The final round of this year’s DTM championship sees the series head back to Hockenheim – scene of the season’s first round – to mark the final appearances for the 2008/9-spec Mercedes and Audi cars before next year’s new regulations (along with third carmaker BMW) join the show.
With Martin Tomczyk having wrapped up a sensational championship title at the penultimate round at Valencia, all eyes will be glued to what promises to be a spectacular battle for second place between Mercedes’ Bruno Spengler and Audi’s Mattias Ekström.
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into this weekend…
|2011 DTM RACE OF HOCKENHEIM II
|Date:||21-23 October 2011||Lap Length:||4.574km|
|Race Lap Record:||1:33.576, Paul di Resta (Audi A4 DTM 2008) – 2008|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 13:00-14:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 09:40-11:10|
|Race (38 laps, 173km)||Sun 14:00-15:15|
|Past Winners: 2011||Bruno Spengler (Mercedes C-Class 2009)|
Last year’s second running at Hockenheim saw the drivers race on a shortened version of the circuit that had the drivers take a hard right halfway down the back straight, rejoining on the original layout at the Mercedes complex. Aside form a messy first-lap shunt that eliminated a few cars, the layout produced next-to-no overtaking and has thankfully been dropped from this year’s schedule.
Instead, this weekend’s race will see the grid’s 18 drivers run on the F1 layout designed by Hermann Hilke, the same configuration used by the drivers for the season-opening race in May.
This layout is generally more conducive to overtaking, particularly into the tight hairpin at the end of the circuit’s longest flat-out blast. It’s hard work in tyres, and the left-hand-side tyres take particular punishment over the course of a race.
Rewinding to May 2011…
May’s season-opener saw Bruno Spengler claim victory for Mercedes to give the three-pointed star a confidence-boosting win in a lights-to-flag victory for the Canadian.
Behind him, the top-four qualifiers (Ekström, Ralf Schumacher and Timo Scheider) finished in the order in which they started in a race that featured little overtaking in the front half of the field.
After crashing out in qualifying and starting from the rear of the field, Gary Paffett charged hard to climb to sixth at the chequered flag, one spot behind eventual champion Martin Tomczyk, who somehow managed to avoid any penalty despite leaving the pits with his fuel-filler can still attached to his Audi…
The Form Guide
With Tomczyk having wrapped up the championship in Spain, all eyes will be fixed on the battle for runner-up honours.
But before we get onto this, a quick word in praise of Tomczyk’s efforts this year, particularly given Audi’s wisdom in demoting him to the little-fancied older-spec Audi after his patchy season in 2010.
Not only has the German racked up an unassailable points lead, he has been a model of consistency, never finishing outside the top-five all year. Having made his debut at this very circuit eleven years ago as a fresh-faced 19-year-old, the result is well-deserved for this series veteran.
Meanwhile, long-time championship stalwart Bruno Spengler will be battling it out with two-time DTM Champion Mattias Ekström for ‘best of the rest’ honours this weekend.
After winning the season-opener, Spengler claimed a further two second-placed finishes and another win at Norisring to hold the championship lead at the season’s halfway mark. But his fortunes dipped markedly in the latter rounds, with the last three rounds delivering him a pair of sevenths and a late-race retirement. This was enough to see him not only lose his championship lead to Tomczyk, but then the title as well.
By contrast, Ekström is in red-hot form, having won three of the last four races of the 2011 season. his championship hopes were badly threatened by a poor first-half of the season, where he endured two point-less results and just one podium finish, here at Hockenheim. But it is to the Swede’s credit that he rebuilt his season in the second-half, coming to within earshot of being in contention for the championship at the penultimate round.
Further down the points order, there are still plenty of interesting fights for the minor placings. Audi drivers Timo Scheider (34 points) and Mike Rockenfeller (26) will be battling it out for fourth-placed honours, while Mercedes-Benz pairing Jamie Green (25) and Ralf Schumacher (21) will scrap over sixth place. Schumacher has had his best season of his DTM career with two solid podium finishes, but some of his old scrappiness has occasionally reared its head with some very untidy driving from time to time.
There will be one change (in name only) in this weekend’s driver line-up, with the newly-married Susie Stoddart getting behind the wheel for the first time as Susie Wolff – the Scot married her long-time fiancé Christian ‘Toto’ Wolff, who is a shareholder of Mercedes sponsor HWA and also with the Williams F1 team.
Make sure you visit Richard’s F1 for the latest news and analysis from this weekend’s action!
[Images via DTM Media]