Two hundred and two days since the DTM Series was last at Hockenheim the series is back to kick off the 2018 championship.
Last time the DTM roared round the track it ended with René Rast being crowned champion in his rookie campaign with Mattias Ekström and Jamie Green taking the runners up spots. As for the races, Saturday’s was won by Green with BMW‘s Marco Wittmann claiming the final victory of 2017.
Coming into Hockenheim, no lines up have remained unchanged since last season. Maxime Martin and Tom Blomqvist left the BMW squad with Philipp Eng and Joel Eriksson stepping up to replace them.
For their farewell year from the DTM, Mercedes welcome Dani Juncadella and Pascal Wehrlein back to their squad after Maro Engel and Robert Wickens announced their departures from the series, largely to secure their futures before Mercedes’ time in DTM ended, with the former prioritising the FIA Formula E series and the latter having joined the IndyCar Series where he has impressed thus far.
Robin Frijns is the only newcomer to the Audi line up. The Dutchman has been promoted to the seat as a result of Mattias Ekström deciding he wanted to focus on his FIA World RallyCross Championship commitments with his Audi EKS team which he has competed in alongside his DTM duties since 2014.
However, since the Swede did not get the goodbye from the series which he deserved so Audi will be running an extra car for the weekend, which will not count towards the championships, so that he can give the fans what they all want to see as well as various things going on off track as well.
There was speculation that Ekström was going to stand in for former team-mate Loïc Duval whom is scheduled to also be at Spa-Francorchamps for the FIA World Endurance Championship opener. A number of drivers suffer the same clash, which occurs a few times this season, but they have opted to prioritise the DTM. However, rumour has it Duval will attempt to participate in both series’ this weekend – this is possible as the WEC race is on Saturday meaning he can go to Belgium once Saturday’s track action at Hockenheim has finished for the latter stages of the endurance race, whether this is what he is actually going to do remains a mystery.
A drastic change has also been brought in for the cars this season.
Regulations have been enhanced to influence better racing due to lower downforce. The reduction of aerodynamic components mounted on the outer skins and the dropping of mechanical below the body work aim for the abilities of the drivers is brought further to forefront.
The front of the cars will be equipped on every side with so called “aero flick” with the front spoiler also undergoing adaption. The side duct has been simplified and the end plate in the area below the doors has been removed – add on parts have also been reduced.
Due to these measures the downforce of the vehicles has been reduced by a third. The lower drag could result – circuit dependant – in higher top speeds.
Further to this, the total minimum weight made up of the driver, their gear and vehicle has been reduced. The overall minimum amounts to 1115kg this year with the weight of the vehicle alone being 1031kg.
At pitstops teams also have the possibility to increase their crews by one member. The amount of engines each driver can use without suffering a penalty has also risen.
Following the safety car restart format at Hockenheim last year it has been decided the leader is the one to dictate the speed as soon as they accelerate the green flag is waved and the red lights are switched off. Accelerating is only permitted in the defined section between the first whit line and the finish line – no car is to step out of formation before having crossed the finish line.
The pit board may only be used for the request to pit or in the case of a potential emergency situations.
After each qualifying and race session the cars must have a minimum of one kilogram of fuel in the tanks; should a car fail to return to parc fermé under its own steam it must have at least two kilograms of fuel in its tank.
Action gets underway with practice on Friday with free practice at 15.45 (local time). For 2018, the series has introduced an identical timetable with practice taking place at 9.00 followed by qualifying at 11.25 and the race action at 13.30. Each of the races will run for 55 minutes plus one lap.