It was a very surprising winner, when Round 10 of DTM 2017 was run at Moscow Raceway.
There was drama already before the race started, when Tom Blomqvist who had originally taken Pole Position, had too little fuel left in the tank, and thereby disqualified. Instead it made Bruno Spengler start from first position ahead of Mattias Ekström, Rene Rast and Paul Di Resta. Timo Glock and Marco Wittmann took the third starting row for BMW. Tom Blomqvist started dead last, right behind Maro Engel.
Jamie Green had qualified in 10th, but because he had crossed the white pit exit line, he had received his third warning of the season, resulting in a 5-place grid drop, just like it happened to Marco Wittmann in yesterdays race.
There was drama in turn one, when Maxime Martin got a push from behind from Loic Duval, who started 7th and 8th respectively. The rest of the first lap ran quite smooth.
Marco Wittmann, Loic Duval, Maro Engel and Tom Blomqvist dived straight into the pits after lap one, to get their mandatory pitstop done. It was natural for Engel and Blomqvist, since they had nothing to lose from the back row. But it was a bit more of a surprise that Wittmann and Duval from top 10 did so, too.
On lap 6 we saw Maxime Martin retire, with fire out of both of his front brakes, after he had hit the barrier. The brakes had already overheated before he hit the barrier, and he went through the corner with too much speed, which made him lose control of the car and hit the barrier. That sent out a Safety Car to get the car removed. Martin had to do the extinguishing himself at the start, since the track officials didn’t want to help him at all. So he had to grab a fire extinguisher himself behind the wall, and start putting out the fire. The team put the blame on the lap 1 incident, getting something stuck in the brake cooling duct and making the brakes overheat.
It took a long time for the track marshalls to get the car removed, so it took three laps behind the Safety Car on the 3,931 kilometres long track.
When the race was restarted, it was done side by side in NASCAR style. Even though there was a lot of close fighting, everybody made it quite safe through the first few corners.
On Lap 12 we saw Ekström in the lead, after having sucked himself up to Spengler by using DRS. He stuck his nose on the inside of Spengler, and there was a slight bit of contact between the two cars, sending Spengler slightly offline, and enough for Ecki to sneak by.
Robert Wickens was the next man to drive into the pits on lap 13, and thus ended up dead last, and had to wait for the remaining 12 drivers to go to the pits too.
One lap later, Spengler and Lucas Auer pitted, but both came out far behind Wickens.
Timo Glock, Augusto Farfus and Mike Rockenfeller came to the pits, and opposite to all other pitstops to that point, Glock lost 5 seconds due to a wheel nut problem.
Mattias Ekström and Rene Rast pitted on the same lap, and the mechanics had a bit of troubles with the right rear of Rast, costing him three seconds.
Slowly but surely, Wittmann, Engel, Duval and Blomqvist sneaked up through the field – the 4 drivers who pitted on lap 1.
Auer made a crazy overtaking manoeuvre on Mike Rockenfeller, before topping that one lap later, by going three wide with Rene Rast and Augusto Farfus. Auer made it past, while Farfus had to take it to the asphalt in the run-off area. Auer defended very hard and almost pushed Rast into the pitwall, in the aim to stay ahead. Rast ended up getting a warning for contact.
Maro Engel put hard pressure on Marco Wittmann, when Wittmann was slowed down by Nico Müller, who hadn’t done the mandatory pitstop yet. The two drivers had made it all the way up to 5th and 6th respectively.
Gary Paffett made his pitstop on lap 22, sending him out in 12th, but had to give up further positions to Rast, Rockenfeller, Wickens and Farfus, since his tires were completely cold. Tire warmers are no longer allowed in DTM, so it takes a bit of time for the drivers to get heat into the tires.
Engel made it past Wittmann at the start of lap 23, after the Mercedes man had made his way up to the BMW thanks to DRS on the back straight.
When Green and Mortara pitted too, he was suddenly second in the race, and only waited for Nico Müller to drive into the pits as well.
While Müller Engel, Wittmann, Duval and Blomqvist were busy battling each other, Ekström slowly caught them, bringing Di Resta along with him, and they started attacking Blomqvist. Top 7 was driving one after the other. Blomqvist made a launch past Duval, going into the final turn, before Duval lost another position to Di Resta in turn 1. The Scotsman hit the Frenchman and pushed him off the track. That collision resulted in a damage to Di Resta’s car, who then had to pull out of the race.
Rene Rast made it past Lucas Auer again, but Auer tried to push Rast into the pitwall. The Audi driver didn’t take no for an answer and just kept his foot to the floor and made it past the Mercedes driver, and Championship combatant, with only a few centimetres to the pitwall.
Mattias Ekström dived on the inside of Blomqvist, again with thanks to DRS, and thus had driven himself back on the podium.
One lap later the Swede tried to over take Wittmann on the outside, but couldn’t keep the line and had to give up the position again.
With just 3 minutes left of the race, Müller went to the pits, handing the real lead over to Engel, who had a nice gap to Wittmann, who was more busy fending off Ekström than catching Engel.
With just one minute left of the race, Ekström dived past Wittmann, but still had a bit gap up to Engel.
Jamie Green made a great overtaking manouvre on Marco Wittmann, where he overtook both Wittmann and Spengler in the same corner. Spengler however got a better exit and made it past Green again, just like Rene Rast sneaked past.
But at the chequered flag, Maro Engel could celebrate not only his first win – but also his first podium – in DTM ahead of Mattias Ekström and Bruno Spengler. The strategy about diving into the pits on lap one was just perfect, and catapulted him from starting position 17 to the win. So all three brands were represented on the podium.
Mike Rockenfeller got a time penalty after the race, because he had used the DRS more than what was allowed. That gave him a 5 seconds penalty which send him out of the points. Paffett got a 30 seconds penalty for hitting Loic Duval, so he finished far from the points too.
Mattias Ekström is leading the Championship once again, but only one point ahead of Rene Rast. Lucas Auer is third ahead of Jamie Green and Maxime martin, who is still the best BMW driver.
Audi leads the Constructors Championship, ahead of Mercedes and BMW, while Audi Sport Team Rosberg leads the Teams Championship ahead of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline and BWT Mercedes-AMG Motorsport.
The next race weekend of DTM will be held on August 19th-20th at the Dutch track in Zandvoort.