After the first qualifying session of the 2017 DTM Series most would not have expected to see all three manufacturers appear on the podium at Hockenheim.
Lucas Auer claimed his second victory in the series, his first coming at the Lausitzring just over a year ago. The Austrian, having started from pole position, claimed the 176th victory for Mercedes.
“That was the most difficult race of my life. Later on, I had to nurse my tyres through to the end. I had to defend, but at the same time drive fast and avoid the slightest error. We had a strategy planned out, but because of the new rules, you’re all on your own out there without team radio. Nobody can tell you if you should be going easy on the tyres – you have to find that out for yourself.
“When Timo [Glock] was getting closer on the last few laps, I knew that, if I could hold off his initial attacks, I would have a chance, because his tyres would then be equally degraded. It really was very hard work. But I’m mega happy with the way things turned out. A huge ‘thank you’ to my team. They worked 24/7 over the winter, and that’s now paid off.”
Glock, starting from fourth on the grid made a good getaway to find himself in third place into turn one. Following his mandatory pit stop at the halfway point of the race, the German was back in fourth place but fought back up to second to put pressure on Auer. Glock closed the gap but was not able to make his way past the Austrian.
“To stand on the podium after the opening race is fantastic. My guys at BMW Team RMG have a lot of hard work behind them. They absolutely deserve this result. The car was only really ready just before the weekend, and was very good from the word go. I had a good start and a good opening lap. I passed Gary Paffett straight away, but wasn’t able to pull clear and get him out of the DRS window. That meant I had to defend hard – with everything I have learned in the past.
“It was really good fun. The fans were treated to a great show. Towards the end, I thought that Lucas Auer was playing games with me and simply saving his tyres. However, he was actually having real difficulties, so I gave it everything. It was not quite enough in the end, but I am definitely happy with second place.”
Following a difficult qualifying session for Audi, Mike Rockenfeller managed to turn their luck around to stand on the final step of the podium after starting in 16th on the grid.
Rockenfeller took a gamble by choosing to pit earlier than those around him.
“Being on podium again and taking a trophy home is mega cool.
“From 16th on the grid, that couldn’t be expected. We deployed all our skills. The strategy was great and we also had a little fortune. I don’t mind taking these points home.”
Mercedes newboy Edoardo Mortara finished his first race for the team in fourth place, having qualified third on the grid.
“It was a very difficult race. To be honest, I didn’t have the pace I had hoped for. We were struggling a bit with the car balance and experiencing more tyre degradation than we had expected.
“I was surprised that I caught up with Rocky towards the end because, for the whole race, I hadn’t believed that I could come back at him. I then realised that he had pitted very early. But when I was attacking him late on, he defended very well. It was important for me to score these points.
“Ultimately, it’s not a bad result. We just have to improve the car overnight and then, hopefully, we’ll have a better race tomorrow. Congratulations to Lucas on his first win of the season. It shows that our team has worked very well.”
Starting 17th on the grid it looked as though it would be a difficult day for Mattias Ekström but he needed just four laps to find himself in the top ten. Pitting for tyres with just 10 laps left in the race left the Swede with much younger tyres than those he was battling, allowing him to finish in fifth place.
In the first race of his full DTM campaign Rene Rast came home in six. Paffett ended up in seventh after fighting an intense battle with Glock, which was a disappointment for the Briton having started from second on the grid.
Fellow Briton Paul di Resta came home in eighth place, with Nico Muller and Marco Wittmann completing the top ten.
Maxime Martin, Bruno Spengler, Augusto Farfus, Loic Duval, Robert Wickens, Tom Blomqvist, Maro Engel and Jaime Green completed the eighteen runners, with all cars making the finish.
Wickens had to serve a drive through penalty after driving into the back of Blomqvist, which he took full blame of – causing damage to the BMW of Blomqvist and effectively ruining both of their races.