Ekström Sets Pace In First Practice

by Alex Goldschmidt

With the sunshine beating down from clear skies at Hockenheim, Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekström led the way from the early goings in the first free practice session during the DTM season finale.

The Team Abt Sportsline driver set a lap time of 1:34.136 around the 4.574km track, as the times tumbled during conditions that were getting better as temperatures steadily increased over the hour–long session.

Mercedes-Benz’s Daniel Juncadella was able to break the Audi deadlock from the likes of Miguel Molina, Edoardo Mortara and Timo Schieder, as the Spaniard was just 0.072 seconds adrift. 2014 Champion Marco Wittmann was a further 0.012 seconds behind, as the Team RMG driver improved through set-up changes during the session.

Last year’s season finale race winner Timo Glock was also in the mix, as the Team MTEK driver dragged his Deutsche Post M4 DTM to fourth. Scheider rounded out the top five, as drivers were exploring the limits of their cars, as well as the track.

Gary Paffett ended up ahead of Mercedes stable mate Vitaly Petrov in 22nd, but the Brit was one of several drivers that went wide going into the Spitzkehre hairpin from the long left hand Parabolika, with speeds hitting as high as 261km/h.

Mortara, who placed 15th, and Wehrlein, who placed 19th, also struggled at the same part of the track, with the bumpy nature of the braking zone catching them out.

Adrien Tambay, who took pole position and third at the season opener back in May, took sixth, with Molina, António Félix da Costa, Paul di Resta and Nico Müller rounding out the top ten. Outgoing champion Mike Rockenfeller ended up 13th behind BMW’s Maxime Martin and Martin Tomczyk.

Robert Wickens was 14th, as Augusto Farfus ended up behind Mortara and ahead of 2012 Champion Bruno Spengler. Christian Vietoris, who gave the update AMG C-Coupé a great run to fifth last time out Zandvoort, placed ahead Wehrlein, with Jamie Green and Joey Hand placing ahead of the pair of Paffett and Petrov.

With the field split by just 1.3 seconds and temperatures increasing, times will tumble in the next practice session, which leads up to the run towards qualifying this afternoon.

Free Practice 2 gets underway at 11.15am local time.

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