It’s been almost two weeks since a very controversial event at the Red Bull Ring in Austria took place that saw BMW take its first 1-2-3-4 finish since the race at Hockenheim back in 1992.
TCF now previews the seventh round of the championship, which sees current points leader Marco Wittmann have a comfortable lead of 39 points over chief rival, Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekström. 49 laps of the 3.639-km track this Sunday will see the main rivals emerge in the hunt for the title.
Mercedes: Wounded, but looking to fight back.
Controversy surrounded Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, as Canada’s Robert Wickens was deemed to have been unsafely released by the team into the path of BMW’s Timo Glock. Despite the best efforts of Wolfgang Schattling and the team to argue their case to race control, the Canadian was informed to stay out, but was excluded for not serving the drive-through penalty.
Even with race control later awarding Pascal Wehrlein with a three-place grid drop for this race for his more obvious unsafe release with further footage coming to light, it left what was a very bitter taste in the mouth for Toto Wolff’s team. The incident prompted the Head of Motorsport to write an open letter to the governing body in response to the actions taken.
However, they are still working hard to make the best of a car that has not been on the pace, when it comes to qualifying, unlike the Audis and BMWs. Wickens, however, will be looking to make an impact again, as he took his maiden win at the Nürburgring last year.
“I’ll be returning with plenty of fond memories,” said the 25-year-old, who could add another win alongside his triumph at Norisring. “I also had success there in various junior single-seater series. Hopefully, we’ll be able to build on our speed at Spielberg and be strong again this coming weekend.”
The track also bares certain significance for the Suttgart manufacturer, as 2014 marks the 80th anniversary where the story of the Silver Arrows began, so they will look to be at their very best, despite what has been a difficult season so far.
But as restructuring has come along in the form of Michael Wilson, who now joins the DTM efforts from Mercedes’ AMG High Performance Powertrains factory in Brixworth, takes on the role as head of race operations.
This is along with F1 technical director Bob Bell, who is being used in an advisory capacity, there could be an emerging upward trend for those behind the wheel of the “Three-Pointed Star,” as the season continues.
BMW: Full of rememberance but still pushing on
It will be a very somber affair at Munich, as it mourns one of its strong foundations at Schnitzer Motorsport, as Dieter Lamm, brother to Schnitzer team Principal Charly, passed away last week at the age of 59 after a long illness.
A man that was the “heart and soul” of the Bavarian-based outfit helped Schnitzer to achieve great success with BMW over the years in various categories will be “greatly missed by us all, as a colleague and a friend,” as made in Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt’s recent statement just after Lamm’s passing.
In respect of Lamm, all eight M4 DTMs will sport black ribbons in honour of his memory, as they look to carry on an upward trend with the M4. Wittmann’s form this season has clearly echoed one major factor when it comes to title aspirations: consistency.
He has been on the pace as one of the front-runners, as well as having scored three victories this season so far, showing that the base work done with the M3 predecessor has been fruitful.
Augusto Farfus, Timo Glock and Martin Tomczyk will look to have further success here, as will Bruno Spengler, who took the second win here during his championship year back in 2012. The Canadian will celebrate his 100th race start this weekend, and will look to use the form that BMW have had so far this season to a possible win. But there is one factor that could play against them, which is the success ballast.
Farfus, Spengler and Wittmann will have to work against the full 10 kilograms that will be put onto their respective M4 DTMs, with the remainder of the team also having a deficit, due to being heavier than the Audi RS5s and Mercedes C-Class Coupes.
However, the team with the “Ultimate Driving Machine” will look to keep their grip at the top of all three championships on offer, with Team RMG leading the team championship, as the clean sweep could be happening for the second time in three years, as long as it goes their way.
Audi: Searching For That Elusive Win
Even though the Ingolstadt ranks have looked string this season, as Mattias Ekström is the man closest to challenge BMW’s Wittmann for the lead in the drivers’ standings, Audi Sport has yet to secure a victory in any of the races thus far this season. This is as well as their defending champion Mike Rockenfeller now seeming out of reach to be the first person since Team Phoenix teammate Timo Scheider to successfully defend the title.
It is a home race for all three, as both drivers grew up in the area surrounding the famed “Green Hell,” and will look to do their level best to get the highest result possible in front of relatives and friends on a very special weekend.
Jamie Green also marks his century of DTM race starts this coming weekend at the Nürburgring, as the plucky Brit at Team Rosberg was on course for his first win for the brand with the four rings in Spielberg. However, the Monaco-based driver was the first driver to fall foul of the half-distance rule when it comes to tyre usage, and received a drive-through as a result, finishing eighth.
Qualifying was a struggle for the likes of Edoardo Mortara, Rocky and Adrien Tambay, who were eliminated early at the Red Bull Ring, a fact that Head of DTM Dieter Gass is all too aware of: “Following the difficult weekend in Austria we can hardly wait to travel to the Nürburgring. We’ve got something to make up for.
“That’s why we are going to intensively prepare in order to work out a better starting base on Saturday for the next race. If we manage to do that we should be in contention for victory at the Nürburgring. Although Mattias’ gap in the standings has become larger, we’re going to try and battle for the Championship.”
It all boils down to several factors at the Nürburgring, which also includes the track that is clearly one that punishes hard if a mistake is made, something that Miguel Molina is keeping his eye on: “It hardly forgives any mistakes and requires us drivers to fully concentrate on every meter. There are two sections in which you can use DRS, which gives us a few opportunities in terms of strategy.
“But the chicane in front of the last turn is important. You’ve got to optimally enter it and take a lot of speed with you. If you don’t manage that, you’ll take this deficit with you all the way to the start-finish straight.”
So if the rain decides to make its presence felt as it did last year, Mercedes-Benz could steal the show from under the noses of their rivals, but as we have come to expect so far in the DTM this season, anything can happen, and it most probably will.
We’ll find out this coming weekend just who will come out on top above all the rest in the Eifel region.