Hockenheim was the home for the DTM finale of this year’s Championship, with 4 Audi Sport drivers still able to grab the Drivers Title ahead of the race.
On a sunny and 21 degrees warm Sunday, the 18 cars were ready for the start of the final, which had been forecast as a pure Audi walk over.
Somebody didn’t hand that note to BMW driver Tom Blomqvist, who grabbed Pole Position ahead of one of the title candidates, Audi driver Rene Rast. BMW driver Marco Wittmann was third ahead of Lucas Auer in Mercedes-AMG, who got a bit of redemption from yesterday’s bad race, ahead of teammate Robert Wickens. Maxime Martin had sneaked in front of the other title candidate, Mike Rockenfeller. And then we had to look far down the starting grid to find the last two.
Championship leader Mattias Ekström was only going to start from P14, after having qualified as 10th. He had a 5-grid penalty from yesterday’s race, where he received the third warning of the year, which automaticly results in a 5 place drop. But hey, 10 minus 5 isn’t 14… No, but Jamie Green who had done 5th fastest lap in Qualifying, had received his 5th warning yesterday, and that gave him a 10-grid penalty. So he would start 15th – right behind Ekström. These two drivers were separated by just 9 points, while Rast following his two bonus points from Qualifying today, were only 11 and 2 points behind them respectively. Rockenfeller had 20 points to gain on Ekström, which meant that he had to win the race, and hope for Ekström to retire. Otherwise it wouldn’t be enough for the 2013 Champion to win the title again.
The Qualifying session lasted quite a bit longer than planned, because a drainage had come lose, when Paul Di Resta ran over it in the Qualifying. That gave quite some damage to his Merceedes, and he dropped some oil onto the track.
All that had been cleared well before the race start at 15.13.
It was a very chaotic first lap. Rene Rast got off to a bad start, and fell back to P4 initially and dropped one more spot on the opening lap. Mattias Ekström and Jamie Green got an even worse start and were battling for last position going out of Turn Three. The two actually touched going down towards the hairpin, but both could continue in the race.
The race settled down a bit more, before Paul Di Resta was the first to take his mandatory pitstop.
Rast made a great overtaking manouvre on Wickens right ahead of the Mercedes Tribune. That move sent him on the way towards the title, with both Ekström and Green well out of the points. There were still 45 minutes left on the clock, so a lot could still happen.
The race was led by Blomqvist, ahead of Wittmann and Auer, with Rast catching up on all three.
Nico Müller and Maro Engel were the next two drivers to enter the pits, but they were already outside Top-10 before their pitstops.
Timo Glock and Gary Paffett raced wheel to wheel racing all the way from the hairpin going up to the Mercedes Tribune, where Mercedes man Paffett arrived ahead.
After 13 laps we had both Wittmann and Auer pitting, rejoining the track as the leading driver, who had already completed their stops. Maxime Martin dived past Auer, since he already had his tires up to working temperature.
Rast made good use of being alone, and closed the gap to Blomqvist immediately and started attacking him. However, it ended up with Blomqvist diving for the pits, before Rast could made a real attack on the Brit, with partly Swedish blood in his veins.
Blomqvist rejoined right ahead of Wittmann, but with heat in the tires, the latter could easily pass him and take the effective lead of the race.
Auer and Augusto Farfus had a battle going into the hairpin, in which Auer fended him off, but had to give up the place anyway two corners later, thanks to a bit of DRS too.
Rast, Rockenfeller, Mortara, Ekström, Green, and Spengler were the last 6 drivers who hadn’t pitted, and they didn’t start to enter the pits until there was about 20 minutes of the race.
Rast and Rockenfeller pitted at the same time, with Rast rejoining the race in second, but having to work hard to get heat into the tires. His luck was that Robert Wickens and Tom Blomqvist behind him were busy battling each other, which gave Rast a nice gap.
Wickens ended up hitting Blomqvist in the hairpin, resulting in quite hear rear damage and a lot of debris on the track. The Stewards decided to give Wickens a Drive-through penalty for the incident, which send the Canadian out of the points. In fact he decided the park the car instead, and retire, just like Blomqvist, with heavy damage to the car.
Rockenfeller had a good pace towards the end of the race, and overtook Martin and started hunting down Rast, who was 5 seconds ahead. But there were 10 minutes left on the clock.
Bruno Spengler was the very last guy to pit, and he fell back, far outside the points.
Green and Ekström had a real pace going on their new tires. Green slowly climbed into Top-10 with Ekström following close behind him.
The race that appeared to be a comfortable way to the Championship for Rast, suddenly turned exciting again, with Green and Ekström getting into the points, and catching the drivers ahead by several seconds per lap.
Green made it past Farfus on the penultimate lap, with Ekström doing the exact same thing to Mortara.
Marco Wittmann won the race, while Rene Rast secured the DTM Drivers Title 2017 by finishing second in the race. Mike Rockenfeller finished the final race of the year in P3.
As mention, Rene Rast were crowned Champion, with a 3 points gap to Matties Ekström in second, who had 3 further points to Jamie Green. Mike Rockenfeller finished 6 points behind Green in an annoying 4th.
That was the end to an amazing season, even though all BMW and Mercedes fans probably would say that it was a bad season, without any titles for them. BOP or not – the 4 Audi drivers always had the same BOP compared to each other, and Audi Sport delivered an amazing and exciting final.