Eighteen drivers will take to the grid in the 2017 DTM Series, the smallest the grid has been since 2011 – the year prior to BMW‘s return to the series, as the season gets underway as tradition at the Hockenheimring this weekend.
A number of changes have come into place over the winter break.
From this year on, radio communication will be considerably limited – during the race transmitting information from the pits to the driver is forbidden. Therefore, the onus is much more on the driver to take responsibility for their decisions. The ban does not apply when: the car is in the pit lane, yellow flags are being waved or during a safety car period. In these cases, it is permitted for safety-related instructions to be given to the driver.
IndyCar style restarts in double-file formation have been adopted to create more drama after the race has been neutralised following a safety car period.
Qualifying has become more significant as points will now be awarded to those who take up the top three positions of the grid. Three points for pole, two for second and one for third place.
Both races which take place over a weekend will now be the same length and will both require a pit stop.
With regards to the changes, Gerhard Berger chairman of the ITR, said: “In the DTM, we want to put the sport into the centre of the attention. The DTM has an outstanding and strong field of drivers and the fans want to experience this performance in the races.”
Double World Champion Marco Wittmann will be in the hunt for his third title in only his fifth season in the series.
Wittmann heads the BMW line up, comprising of: himself, Augusto Farfus, Timo Glock, Bruno Spengler, Tom Blomqvist and Maxime Martin. Martin Tomczyk and Antonio Felix da Costa left the Bavarian team following the reduction of the grid.
The German won the 2016 title by four points over Edoardo Mortara.
BMW are also the only team on the grid which has elected to run two teams of three whereas both Audi and Mercedes have opted to run with three teams of two drivers.
The champion is to remain at Team RMG, and is to be joined by Glock and Farfus.
Blomqvist, Martin and Spengler will compete for Team RBM.
A hybrid team, referred to as Team RMR, will deal with both Glock and Blomqvist – sharing the workload between Team RMG and Team RBM.
Da Costa and Tomczyk remain apart of the Bavarian outfit, working on their FIA World Endurance Championship entry for 2018, as well as other projects.
After missing out on the title with Audi, Mortara moved to Mercedes with whom the Italian will make his first appearance for this weekend after having being apart of the manufacturer since 2011.
Mortara will be joined by: Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta, Lucas Auer, Robert Wickens and DTM returnee Maro Engel.
Maximilian Günther has also joined the squad as the new test and reserve driver which came as a reward of finishing runner up in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship.
It is going to be a busy weekend in Hockenheim for Mattias Ekström who will be pairing his DTM duties with FIA World RX after clinching the 2016 title, with him also currently leading the 2017 championship after two rounds.
Nico Müller, joins the Swede at Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline in what Audi feels is a strong driving pairing.
Rookie Loic Duval joins Audi Sport Team Phoenix alongside Mike Rockenfeller. The pair have worked with other another in the past as part of the Audi LMP program.
René Rast, who featured in Zandvoort and the finale in Hockenheim is set to make his full debut for Audi Sport Team Rosberg partnered by Jamie Green.
The season opens this weekend in Hockenheim, which will also host the finale in October. After the opening weekend, the drivers have a week rest before heading to the Lausitzring. The series then takes about a month’s break where it will head to Budapest, followed by a trip to the Norising. A visit to the Moscow Raceway is the only event in July before racing resumes in Zandvoort. With the season drawing to a close, visits to the Nürburgring and the Red Bull Ring before heading to Hockenheim once again.