The DTM season saw the 22 drivers turn the wheels for the first time in anger for the first qualifying session at the Hockenheimring this afternoon, with the three manufacturers ready for battle after just over 6 and a half months. The rain however, always seems to lend a helping hand to make conditions tricky for all concerned.
But it was Audi Sport’s double DTM Champion, Timo Scheider, whose black livery on his Audi RS5 DTM seemed to have got his skills back into full swing, as he secured his 11th DTM pole position ahead of BMW Motorsport’s Augusto Farfus in his M3 DTM. The Brazilian said that race day will be an altogether new experience, with the tricky conditions catching out several drivers: “I got it together quite well and I am very happy with second place. Tomorrow, it will be exciting, especially with the new features, the option tyres and DRS.”
Scheider was overjoyed with his perfect start to the season, as all the drivers were revved up to get going, especially as the times tumbled with the 4.574km track drying out: “Today, we have achieved a really good lap. Let’s wait and see how many good laps we can do in the race on Sunday.”
Mercedes-Benz’s top driver during qualifying was Germany’s Christian Vietoris, who along with first time Q4 participant, Robert Wickens, were bringing the numbers game into effect, but it had no real bearing on proceedings. However, the Canadian’s time was disallowed, due to running off the track with all four wheels on his lap, as he was clearly pushing hard.
Another ‘DTM-Meister,’ Mattias Ekstrom, was pushed out of Q4 at the last moment, having to settle for 5th, ahead of both Gary Paffett and defending champion Bruno Spengler. The Canadian was happy that it worked out relatively well in the varying conditions: “Seven was my starting number in 2012, so the result is not that bad when you look at it this way,” Could this be a sign of things to come?
Ex-F3 Euroseries driver Pascal Wehrlein, along with 2012 F3 Euroseries Champion, Daniel Juncadella, made some good progress in their first outing in the DTM, with the 18 year old German placing 8th, ahead of American BMW driver, Joey Hand, who placed in the top ten in this initial outing for all, as well as Juncadella, who rounded out the top ten.
Some notable drivers from the world of Formula One were also in attendance, including former DTM driver and Williams F1 development driver, Susie Wolff, who borrowed Paffett’s DTM-Taxi for some laps. This was well as Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg, who came along and witnessed the first qualifying effort from several rookies, including a good friend of theirs, Timo Glock, who has swapped from Marussia F1 Team colours to the white and blue of BMW, with his yellow Deutsche Post BMW M3 getting him to 15th for tomorrow’s race, with his Team MTEK stablemate Marco Wittmann suffering a technical issue with his car, putting out of the running for a good place on the grid. The former test driver was hopeful of more from his car in tomorrow’s race: “We must now find out exactly what caused the problem. There can be only one approach to tomorrow’s race: attack.”
Glock was happy with his first outing in anger in the DTM, but felt that there was still much to do: “It is too bad that we didn’t end up more to the front. I felt really well in the car, but we have to learn to understand the tyres, especially in wet conditions.”
Team RMG’s new pairing of two champions in their own right, Martin Tomczyk and Andy Priaulx were still hunting for time during the session, with Guernsey’s 3-time WTCC champion saying it was all about finding the time at the right moment, placing 17th for tomorrow’s race: “I got a bit caught up in traffic on my last lap. That cost me time and prevented me from making it through to the next session. In these conditions, every tenth of a second was crucial.”
Tomczyk, the 2011 DTM Champion, was another to find difficulties with the varying conditions, placing 11th, but says that the search always carries on: “Not everything went to plan but, even in my 13th year in the DTM, I am still learning. I am confident I can make up some places in tomorrow’s race.”
The tricky conditions saw many drivers placed out of the normal order, with Audi’s new driver, Jamie Green, having a somewhat baptism in the rain, placing 12th, ahead of Audi’s very own “Iron Man” for the weekend, Adrien Tambay, who sports a new livery for the first race, coinciding with the release of Iron Man 3 in cinemas with Robert Downey Jr, who drives an Audi R8 e-tron in the film. “Mr. Norisring” went on to explain about his first day in the new “office” in race weekend conditions: “It was a bit frustrating because we couldn’t squeeze the maximum out of the rain tires in the conditions of a drying track. That’s why, in the end, I didn’t have enough grip when the track got drier.”
The racing will determine just who has made the biggest strides in the off-season, as Scheider looks to go for the win, but there will be many in his slipstream that will want to get one over the Audi driver, but when the lights go out tomorrow, everyone will be on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what unfolds over the 42 laps, with option tyres and DRS being used in a race situation for the very first time. Now the fun can truly begin, as the DTM roars back into action once again tomorrow afternoon.