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“Thoughts on Ekstrom, the Norisring and disqualifications”

August 1, 2013

Mattias Ekstrom’s disqualification from this month’s DTM event at the Norisring has been upheld by the DMSB; however no winner has been declared for the event.

During post-race celebration, Ekstrom’s father Bengt aggressively poured the contents of a bottle of water into his son’s overalls, breaking Parc Ferme procedure in the process.

This was deemed to have broken a key sporting regulation, rather that a technical regulation, ensuring Ekstrom’s expulsion from the results. Meanwhile Wickens remains the highest classified runner, but claims only 2nd place in the final offing.

It would be easy to declare the poured contents made little difference to the weight of Ekstrom’s overalls – and yes, the Ekstrom / Abt Sportline Audi entry (car and driver) was approximately 6kg’s over the minimum weight; however it must be remembered that the weight of added the liquid is irrelevant and misses the point of ruling.

That Parc Ferme regulations were breached at all is the only significant detail – whether fans or the media disagree with that aspect of the ruling is also irrelevant. In this, no grey area has been allowed and the stewards have been entirely consistent with previous decisions.
No advantage had been gained by the Audi racer, but the transgression was deemed enough to warrant disqualification – just as it would in any other category – and this is where a sporting disqualification differs from an exclusion due to a technical infringement, as the latter would point toward an illegal car or driver advantage.

It is a deeply unsatisfactory end to the Norisring debacle, but if nothing else, Audi may privately consider damage limitation. Apart from the 5th placed Mike Rockenfeller, no other Audi drivers finished in the top ten; however a number of potential title rivals were set to benefit had this week’s reclassification not occurred – specifically HWA Mercedes pairing Wickens and Christian Vietoris.
If nothing else, it would have been interesting see if Audi would have appealed a decision that saw Wickens keep his victory, citing the nature of the disqualification.

This is the second such of no winner being declared at a DTM event, when the 1984 race at Hockenheim also declared “winnerless” after Harald Grohs was disqualified.
The DMSB also declared the opening race at last year’s Formula 3 Euro Series round at Norisring winnerless when Daniel Juncadella was removed from the classification following collisions with Pascal Wehrlein and Raffaele Marciello. Precedent for this punishment was set at the 1983 Brazilian Grand Prix when Keke Rosberg was removed from 2nd place following a pitlane infraction.

If nothing else, the time may have come for the DBSM to consider altering the nature of punishments for such sporting infractions in order to avoid such an unpopular outcome.

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