Mercedes-Benz has not been dealt a good hand this season, as the early run of form was good to see from Toto Wolff’s revised squad for 2013, with qualifying being an issue for some. The Stuttgart manufacturer’s decision to reduce the cars it fielded from eight to six brought some great promising youngsters to the fore, but with a veteran in the form of Gary Paffett to help steer them in the right direction.
The chase for the titles this season has had its fair share of dramas along the way, with Paffett, Robert Wickens and Christian Vietoris all in contention for the Drivers’ title. However, Oschersleben saw the fairytale ending go out of sight for all three drivers, who were still hoping to be in the hunt this time around. However, with nothing to lose, all six drivers will be looking to go out strong and fight for glory.
Wickens is sporting a new livery, courtesy of STIHL, who have decked his C-Class AMG Coupe in the colours of STIHL TIMBERSPORTS, which helps to publicize the upcoming Timbersports World Championships in Stuttgart the weekend after the season finale at Hockenheim. The 24-year-old Canadian has left what happened in Oschersleben in the past, providing himself with a good mentality to carry on as a racing driver should.
“That’s part and parcel of racing,” said Wickens, who is focusing on the task at hand. “It’s incredibly exciting to race on this roller-coaster of a track in the dunes, and the beach location gives it a special atmosphere that is unique on the DTM calendar. Of course, I would love to do justice to this great track by securing another top result next weekend and finish my season on a positive note in the remaining two races.”
Gary himself is looking forward to the “great fun” a DTM driver has when racing around the ebbs and flows of this iconic track, and is hopeful of a good finish to the season: “I’ve already won three times in the past at Zandvoort. Hopefully, that bodes well for the penultimate race weekend of the season. Our pace was not bad in the Oschersleben race, and if we can qualify further up the grid, then we’ll be back in contention for the top spots, and my fourth victory in the dunes at Zandvoort will perhaps be possible.”
Spain’s Roberto Merhi is starting his 20th race this weekend, and explained why it is a firm favourite with all the drivers: “We drivers like it mainly because of its varied, flowing passages, but at the same time, it’s also very challenging due to the many fast turns and good aerodynamics are required.” The former Formula 3 champion also said that DRS and the Hankook option tyres would make the difference when it comes to overtaking.
Vietoris said that the weekend at Oschersleben “was very tough for me right from the start,” especially as he wants to get back on the podium and hopefully defend his position in the drivers’ standings, currently third overall with 71 points. He even hopes to challenge for the series runner-up position, especially if he is able to catch Augusto Farfus: “That would more than fulfill this season’s goal of a top-five finish in the championship.”
The two newcomers to the Stuttgart outfit, Formula 3 Euro Series graduates Daniel Juncadella and Pascal Wehrlein, have clearly impressed with their rapid adaptation from single-seaters to touring cars, with both having had success at Zandvoort previously. Juncadella won there twice both at the Formula 3 Euro Series and the Formula 3 Masters, showing that the translation between the two may not be as easy as he may have originally thought first time out.
“I’m looking forward to racing at Zandvoort on a track that I associate with happy memories,” said the Spaniard, who achieved quick times in the Formula 3 categories and is hopeful that he can make a welcome return with a points finish this time out. “Of course, I need to adjust my driving style a little, because every track is different in a DTM touring car as compared to a Formula 3 single-seater, but I’m certain that my engineers and I can find a good setup in practice.”
Wehrlein, who is still the youngster in the Mercedes team likes the track as much as any of the drivers competing this weekend, and is generally satisfied with his performance this year, considering the last-minute call up he received to replace Ralf Schumacher. However, improvement is on the 18-year-old’s mind as he heads to Holland with high expectations: “Unfortunately, I have not secured as many points as might have been possible, but I think I’m on the right track now and would like to continue my journey back to the top with another points-scoring finish in Zandvoort.”
But as always, the work behind the scenes for further fine-tuning and development never stops, as Head of Motorsport Wolff said about the team’s analysis of all data concerning Oschersleben. He is looking for better times for his six drivers, as the dunes off the North Sea coast could bring welcome results for all: “We aim to fight our way back to the top on both Saturday and Sunday at Zandvoort and get in the right frame of mind for our home race and the big DTM finale at Hockenheim on 20th October by achieving a decent result.”
Controlled aggression is something a driver has when he or she really needs it, and this could be the time we see Mercedes roar back into life and make sure that there are no logs without fire, as the explosive nature of the title race for two drivers may help and enable someone else take the top step. It’s not long now before we find out…