The penultimate round of the DTM Series at the Red Bull Ring was the first round since the controversial performance weights were scrapped with the teams heading to Spielberg very much in the unknown.
Ekström Claims First Victory of 2017
Despite having led the championship for much of the campaign, Mattias Ekström took to the top step of the podium for the first time in 2017 on Saturday.
The Swedish driver had qualified in third and jumped Nico Muller at the start to run in second place trailing stable-mate Jamie Green. With five laps remaining Ekström easily found his way past Green at Turn 3 to lead home an Audi 1-2-3.
At the Nurburgring, Audi bemoaned the performance weight system with the teams unanimously agreeing to scrapping them as they headed into the penultimate round.
From Friday practice it was clear from outset that the Ingolstadt team had a clear advantage over their competitors and subsequently went on to dominate the weekend.
On Saturday, the top three demolished their rivals – finishing 21 seconds clear of fourth placed man Robert Wickens.
The team had been on course to secure a 1-2-3-4 finish on Sunday until Green suffered a gearbox failure late on.
Tactics deployed by Audi have been the talking point for much of the season, in particular the way in which they have used Muller.
Marco Wittmann and BMW have been very vocal regarding the situation, with Wittmann blasting the team for “sabotaging” his race on Sunday.
“I am disappointed and angry,” said Wittmann. “Following the changes to the weight situation, Audi now clearly has the car with the best race pace in the field. If you still feel it necessary to block the opposition, then that is not on. I am the kind of racing driver who wants to see hard but fair racing. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
“At the restart they weren’t very fair either. I was the only driver in a sandwich of Audis.
“In Turn 1 I was pushed out, in Turn 3 even worse.
“OK, Ekstrom had to give the position back. But the position I lost to [Mercedes driver Gary] Paffett was not given back to me.”
Wittmann sits fifth in the championship and is one the six drivers still mathematically within the chance of claiming the title and is the best placed non-Audi, but 38 points behind Ekström it is a big ask.
The finale of the 2017 season at the Hockenheimring gets underway 13-15 October with the championship still all to play for.