It seemed only fitting that DTM’s tie-up with Japanese Super GT and the adoption of class one regulations came at the series’ showpiece event of the season. Off-track progress in efforts to secure the DTM’s future is more welcome than ever, and on the track, we saw a weekend of fantastic racing, top-drawer performances and serious underachievement. I’ve given my assessment of the action from the weekend’s action at the Norisring and picked out some standout performers from races 7 and 8 of the 2018 DTM season.
Mortara Coming Good
Edoardo Mortara struggled more than most thought he would last season as he became accustomed to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class following his years at Audi. 2nd place in the 2016 championship standings (his final year at Audi) was followed by a tough adjustment year at Mercedes which saw him fall to 14th and register just one podium all season. The Norisring was Mortara’s strongest weekend since he joined Mercedes, and after dominating on Saturday a fine 2nd on Sunday ensured Mortara left the Norisring just 6 points off teammate Paffett at the top of the table.
I’m backing Mortara to continue his rich vein of form into the second half of the 2018 campaign, and I think he’ll be a real threat at Zandvoort where the DTM heads next. More weekends like the Norisring will see him hit the top of the championship table sooner rather than later.
Audi Struggle Again
Not a single Audi finished in the points on Saturday, and in Sunday’s race, it was just Mueller and Frijns who finished inside the top ten. Audi’s weekend got off to a difficult start when defending champion Rene Rest crashed in qualifying for the first race, but their situation looked more positive no Sunday when Mike Rockenfeller topped the times in final morning practice session. However, after a tough qualifying session which saw rivals Mercedes lock out the top five slots on the grid, it looked to be another disappointing day for the team which looked so strong last year.
A fine performance from Mueller in race two and some brilliant strategy for Robin Frijns ensured Audi didn’t leave the Norsiring pointless. But, it was a sobering weekend for the Ingolstadt marque whose drivers occupy five out of the bottom six places in the driver’s championship. Audi sits 299 points behind Mercedes-Benz in the constructor’s table and with no sign of an imminent return to form I think the team are in a real danger of going through the 2018 season without being able to register a race victory.
Wittmann Leads BMW’s Charge
Marco Wittmann is the closest thing BMW has to a superstar, and the two-time champion showed his class once again on Sunday as a masterful drive in the opening half of race 2 secured his second victory of the season. Second, only to Mortara in terms of points scored this weekend, a 3rd and a 1st leaves Wittmann joint 3rd in the championship table, in a three-way fight to close the gap to Paffett. With Zandvoort up next, Wittmann and BMW will be confident of more podium finishes at a track they traditionally excel at. With Timo Glock and Paul di Resta also in the championship hunt, Paffett will have a fight on his hands to keep his position at the top of the table.
Wittmann has firmly established himself as BMW’s top driver since his DTM debut in 2013, and it’s his impressive consistency that sees’s him constantly in around the championship’s top five.
Mixed Fortunes For Paffett
Paffet is enjoying what is arguably his best season since his title-winning year back in 2005, but the Norisring was a mix of elation and disappointment for the man leading the charge. Following a race-long battle with Mortara, a fantastic 2nd place on Saturday from 4th on the grid looked to be just the beginning after Paffett qualified 2nd on the grid for Sunday’s race. However, following a strong start, the championship leader fell backwards after the first round of pitstops. The remainder of the race would see Paffett engage in yet another brilliant battle with title rival Timo Glock, however, Paffett later voiced his displeasure about Glock’s defensive driving.
Nevertheless, any weekend where you can extend your championship lead by finishing 2nd and 13th is a good one and Paffett is well-placed at the top of the table. With the experience to see out a title fight, I think Paffett will most certainly be in the mix at the end of the season but he has a target on his back, and a host of fast, talented drivers chasing him down.
Standout Performers – Edoardo Mortara and Marco Wittmann.
Best Moment – Timo Glock vs Gary Paffet in race two.
Biggest Disappointment – Audi really struggling to make an impact on the top ten.
Let me know what you thought of the action at the Norisring in the comments below or over on Facebook!