs remained the same, Audi were allowed to shed another five kilos, which meant that for Sunday's race they weighed in at 1,110 kilos, a full 20kg lighter than the Mercedes cars that by now were only five kilos under the maximum weight of 1,140kg.
DTM championship standings: Setback in title chase for Wickens and Di Resta
In championship terms, this third-to-last race weekend of the season brought the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team no luck at all. 'Overall, we cannot be satisfied with the way this weekend has gone,' said Ulrich Fritz. 'As regards the championship, we've suffered a sobering setback. But there are still four races left, which means there are 100 points up for grabs.'
Looking ahead to the last four races of the season in Budapest and Hockenheim, Robert Wickens is in third place overall on 120 points. The deficit on championship leader Marco Wittmann (BMW) is 50 points. Paul Di Resta is currently fifth, 70 points adrift. Whereas the Canadian managed a limited amount damage control in Race 1 with a ninth-place finish, he came away from the second race on Sunday empty-handed.
'Unfortunately, that was a weekend to forget from my perspective,' said a rueful Wickens. 'We must now carefully analyse my performance to ensure that we do better once again in Budapest. I didn't have the pace in the race to finish in the points. We must now go on the offensive again in Budapest.'