On an amazing late summer day, the penultimate round of this years DTM was held at Hockenheim.
Audi Sport had the best cards on their hand to take home the titles in the Saturday race. BMW had other plans and grabbed Pole Position in the shape of Timo Glock ahead of Maxime Martin. Two Audi drivers, Jamie Green and Rene Rast, started P3 and P4, followed by the two Mercedes men, Edoardo Mortara and Robert Wickens. We had to look all the way back to P10 to find the Championship leader Mattias Ekström, but he has started in that area of the grid several times this year.
Glock made a good start, but Martin was overtaken by Green already before Turn 1. Ekström lost one position but made sure not to get involved in any fights. The most important thing for him and Audi was that Lucas Auer (Mercedes-AMG) was two spots further behind, and Marco Wittmann (BMW) only two spots ahead.
Maro Engel took his mandatory pitstop already at the end of the first lap.
Even though there was DRS options available, everybody was just driving in one long line, without any attempts to overtake.
It lasted until the 6th lap, were Gary Paffett tried to overtake Marco Wittmann. In the front of the field, the sharp elbows popped out too. Jamie Green tried to overtake Timo Glock, and the two drivers went side by side through several corners. Glock ended up outside the track, on the run-off asphalt, and made it back on the track only a few centimeters ahead of Green, and the two cars almost collided.
One lap later, Green made it safely past Glock, but with a slight bit of rubbing. The race stewards decided to give Green a warning, which means that he will have a grid penalty in the Sunday race.
Edoardo Mortara outbraked Maxime Martin going into the hairpin, and by doing that, went up to P3 behind Green and Glock.
Mattias Ekström pitted on the 9th lap of the race for new tires, as only the second driver in the field. He quickly came under pressure from Maro Engel, who already had heat in his tires, but Ekström kept defending. The race stewards decided to give Ekström a warning for too much defending, and therefore, just like Green, going 5 spots back on the grid for the race tomorrow.
Rene Rast and Lucas Auer pitted on the same lap, and returned to the track in clear air – ahead of Ekström and Engel.
One lap later both Glock and Martin pitted, and left the pit again in the same positions.
Ekström had closed the gap to Lucas Auer and put the Austrian under intense pressure, but didn’t make it past on the first go. Instead both caught up with Nico Müller, who was quickly passed by Auer, and then letting Ekström past one lap later.
14 laps into the race we saw leader Green pit, and returning to the track in a clear lead – at least among the drivers that had already pitted.
Wittmann pitted one lap later and rejoined right behind the Auer, Ekström and Müller group. So he was one of the big losers of the pitstop lottery – or from another perspective, Auer and Ekström were the clever ones, making it past the BMW driver.
Paffett pitted on lap 18, and returned to the track right in front of Auer, who quickly went past – partly due to DRS and partly down to more heat in the tires. Tire warmers are not allowed in the DTM, so it lasted a few laps before they were into working temperature. Paffett was pressured by Ekström too, but the Brit could keep the Swede behind.
Just past the halfway point in the race, we saw Swiss Müller under pressure from Wittmann, but the latter didn’t make it past.
Rockenfeller was the third last driver to pit, and from the first position he dropped all the way back to P9, since the midfield was one big cluster. The only two drivers who hadn’t pitted was Tom Blomqvist and Loic Duval, who didn’t have any real influence in the points.
Green took the lead with 11 minutes left of the race, when he made a regular overtaking manoeuvre on Blomqvist. Blomqvist still hadn’t made his pitstop, but did so one lap later.
After several tries, Bruno Spengler finally made it past Nico Müller, but only in the battle for 12th and 13th.
Rockenfeller put Rast under pressure in the fight for 5th, and out-accelerated him going out of the hairpin. Instantly he had closed the gap to Mortara and started to attack the Mercedes driver. Rocky blew past the Italian and instantly started to chase down Martin, who was a bit more than 1,5 seconds ahead.
Rockenfeller was more than one second faster than Martin, and with a bit more than 3 minutes left on the clock, we saw him outbrake Martin on the way into the hairpin. With 2,7 seconds gap to Glock ahead, Rocky had a tough task ahead of him, with just 150 seconds left on the clock.
Spengler out-accelerated Ekström going out of the hairpin, and thus sent the Swede out of the points.
Rockenfeller caught Glock with more than one second per lap, and at the start of the final lap, the gap was only 0,6 of a second. Thanks to DRS, Rocky made it past his countryman, and could drive an Audi 1-2 victory home behind Jamie Green.
Audi Sport secured the Drivers Championship with this race result – but the Champion hasn’t been found. Mattias Ekström is still leading, but Jamie Green is just 9 points behind, with Rene Rast a further 4 points behind. Mike Rockenfeller keeps his title chances alive with this impressive race, and currently sits 20 points behind Ekström. Lucas Auer and Marco Wittmann are fifth and sixth respectively in the Championship, but can maximum reach third in the Champion by now.
Audi secured the Constructors Championship with the result today, while the Teams Championship has been won by Audi Sport Team Rosberg.
The final of this years DTM Championship will be run tomorrow Sunday, with the green light at 15.13 CET.