In 2016 it was once again a very competitive DTM Series field which ultimately saw BMW Team RMG driver Marco Wittmann crowned the champion for the second time in his relatively short DTM career. Wittmann endured a closely fought battle with Audi driver Edoardo Mortara but in the end the German had done enough to beat the Italian.
After a less than stellar 2015 campaign for the Munich based manufacturer, pre-season started off positively for them as they looked to return to form and potentially back to the top of the championship standings. Although they did not reclaim the manufacturers’ and teams’ titles that they had won in 2015 (largely due to the Zandvoort and Oschersleben rounds) it was a far more positive season for BMW.
It was a season filled with the usual thrills, spills and controversy and drivers racing hard and fast against one another in search of that elusive title.
Going into the final round of the season, Jamie Green also mathematically had a shot of the title but in the end it came down to Wittmann and Mortara, with the German coming out ahead by just four points.
Mortara done everything he could, by winning the final race to keep his title hopes alive and despite taking five victories over the course of the year compared to Wittmann’s three, the German’s superior consistency won it for him in the end.
Entering his fourth year in DTM, Wittmann was hoping to build on his successes from his second year in the championship. It took until the second round of the year at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for the car number 11 driver to get his momentum going, claiming pole and the win in the first race of the weekend.
It was not until four rounds later at the Moscow Raceway did Wittmann find himself on the top step of the podium once again before taking victory next time out at the Nurburgring.
That is not to say the season was all plain sailing for Wittmann. At the Hungaroring – the penultimate round – Wittmann found himself, along with Mercedes driver Daniel Juncadella, disqualified from the second race of the weekend due to excessive wear to the skid block. Having finished fourth in the race Wittmann lost 12 points meaning he headed to the final round with just a 14 point advantage.
At the final round of the year it was very much Wittmann’s to lose, as Mortara started the opening race down in eighth place handing a huge advantage to the BMW driver. Mortara was not one to give up though and fought through to third place – finishing just two seconds behind his rival.
In the final race of the year, Mortara beat Wittmann to the flag taking his fifth win of the season but Wittmann came home in fourth place – one place higher than that required of him – to be named champion for the second time in three years.
Wittmann’s consistency over the season is ultimately what won him the title.
After winning the first race of the season, the 2016 championship challenge could not have gotten off to a better start for Mortara, but a number of races where he took the chequered flag but did not score any points is likely to have been what cost him the title.
The Franco-Italian lost the title by four points, and largely feels that the opening race at the Zandvoort round in July is what cost him. During the race the Audi driver was on course to come home with eight points but was given a drive-through penalty when he was judged to have exceeded the maximum speed allowed under virtual safety car conditions. However, it was found that the GPS systems monitoring the speeds were faulty and thus this was not the case.
Despite Audi winning the manufacturers’ title and Mortara (along with Mattias Ekstrom) Audi Sport Team ABT Sportsline winning the teams’ championship this result at Zandvoort remained on their minds.
For 2017, Mortara is leaving Audi and will be joining Mercedes in a move that was speculated for much of the season but was not officially confirmed until after the culmination of the season.
Over the course of the 18 races, there was ten different winners, demonstrating the competitiveness of DTM – two from BMW (Team RMG team-mates Wittmann and Timo Glock), three from Mercedes (Paul di Resta, Lucas Auer and Robert Wickens) with the remaining victorious coming from Audi drivers (Mortara, Miguel Molina, Nico Muller, Green and Ekstrom). A further eight drivers finished on the podium.
One driver that impressed was Tom Blomqvist, having gained more confidence in the series in his second year the British-Swede had an impressive season which saw him finish second place four times and take pole position at the Norisring. Additionally, Blomqvist was one of only two drivers to have been classified at every race – the other being Auer – but was the only one to have seen the chequered flag at every race (Auer retired from both races at the open Hockenheim round but had completed more than 75 percent therefore was classified as finishing).
This is impressive showing by Blomqvist meant he finished an incredible sixth in the championship standings, and as the second highest BMW driver – second only to Wittmann – with many having high hopes for the future of the 23 year old.
What is to Come in 2017?
With the predicted reduction of the grid from eight car teams down to six it is likely that DTM will sadly lose a number of very talented drivers.
BMW Team Schnitzer drivers Antonio Felix da Costa and Martin Tomczyk announced their departures from the series prior to the seasons end and makes the choice of what drivers to lose for BMW much easier.
Double world champion Timo Scheider announced his retirement at the final round of the series so that he can focus on other aspects of racing.
Tomczyk and Scheider are both retiring from the sport after the pair have competed in it for the past 16 years. In comparison da Costa has decided to leave so that he can focus on Formula E, all though the Portuguese driver has stated if given the chance in the future he would return to DTM.
Former Audi man Mortara is currently the only driver confirmed at Mercedes.
Hankook have extended their deal to supply tyres to the series until 2019. In addition to this for the first time ever DTM will introduce hybrid systems in the hopes that it would improve overtaking.
The calendar is not yet confirmed but the season will open as is tradition at the Hockenheimring on 5-7 May before moving on to the Lausitzring just two weeks later.