After an action-packed instalment at Brands Hatch a fortnight ago, the DTM championship ventures east to Austria’s Red Bull Ring – formerly the A1 Ring – to contest the fourth round of its 2012 championship season.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be reporting all of the action and gossip from Zeltweg. Let’s take a look at our mega race preview…
|2012 DTM CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF AUSTRIA|
|Date:||18-20 May 2012|
|Venue:||Red Bull Ring Circuit, Zeltweg, Austria|
|Race Lap Record:||1:26.298s, Bruno Spengler (Mercedes-Benz) – 2011|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 13:35-15:25|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 09:00-10:50|
|Qualifying Session||Sat 13:40-14:50|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 09:55-10:25|
|Race (47 laps, 189km)||Sun 13:30-14:45|
|Past Five Winners:||Martin Tomczyk (Audi)||2011|
|Marcel Fässler (Mercedes-Benz)||2003|
|Marcel Fässler (Mercedes-Benz)||2002|
|Bernd Schneider (Mercedes-Benz)||2001|
The circuit – formerly known as the A1-Ring until it was bought out by Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitz – retains an identical layout to the A1-Ring, which hosted the Gormula 1 Grand Prix from 1997 to 2003.
It’s straightforward layout of long straights feeding into heavy braking zones will guarantee plenty of overtaking action. As we saw last year, the run into the first corner will be particularly fraught, and it’s quite likely that a few first-lap retirements will be on the cards if there’s a bit of biffing and barging at Turn 1.
Rewind to 2011
Last year saw the series make its first visit to the circuit since 2003, and Martin Tomczyk finally ended Mercedes’ winning streak at the track with his first win of the season, a result that kickstarted his successful tilt at the championship crown.
The German mastered Saturday’s damp conditions to take a surprise pole position in his older-spec Phoenix Audi, and then made it a comfortable lights-to-flag win, despite a fast-closing Ralf Schumacher bearing down on him in second place in his Mercedes.
The podium was completed by fellow Mercedes runner Oliver Jarvis, while Bruno Spengler staged a terrific comeback to finish fourth, having had a disastrous qualifying session that saw him buried down the order in twelfth place.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
The question on everyone’s lips will be who can challenge runaway championship leader Gary Paffett? The Englishman has enjoyed two wins and a second place in the opening three races, giving him an impressive 68-point haul, while second-placed Bruno Spengler sits 25 points behind.
Whatever happens this weekend, Paffett will still be the championship leader when they pack up and head back to Germany for a four-week break before the next championship round.
While Mercedes has proven to have best mastered its new chassis, the surprise performance has come from BMW, which claimed pole and the win second time out at the Lausiztring. Despite concerns that it would struggle a fortnight ago at Brands Hatch, Spengler managed to finish second to consolidate his position in the championship after winning at the EuroSpeedway.
By contrast, Audi has been the least impressive to-date, with the outfit having earned a pair of third-placed finishes so far. Consistency, rather than outright speed, has ensured it sits two points higher than BMW in the Manufacturers’ Championship standings, but it still lies almost 50 points adrift of runaway leader Mercedes.
Audi’s top driver Mattias Ekström will be hoping he has a much better performance than he managed here last year, in what the Swede has already described as the worst race of his career. After crashing out of qualifying, he struggled to make any headway in the race and retired after his first pit stop when his wheel fell off. That result arguably cost him his shot at winning the 2011 championship crown.
So who will emerge on top in Austria? You’ll have to watch to find out!
As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from the red Bull Ring!