The DTM feeds off emotions, off highs and lows, unexpected surprises, triumphs that are much celebrated and merciless setbacks. The Mercedes-AMG DTM Team ran through the whole gamut of emotions during the fifth race weekend of the season at Zandvoort - joy that knew no bounds, strong team results, spectacular overtaking manoeuvres and a double kick in the teeth to close the weekend. One after the other...
Race 1: Comfortable win for Robert Wickens
At first, it looked like a successful weekend right across the board. Robert Wickens could not suppress a big grin under his helmet as he climbed out of the cockpit of his SILBERPFEIL Energy Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM on Saturday evening. 'I haven't had much luck here in the past,' said Robert in retrospect. 'But the whole team have done a tremendous job, and together we've recorded my first win of the season. The car was simply fantastic.'
His supreme start-finish victory might have looked like easy, but it definitely wasn't. 'It may have looked easy, but I can tell you that it most certainly wasn't,' said the Canadian, stressing how hard it had been. 'I tried to manage the tyres in case the safety car came out again.' However, nobody could stop him in the end, and Wickens secured his fourth DTM win.
Christian Vietoris experienced a similar feeling of release as Wickens. After a disappointing weekend at the Norisring, Vietoris finally claimed his first podium finish of the year in Zandvoort. 'I've been waiting for this podium for so long,' he said. 'I put in strong performances at both the Lausitzring and the Norisring, and I'm happy that we've now been able to convert the good grid position here into points.'
Vietoris even had Marco Wittmann and a place higher up on the podium in his sights. 'I was faster than him in the turns,' said Vietoris. 'Unfortunately I wasn't able to overtake him on the straights. I tried everything possible but found no way past. There's a lot of sand on the track next to the perfect racing line. If you stray into it, you then need a couple of laps to get the tyres clean again.'
Gary Paffett in fourth position and Daniel Juncadella and Esteban Ocon placing eighth and ninth respectively rounded off a good team result. These were Juncadella's and Ocon's first points of the season - and for the Frenchman, the very first of his nascent DTM career. 'A masterful start-to-finish victory for Robert and a strong team performance, with five Mercedes-AMG C 63s in the Top Ten. That's obviously what we aim for,' was the comment from Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz. 'I'm especially pleased that Dani and Esteban scored their first points today. The two of them have really deserved it.'
Race 2: Double whammy in closing stages
It could almost have been a perfect weekend for Robert Wickens. Pole, victory and fastest lap in the first race on Saturday, second place and the championship lead in the second race on Sunday. But luck was not on his side in the end.
Disaster struck on Lap 35. Wickens was in second place, ahead of his two Mercedes-AMG DTM team-mates Gary Paffett and Christian Vietoris. Then the Canadian suddenly came off track - with a puncture! Robert dragged his battered car back to the pits and even took the chequered flag after his unscheduled change of tyres. However, his P16 cost him any chance of points.
'I'm a bit lost for words,' said Robert after the race had ended, still a bit stunned at the turn of events. 'I looked very strong in the first stint and was even able to attack Jamie,' he continued. 'However, I decided not to take too many risks. The puncture shortly before the end was a hard knock to take. We did a brilliant job this weekend and would have really earned those points.'
But it went from bad to worse. Vietoris met a similar fate almost at the same time as Wickens punctured. 'It had been another good day up until that point,' said Vietoris, who was unable to finish the race. 'The team did a super job again, and our car was the fastest in the field all weekend. Too bad that once more, we were unable to score enough points.'
Ulrich Fritz was also shocked to the core by what happened over the final laps. 'Although I'm obviously delighted for Gary after his P2 finish, the end of the race was a huge disappointment for us,' he asserted. 'First we had to bring Robert into the pits with a puncture when he was lying second. After that, the best he could manage was P16. Then we lost Chris with the same problem when he was in P3. That's a bitter blow. It's a massive setback for the whole team, but we'll do our best to strike back in Moscow.'
Consequently, it was left to others to make the day's headlines. Lucas Auer did not need telling twice and pulled off a sensational overtaking manoeuvre. 'My overtaking manoeuvre on Martin Tomczyk was certainly one of the best of my career to date,' said a delighted Auer. 'It's what makes racing so much fun.' How did it happen? Auer was behind Tomczyk in P11. He attacked the BMW driver in the first corner on Lap 30 and drifted around his opponent on the outside to the cheers of fans and his crew. 'More, please!' was the message from his team on the pit radio to spur him on.
There was also cheering to be heard on the pit radio as Gary Paffett crossed the finish line. The 2005 champion ended his losing streak without a podium this season on the dune circuit of Zandvoort where he has won three times in the past. 'This has been a great weekend for me - without a doubt the best so far this season,' said Gary after securing second place. 'My car was absolutely fantastic. If we can get that right again in Moscow, we are in with a chance of further podium finishes. The season so far has been one of ups and downs, but the championship is still wide open and there is everything to play for.'