Paul di Resta has taken victory in the DTM series’ latest round at Hockenheim, marking his third straight win that has seen him vault into championship contention with just two rounds to go.
Aided by the retirement of chief championship rival Bruno Spengler – whom the Scot now leads by just three points in the title race – Di Resta ran fourth in the opening phase of the race after passing Frenchman Alexandre Prémat on the first lap.
Electing to run longer than those ahead of him during the first pit stop window, his pace on older tyres was enough to see him leap into second place after his pit stop, running behind Timo Scheider’s Audi.
When the second round of compulsory pit stops came about, faster laps and slick pit work from his Mercedes-Benz crew saw him jump the German and take a lead he would not surrender.
Scheider finished in second place, ahead of Mike Rockenfeller, who took his first podium of the season – all the more impressive given he is driving a 2008-spec Audi.
Heading into the round as the Drivers’ Championship leader, Spengler’s race, while eventful, was over after 24 laps.
With the championship racing on a slightly modified version of the Grand Prix circuit, the Canadian triggered a multi-car shunt on the opening lap when he massively outbraked himself at Turn 4. Clipping and spinning Miguel Molina, Spengler was able to continue, but the likes of Markus Winkelhock, Katherine Legge and Ralf Schumacher were all out on the spot as they clobbered Molina’s stricken car.
On the next lap, David Coulthard and Congfu Cheng retired, leaving the field down to just thirteen cars, which became twelve when Mattias Ekström retired on the eighth lap.
Spengler, however, was able to continue in the points’ running until lap 20, when he slowed with a suspension problem. He pitted for fresh tyres in the hope of being able to resolve the problem and hopefully pick up some points (on the assumption that the field would continue to reduce), but had to park his car after a few more laps.
McLaren test driver Gary Paffett finished fourth in his Mercedes, but the 2005 fell off the pace as the race progressed, finishing ahead of a train of cars that comprised Martin Tomczyk, Oliver Jarvis, Susie Stoddart and Jamie Green.
Green should have finished higher up the order, but was slapped with a drive-through penalty after he caused a collision with Prémat in the pit lane due to an unsafe release – the accident put Prémat out of the race.
Di Resta’s win sees him with a crucial three-point margin over Spengler, with Paffett being the only other driver still in championship contention with two rounds (Adria and Shanghai) to go. The result means that a Mercedes driver will definitely win the championship for the first time since 2006.
DTM Hockenheim Final Classification (47 laps):
[Original image via Diesel Station]