The DTM returns this weekend at the legendary Norisring in Nuremberg. The Norisring is one of my favourite events of the year, and it’s one weekend I always look out for when the calendars are announced. The DTM enters round four of the 2018 season with the championship race finely poised between BMW’s Timo Glock and Mercedes’ Gary Paffett, and I can’t wait to see the action unfold. With all the certainty currently surrounding the DTM’s future post-2018, it’s time to get back to what this series does best, great racing with incredible touring cars. I’ve analysed some of the biggest pre-race talking points heading into the Norisring weekend.
Can Audi Step Up?
Out of the three manufacturers, it’s Audi who have been hurt most by the regulation changes which took place over the winter break. Yet to win a race in 2018, the team which locked out the top four places in the 2017 drivers championship sits bottom of the constructor’s table, and see’s it’s highest placed driver (Mike Rockenfeller) just 9th the drivers standings. The tight confines of the Norisring represent perhaps Audi’s best chance so far this season to win a race, and with the likes of Norisring superstar Jamie Green and defending champion Rene Rast in their ranks I think we’ll see an improved Audi this weekend.
No longer driving in the DTM, Mattias Ekstrom secured Audi’s only podium last year the Norisring in a weekend which saw Rockenfeller left with a fractured metatarsal after a nasty accident in race two. The team will be up against it, but if one or two Audi’s can qualify well, then I think they’ll be able to maintain position during the race.
Spengler In Need of a Return To Form
After finishing 6th, 8th and 5th in the first three races of 2018, Bruno Spengler’s season has ground to a halt over the next three. 15th, 12th and a disqualification since race 2 at the Lausitzring has seen the 2012 DTM champion drop to 12th in the driver’s championship. The form of BMW stablemates Glock and Wittmann, and Team RBM team-mate and rookie Joel Eriksson show that there is pace in the BMW M4 this year, and the Norisring should be a track where the team are able to exploit it.
The streets of Nuremberg have been a happy hunting ground for both driver and team in the past. Bruno Spengler took victory in race one at the Norisring in 2017 before Maxime Martin won race two on Sunday. 2016 saw ex BMW driver Tom Blomqvist finish 2nd in race two, whilst Spengler banked respectable 5th and 7th place finishes. If there’s ever a time to return to form, this is the weekend to do it.
How Will Paffett Bounce Back?
Garry Paffett arrived at the last round in Hungary 1 point ahead of Timo Glock in the driver’s championship but left the Hungaroring 11 points behind. Paffett’s 15th place in a chaotic race 2 last time out was arguably down to bad luck more than anything else, but if he wants to keep himself at the head of the title race he will need to bounce back in style this weekend. The Norisring hasn’t been kind to Paffett in the past. The Mercedes driver has scored just one points finish in the last four races in Nuremberg, but with Mercedes showing vastly improved form this season, there’s a good chance we could see the Norisring form guide turned on its head.
Paffett will need all the help he can get from Mercedes teammates Paul di Resta, Lucas Auer and Edoardo Mortara in a bid to take as many points off Glock as possible. However, with all four drivers still very much in the hunt for the title, I expect it to be all out racing until the time comes where all but one is left with a chance to challenge for the championship.
Consistency The Key For Paul di Resta
Consistency often wins championships, and di Resta’s season so far has been a brilliant example of it. The 2010 DTM champion has finished in the points in every single race of 2018, and has risen to 3rd in the standings as a result. Victory in race one at the Hungaroring last time out is di Resta’s only visit to the podium this year but with a history of strong performances at the Norisring, the Scot will be confident of closing the gap to lead Mercedes Paffett and potentially adding another victory or podium to his tally. 3rd and 4th in 2016, and 11th and 6th in 2017 represent one of the strongest Norisring form cards on the current DTM grid, and I expect di Resta to be one to watch this weekend.
I think Audi will surprise, and I’m predicting them to be stronger than they have been so far this season. The DTM is such an open championship where every single driver on the grid is capable of winning that qualifying is going to be so so important this weekend. I think Paul di Resta will be right up at the top, along with Timo Glock. Finally, I’m going with Jamie Green to finish on the podium on a track which he so often excels at.