After a four-week hiatus, the final push for the 2013 DTM title has begun in earnest, with 6 drivers having a chance of winning the honour and the glory of becoming “DTM-Meister.” The Motorsport Arena Oschersleben provided the setting for the 8th qualifying session of the year this afternoon, which got underway in changeable conditions, as some of the drivers found the track a bit too slippery in the early goings.
However, in a tense battle for pole position in the Q4 1-lap shoot out, it was defending champion, Bruno Spengler, who brought his specially-liveried BMW Bank M3 DTM on to the top spot, ahead of Audi Sport’s Jamie Green, who secured his first front-row result in qualifying since joining Ingolstadt at the end of last year. However, Team Schnitzer used one of the tyres that were meant for Q4, meaning that the Franco-Canadian has been given a five-place grid penalty as a result, giving the Monaco-based British driver his pole position for Audi.
The BMW Motorsport driver was not the only driver to fall foul of this infraction, as the Mercedes-Benz duo of Daniel Juncadella and Gary Paffett, who celebrates his 100th race this weekend, also have been penalized, with the Spaniard starting from the very back of the grid and Paffett starting behind Robert Wickens in P12.
It was another day for Mercedes to forget, as 5 of their 6 drivers made it into Q3, even though Paffett was pushing and got his EURONICS C-Class AMG Coupe into seventh before his demotion. Christian Vietoris’ title chances seemed to take a knock, as he only qualified in P20, as well as Wickens suffering an early scare into the gravel at “Hotel”, with Adrien Tambay and Timo Glock also falling foul of the varying degrees of rain hitting Oschersleben. Tambay would eventually be just on the cusp of making it into Q2, but was just outside the top ten before P10 was his eventual starting place for race day..
Both Andy Priaulx and Joey Hand were eliminated early on, along with Audi Sport’s Edoardo Mortara who is suffering a torrid season thus far, which is a very different contrast to being a double race winner in 2012. Spanish driver Roberto Merhi also had a bad time behind the wheel placing dead last before penalties helped to form the final grid, with Mercedes-Benz not having the form that a lot were expecting this season, as the set-up in Free Practice is what does make the difference this season.
But as we very well know that strategies have been a major part on how the racing has made the biggest impact, so drivers like Timo Glock, Marco Wittman and Pascal Wehrlein, who made it into Q2, will have a potential chance to make it to the sharp end of the field come race day.
Championship leader, Team Phoenix’s Mike Rockenfeller could potentially wrap up the 2013 title this coming weekend, and showed his grit and will to push forward, especially in Q2 when he pulled himself into Q3 at the last minute, almost giving Team Director Ernst Moser a coronary in the process. The 2010 Le Mans winner ended up in P4 after the 1-lap shootout, with him being on the second row, even with Spengler’s demotion coming into play.
Augusto Farfus has been the most effective driver this season when it comes to Qualifying, as he made it into Q4 for the 6th time this year, and is also in with a chance of the title, along with several others. 2-time champion, Mattias Ekström was not able to find the form he has shown signs of during some of the races this year, placing P13.
Dirk Werner showed impressive pace once again, having qualified in the top five, with several other drivers making up the Mercedes-lacking top ten, as Martin Tomczyk was the lowest placed BMW driver in P8, with Miguel Molina, Timo Scheider and Filipe Albuquerque making it six Audi drivers in the top ten.
The 3.696km track, based in the potato capital of Germany, will see 51 laps of action, as the drivers will try to make the best of their efforts that day, but will we really find out just “Who is Next?” The answer may not be that far away after all…