The DTM circus arrived in Spielberg, Austria, for 17th round of the season
Saturday started with rain at the Red Bull Ring, which cause the teams to tear their hair out in the qualifying.
Daniel Juncadella had taken Pole Position for Mercedes-AMG while Timo Glock had taken his yellow BMW to P2. Mike Rockenfeller was the best Audi man in P3, before the championship contender Paul Di Resta who would start fourth. The championship leader Gary Paffett was all the way back to P10 – just behind third driver in the championship, Rene Rast.
The track was still drying while the cars lined up on the starting grid, so the question was if they should start on slicks or wet tires.
The weekend was a bit special for both BMW and Mercedes. BMW started their 300th DTM race, while Mercedes-AMG had an extra car for Sebastien Ogier. Ogier drives normally in WRC, but this weekend he would be a guest driver in DTM. He started the race from P19.
Juncadella got the best start, and came to Turn 1 ahead of Rockenfeller, while Glock fell back to third.
There was a commotion on Turn 3, when Robin Frijns got pushed around by Phillip Eng. It caused chaos in the middle of the field, where Gary Paffett and Loic Duval were also involved. Duval had to retire, while Paffett and Frijns tried to continue on the track – Frijns after a pitstop to remove the hanging parts from the car.
Due to debris on the track, the Safety Car got deployed to clean them up.
After a quick clean-up, the race was given green flag again.
Juncadella got a really bad restart, and he was already under pressure by Rocky on the way to Turn 3, where the German dived past and took the lead.
Augusto Farfus had a good start and was up to fourth.
Sebastien Ogier also had a good start and he was up to 15th, in front of drivers like Paffett, Frijns, and Eriksson. But he had to give the place to Paffett, when the Englishman did a bit of shouting over the radio.
In the battle for P4, Wittmann managed to drive past Farfus.
Eriksson was the first person to do the obligatory pitstop, already on lap 6. He was also the only man who started the race on wet tires, and they were completely cooked on the drying track. All the other drivers had no intention to pit already.
Bruno Spengler and Pascal Wehrlein were the next two to pit on lap 12 and 13 respectively. Nico Müller and Jamie Green were the next ones pitting.
At the same time, Juncadella managed to drive past Rockenfeller again, in the battle for the lead.
Di Resta was the first of the championship contender to pit, after 15 laps. Farfus and Paffett chose to take their stop on the next lap.
It unleashed a group of cars, that pitted the lap after, with Rockenfeller, Glock, Wittmann, and Rast, who all came out in the same order, with only centimetres between the last three.
Müller, Farfus, and Di Resta drove three-man-wide on the way to the Rauch corner, where they luckily lined up again, before the corner, with Müller in front.
At the same time, the three of them had closed up to Glock, Wittmann, and Rast. Glock did a braking mistake in Turn 2 and lost three positions in the same corner. On turn later, Di Resta also drove past him when Glock did yet another mistake.
When Rast tried to overtake Wittmann, it was Müller who came past instead. On the next corner, Müller did, however, a mistake and fell back behind them again.
While all this happened, Juncadella had pitted and came out again in the lead.
Rast and Wittmann drove side by side through several corners, before Wittmann gave Rast a little push and went in front of him again. Rast obviously wasn’t happy with that and made a few hand gestures in the car. The race director wasn’t impressed either and gave Wittmann a warning.
Lucas Auer was one of the last to pit and came out 11th with stone cold tires, where Green had taken notice and overtook him a few turns later.
Edoardo Mortara pitted on the next lap and came out right in front of Green, where the same thing happened regarding the tires, and he got overtaken by both Green and Auer.
Frijns drove surprisingly well without his diffuser, and overtook Eng, Wehrlein, and Paffett. It all actually started when Wehrlein tried to overtake his teammate Paffett, and the two of them had a contact, so Paffett fell back. The stewards thought that Frijns had been a bit harsh towards Wehrlein and had to give the place back, which at the same time sent the Dutchman behind Eng, but still ahead of Paffett.
Sebastien Ogier had the lead of the race, since he was the last man to pit. But when he came back out, reality hit the Frenchman who probably missed his four-wheel-drive WRC car for a moment, when he did a little spin.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Juncadella had everything under control at the front, ahead of Rockenfeller, Wittmann, Rast, Müller, and Di Resta.
There was a war between Wittmann, Di Resta, Rast, and Müller, while Auer and Mortara also joined the train.
With five minutes left, the Safety Car got deployed when Timo Glock had to park the car on the track. It wasn’t the most obvious SC situation, but the race director chose to send it out for safety.
Spengler had to retired when his car got damaged under an earlier incident, and it got worse when he hit a curb, where the team chose to pit the car.
At the restart with two cars side-by-side, there were a lot of chances to go forward for all the drivers.
Juncadella defended the lead, while Wittmann was the biggest loser when Müller, Rast and Di Resta all drove past him. Later on the same lap, Green, Auer, Mortara and Eng also went past.
Wehrlein had a chance to win some places, but he outbraked himself in Turn 1 and fell back to 15th position.
Ogier was flying, and was all the way up to P12, in front of Paffett, Wehrlein and Frijns.
On the very last lap, there was an important announcement from the stewards: a drive-through penalty to Juncadella, who didn’t do the restart correctly.
The man who had led most of the race was sent back to the last position.
Suddenly, it made an Audi 1-2-3, where tactical choices were then made and there were position swaps between the drivers. So Rene Rast won the race, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller and Nico Müller – which was the most optimal order regarding the championship.
Paul Di Resta was the best Mercedes man in P4, while Jamie Green (Audi) and Lucas Auer (Mercedes-AMG) came in front of the first BMW driver Marco Wittmann. Sebastien Ogier finished the race in P12 – two places behind Gary Paffett. But still a very nice DTM debut for the Frenchman.
The race changed the order in the championship, where Paul Di Resta now leads ahead of Gary Paffett, while Rene Rast is catching up quickly on both.
There will be another race tomorrow, we’ll see if it will be as action-packed as today’s race.