BMW Team RMG racer Marco Wittmann grabbed his first DTM victory in style at the Hockenheimring today, thanks to a stellar and forceful drive.
It was also BMW’s 60th victory in the DTM category.
The 24-year-old started on option tyres on the front row of the grid and initially trailed poleman Adrien Tambay, eventually passing his Audi rival on the third tour.
From there, Wittmann extended his gap incrementally, before changing to the harder tyres on lap 20, after which his lead over Tambay grew significantly.
Such was Wittmann’s advantage, the RMG man never gave up the lead during his stop and he emerged ahead of the pack following his brief pit visit.
Behind Wittmann, Tambay – who also pitted on lap 20 – began to drop off, as he struggled on the harder compound Hankook’s. From laps in the 1’34s-1’35s, Tambay’s laptimes dropped to the 1’37s, allowing Timo Scheider to close in on the Frenchman.
Unfortunately for Scheider, his shot at the runner-up position was short-lived. As he drew in toward the rear of Tambay, the former champion was also under attack from DTM rookie Antonio Felix da Costa.
Unfortunately for both, da Costa launched a miscalculated attack into the hairpin on lap 34, causing Scheider to half-spin and lose two positions. Da Costa, however, received damage and was then assigned a drive through penalty, only to pit again shortly after to retire.
Scheider was not best pleased with the affair. “Unfortunately, António Félix da Costa hit my car in the hairpin turn during a yellow period, which easily cost me ten seconds.”
Da Costa, meanwhile, was quick to hold his hand up to the error. “Three quarters of today’s race were fantastic for me, but then I made a big mistake. It was not very clear, as the yellow flags had just disappeared again, and I had the impression that Timo Scheider had gone a bit wide in the corner. Therefore, I saw the opportunity for an attack – but I should not have done. I would like to apologise to Timo and Audi. That sort of thing should not happen.”
All this let Ekström through into 3rd, where he ate into the gap to Tambay, before launching into a successful attack for 2nd spot toward the end of lap 38, eventually taking the struggling Audi as the crossed the start / finish line.
From there Ekström held a steady 12 second gap to the leading Wittmann, but realistically, there was little the Swede could have done to catch the BMW racer in four short laps.
It marks a significant start to Wittmann’s campaign, although it should be interesting to judge whether he can repeat this throughout the year, but for now, the celebrations will take hold.
“I am overjoyed with my maiden DTM win,” said Wittmann. “The tests went very well for me. However, I did not reckon on making quite such a fantastic start to the season. My start was not ideal, but I was still able to hang on to my position after the first lap. I overtook the leader on lap three and was able to open up a big enough gap to allow me to remain in the lead after the pit stop. I was then able to maintain my lead and seal the win.”
Considering Wittmann’s early season prowess, Ekström was reasonably delighted with the result. “Finishing the race and then mounting the podium to top it off is obviously a successful start of the season.” However the Swede remained cautious for the future: “Before the next race we’ve still got a bit of work to do though in order to make the car even faster because we could tell that the BMW in particular were running really well too – but all in all, I’m very pleased.”
The victor added: “It was very important to qualify second on the grid, and then to pass Adrien Tambay as early in the race as possible, thus giving me a clear track. That allowed me to make the most of the softer option tyres. I did not lose any time out on the track. That was crucial, and the reason I crossed the finish line with such a big lead.”
Tambay too was reasonably happy, despite the Frenchman having dropped just over two seconds behind Ekström on his way to claiming the final podium place; a further two-seconds clear of reigning champion Mike Rockenfeller. “A very good weekend: the first pole position and the second podium in my DTM career. Starting the season like this is a nice reward for the guys who had a lot of work to do in the winter and often toiled away late into the night. The season could hardly have started any better.”
For Rockenfeller, it was a positive result from a tricky qualifying. Starting 10th, the Audi Team Phoenix man made a decent start, climbing to 9th, only to lose two spots to Mercedes duo Robert Wickens (lap 8) and Christian Vietoris (lap 10), before reclaiming 10th with a move on Bruno Spengler (lap 13).
Rockenfeller held his pace and stayed out until lap 22 and then began a charge during which he repassed the now tyre-hampered Wickens (lap 26) and Vietoris (lap 28).
Rockenfeller claimed two positions when Edoardo Mortara retired and da Costa had his Scheider-shuffle, before taking a easy place from Augusta Farfus (lap 39) and then Timo Glock (lap 40) to bring Rockenfeller into the top four. The champion maintained some happiness with the result. “Tenth place wasn’t an optimal starting base. Finishing in 4th place, I think, was the maximum that could be achieved from that grid position. These are important points for the overall classification.”
Glock ran much of the race in 4th place, as he battled initially da Costa and later Scheider, before reclaiming the advantage over da Costa after the pitstops; however the ex-Formula One driver could not do much to hold on to 4th when Rockenfeller pushed through.
“I had a few problems with the front-left tyre, which meant I had to let António Félix da Costa and Timo Scheider past,” commented the 32-year-old Glock. “The key on the hard tyres,” he continued, “was to drive at a decent enough pace to be in a good position later on in the fight against those drivers on options. I couldn’t do anything to stop Mattias Ekström and Mike Rockenfeller passing, but eventually picked up a nice amount of points for finishing fifth. Precisely that was our goal.”
Spengler assumed 6th after a late race clash between Farfus and Scheider in the Mercedes complex. As Scheider attempted a move passed last year’s championship runner-up, both ran wide, resulting in Farfus falling to 9th and Scheider dropping to 8th. The bumping allowed former champion Martin Tomczyk through into 7th place.
Behind them Joey Hand drove a steady race to claim a single point. The American drove hard from the eighth row of the grid, where he finished ahead of the highest Mercedes finisher, Pascal Wehrlein (11th).
2014 DTM Series (Rd 1, 42 laps) Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Marco Wittmann RMG BMW 1h06m40.548s 2. Mattias Ekstrom Abt Audi +12.869s 3. Adrien Tambay Abt Audi +14.879s 4. Mike Rockenfeller Phoenix Audi +17.593s 5. Timo Glock MTEK BMW +21.780s 6. Bruno Spengler Schnitzer BMW +23.513s 7. Martin Tomczyk Schnitzer BMW +24.082s 8. Augusto Farfus RBM BMW +24.913s 9. Timo Scheider Phoenix Audi +26.138s 10. Joey Hand RBM BMW +34.759s 11. Pascal Wehrlein HWA Mercedes +53.857s 12. Gary Paffett HWA Mercedes +57.264s 13. Miguel Molina Abt Audi +59.161s 14. Paul di Resta HWA Mercedes +1m00.858s 15. Christian Vietoris HWA Mercedes +1m02.062s 16. Nico Muller Rosberg Audi +1m02.479s 17. Vitaly Petrov Mucke Mercedes +1m06.591s 18. Robert Wickens HWA Mercedes +1m11.152s 19. Daniel Juncadella Mucke Mercedes +1 lap 20. Maxime Martin RMG BMW +1 lap Retirements: Antonio Felix da Costa MTEK BMW +4 laps Edoardo Mortara Abt Audi +11 laps Jamie Green Rosberg Audi +40 laps