The opening weekend to the 2018 DTM Series at Hockenheim was a strong start to the season for the 2005 champion Gary Paffett.
Paffett, started strongly from the off with second in the first practice session behind team-mate Paul di Resta.
It was Saturday that Paffett came into his own controlling qualifying and the race.
At the start of the race Paffett, fell behind team-mate Lucas Auer. The Briton pitted earlier than the Austrian out front and took advantage of his tyres being up to temperature to carry more confident in his Mercedes and draw alongside Auer into the parabolica.
Although it was tenth on track, it was the theoretical race lead once all the stops had played out.
This was Paffett’s first race victory in 1,784 days when he took victory on 13 June 2013 at the Lausitzring.
“The car was really good. Lucas [Auer] passed me initially and I didn’t want to resist too much at that point. We then brought our pit stop forward, and the tyre change and out-lap were really strong, so I was able to pass him again. I managed to open up a gap subsequently and secure the win. It’s been a while since my last victory. We were often close to winning during the interim period and it’s a terrific reward for me and the team for all our hard work in recent years.”
On Sunday, the result for Paffett may not have been as good as it could have been but third is still a strong finish.
However, seeing as for much of the race he was running in first place it is understandable he would be disappointed.
Taking his pitstop five laps later than race leader Timo Glock, Paffett used his tyre advantage to pass the BMW driver, commencing the battle that would last for most of the race.
When one thought they had got the job done over the other, they would come fighting back to reclaim the position.
Glock eventually made a move which stuck but Paffett had run out of DRS usage and the chasing pack was now on their tail.
BMW rookie Joel Eriksson went for a move but Paffett held position going into the last lap with Audi‘s Mike Rockenfeller passed him with the Briton having to settle on third.
“I love Timo (Glock), that was incredible. We could have both backed off at any time and taken second place. Because we knew that the others were eventually going to catch up with us. But neither of us wanted to give up. At the end of the day, third place is disappointing, but it was worth it. It was the best race I’ve ever driven in. A fight for the win like that is absolutely incredible. I used up my DRS relatively early on. That’s why I just wanted to get past Timo and pull out a one-second gap. But every time I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t quite enough and there he was again.”
One of the biggest talking points was lack of pace from the champions Audi, who miraculously managed to turn it for Sunday.
“On Saturday we made the best of it as a team, though probably not on Sunday, which was a shame and a missed opportunity with some of the cars. The biggest surprise actually was the lack of pace of the Audi. Mercedes and BMW were both pretty close, and Audi seemed to have found some speed on Sunday. But it was definitely pleasing to see that we started the season in such a strong way. I think it is a just reward for all the hard work we put in over the winter.”
Paffett departs Hockenheim, second in the championship on 43 points just one behind leader Glock. His Mercedes-AMG Motorsport PETRONAS leads the Teams’ Championship while Mercedes lead the Manufacturers’.
The series heads to the Lausitzring next for the second round of the season on 18-20 May.
“I’ve won at the Lausitzring in the past, and I think we need to look forward to it in a very positive manner. With the new regulations, however, every weekend is also a bit of an experiment. But I certainly don’t expect the performance of the cars and the drivers to change that much from Hockenheim. Hopefully we can have another weekend up at the front.”