At the halfway point of the 2022 DTM season, a gap of only ten points covers the top three drivers. With a different polesitter for each race, seven different race winners, and a chaotic round seven at the Norisring which saw 16 cars fail to finish. The series has been unpredictable, to say the least.
Therefore, to try and review the season so far, we have looked at some of the standout DTM drivers at the mid-season mark.
Mirko Bortolotti – First place in the driver’s championship.
Driving for GRT Grasser Racing Team in their first DTM season, Bortolotti and the Austrian outfit hit the ground running, qualifying on pole for race one at Portimão. Arguably, the biggest story of the opening round. The outright pace that the Italian showed in qualifying was proven to be for real. As the GRT driver managed to hold onto a comfortable third place, after suffering a poor getaway at the start.
He followed race one with another third place in race two at the Portuguese circuit, after again impressing in qualifying. Two sixth-place finishes in the next round at the Lausitzring kept him in second place in the championship heading to Imola.
The Italian was put on the back foot heading into his home race, as he was given a 10-place grid penalty for using a wrong set of tyres in qualifying for race one. Starting sixteenth on the grid looked like a difficult position to achieve points from. As a result, Bortolotti was forced into an alternative strategy, which required major tyre saving and a late pit stop.
Bortolotti made it work and produced a series of scintillating overtakes. Moving past Marco Wittmann, teammate Clemens Schmid, Kelvin Van der Linde, and Thomas Preining to take an unlikely podium.
The only blemish on an otherwise strong year up to this point; would be the crazy Norisring race one that got everyone talking. Bortolotti was given a 15-second time penalty for his involvement in a race which led to senior DTM figures pushing for better driving standards afterward.
Away from the odd moment of madness, Bortolotti has been incredibly consistent. Bouncing back from the race one disaster, to again finish on the podium in the second Norisring race, his fourth of the season.
He has not won a race this year, unlike championship contenders René Rast and Sheldon Van der Linde. Although, it is not a matter of if, but when for the Italian.
Sheldon Van der Linde – Second in the championship
Born in 1999, Sheldon Van der Linde is an experienced DTM driver despite his relatively young age. The 2022 season marks his fourth year in the series, with the highlight of his DTM career before this year being a maiden win at Assen in 2020.
As a BMW works driver for Schubert Motorsport, Van der Linde has gone from strength to strength. Qualifying within the top ten in both races at Portimão and Imola, converting his grid starts there into solid points finishes. In race two at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Van der Linde progressed through the field in another mature drive to finish fifth.
But there can be no doubt that the highlight of the South African’s season was the Lausitzring round. Van der Linde dominated the weekend from lights to flag, qualifying on pole for both races. Rain momentarily threatened to derail Van der Linde’s first place in race one, as the Lausitzring surface turned slippery.
However, the Schubert Motorsport driver dealt with the rain to win. As a result, 25kg of success ballast was added to the No.31 car as per DTM regulations. This brought Maro Engel into play in the closing stages, as Van der Linde’s tyres began to drop off. However, the South African held on, becoming the only driver with two wins this season at the time of writing.
Although, two pointless races at the Norisring have erased momentum built up in the first six races and more of the same could ruin a potential title challenge.
René Rast – Third in the Standings
As a three-time DTM champion, René Rast has once again lived up to lofty expectations. Described on the official DTM website as ‘very much the man to beat’, it would be hard to disagree with them.
The season started slowly for Rast. Retiring in race one at Portimão and finishing just outside the points in twelfth in the second race there.
Race two at the Lausitzring saw the ABT Sportsline driver return to the front, picking up a podium after a race-long battle with Maro Engel. At Imola Rast took his twenty-first pole position in DTM to ignite another championship challenge. He kept the lead throughout the entire race, winning in dominant fashion.
Possibly, more impressive than that was Rast’s ability to stay out of trouble at the Norisring, as race one only saw eleven cars finish. The German had to call on all of his past experience to avoid the carnage on lap one, saying post-race: “it was one of the craziest races I have competed in”.
Only a slow puncture in the closing stages saw Rast relinquish second place to Dennis Olsen after the two came together.
Qualifying sixth on the grid for race two at the Norisiring, Rast made up two places at the start, taking the outside line into the first hairpin. Ahead of him in third was then Marco Wittmann, but the Walkenhorst Motorsport driver suffered a slow pitstop. Allowing Rast to overcut him and grab his fourth podium of the season.
With DTM heading to the Nürburgring next, Rast, a three-time winner there will be looking to close the gap on Mirko Bortolotti in the championship race.
Felipe Fraga – Sixth in the championship standings
Fraga’s debut DTM season has been a tale of consistent bad luck coupled with scintillating race performances. When you consider that the Brazilian has only finished two races out of eight, his points tally of 50 is quite remarkable.
Driving for the Red Bull Alphatauri AF Corse team, Fraga has been strong in qualifying across the calendar. Starting fourth, and third in the two races at Portimão, fifth in race one at the Lausitzring, second in race two at Imola, and on pole in race two at the Norisring.
As much as he has been blisteringly quick in qualifying, Fraga has been incredibly unlucky in the races. Taking the lead in the early stages of race two at Imola, before a pitstop under the safety car dropped the Brazilian into the pack. Fraga made contact with Lucas Auer on the restart, causing him to retire with a rear puncture.
Fraga retired in similar fashion at Portimão and a dramatic fire in qualifying for race two at the Lausitzring meant he couldn’t even start the race.
He put the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 on pole in the most recent race at the Norisring. And comfortably led the field to win a maiden DTM race. Proving that in the right circumstances, he has what it takes to challenge at the front.
If Fraga can avoid incidents in the coming races, and if the car is reliable, then he could be a dark horse to win the championship.
DTM returns for the second half of the season at the famous Nürburgring circuit from the 26-28 August, before visits to Spa-Francorchamps, the Red Bull Ring, and the season finale in Hockenheim.