Hockenheim I: Analysis
The DTM is back - and how! The 78,500 spectators who came to the first race weekend of the 2016 season at Hockenheim were treated to exciting scraps and enjoyed superb entertainment in the two spectacular races that produced two strong results for the Mercedes-AMG DTM Team. Head of Mercedes-AMG DTM Ulrich Fritz was very positive as he summed up events: "A win and a second place make a great start to the season. However, a one-two win would have been possible today but for the 'unsafe release'."
Gary Paffett's furious charge
The two DTM champions Paul Di Resta and Gary Paffett appeared to be locked in battle for victory until the 13th lap of the second race of the season. Scotland against England. The 2010 DTM champion versus the 2005 champion. The black-yellow Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM eyeball-to-eyeball with the yellow-blue EURONICS Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM. Only about a second separated the two after their respective pit stops.
But then came the shock announcement when race stewards handed Paffett a drive-through penalty. The reason, an unsafe release after his pit stop. Paffett served the penalty on Lap 18, dropping back down to eleventh place. On Lap 19, the time monitors indicated that he was more than 17 seconds down on Di Resta. The chances of victory were gone, but the British driver's fighting spirit was alive and kicking.
Paffett launched a furious charge up the field, overtaking first Nico Muller on Lap 21, then Marco Wittmann on the following lap. The gap had grown to over 18 seconds as a result of the manoeuvres. But that did not worry Paffett greatly. He first went past the BMW of Martin Tomczyk and then shot by Tom Blomqvist four laps later. After launching another overtaking manoeuvre against Robert Wickens on Lap 32, he was 2.1 seconds behind fourth-placed Maxime Martin. He chased the Belgian to the chequered flag which he took just half a second behind him. Gary moved up into fourth place in the end, following Timo Glock's subsequent disqualification.
"Gary's speed was amazing, just like Paul's," said Ulrich Fritz, full of praise. "The way Gary ploughed through the field to secure fifth place despite the setback, well, that was racing at its best." Paffett also spoke highly of his car's speed: "I had one of the fastest cars in today's race and was in with a chance of winning it."
A glance at the table of lap times proves him right: Paffett posted the second fastest lap of the race with a 1:35.388 -Di Resta was only 0.053 seconds faster. The average of the ten fastest lap times set by Di Resta and Paffett are just one hundredths of a second apart - 1:35.881 for the Scot versus 1:35.891 for Paffett.
Comfortable win gives Di Resta overall lead
Fourth place three times and now the long-awaited victory. That is how Paul Di Resta sums up his relationship with the Hockenheimring. In the first race of the season on Saturday, the Scot secured a hat-trick of fourth places - all three achieved at Hockenheim. "Now I'd like to finish on the podium tomorrow," he announced after the race. Said and done. And how!
Di Resta defended his pole position at the start and immediately drew away from the rest of the field. The early safety car period reduced the gap, but he increased his lead to 2.5 seconds again on the restart. After Paffett had served his penalty, Di Resta comfortably controlled the race from the front to secure a comfortable win - the seventh of his DTM career - with a lead of 13.9 seconds.
"It's a long time since 2010 when I won my last DTM race here at Hockenheim - longer than I would have wished", he said after the race. "But today, everything went great. We succeeded in controlling the race, and the car ran beautifully."
The speed of the Scot and his Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM was amply proven by the fact that the 2010 champion not only won the race but took pole position and set the fastest race lap time of 1:35.335 minutes as well. One of his team-mates, Robert Wickens, had already posted the fastest lap time the day before in the first race on Saturday with a 1:35.465.
Speaking of Robert Wickens. The Canadian took a podium in the first race by placing second. He finished Race 2 on Sunday in P5. Wickens started the first race of the season from third place on the grid and muscled his way into second place on the fourth lap by overtaking Nico Müller. He then hunted down the Audi of race leader Edoardo Mortara over 21 laps to the finish line which he reached just 1.6 seconds down on the Italian.