For the first time since 2013, the DTM returns to the UK, and it returns to the track at which the series made its British home in the early part of the decade. Brands Hatch plays host to races 11 and 12 of the 2018 DTM season and with the series switching to the famous Grand Prix layout for its return, the form book is wide open. There are high hopes for a British winner with Paffett and Di Resta having their strongest seasons in a number of years, but with the likes of Glock, Wittmann and Mortara chasing them down at the top of the table, Saturday’s first qualifying session will be fascinating. Can Paffett extend his lead at the top of the table? Will Audi build on their first victory of the season? Or will it be a third win in six races for BMW and Marco Wittmann? I’ve given my thoughts in the form of my pre-race talking points below.
Can Paffet, Di Resta or Green Secure a Home Victory?
The first DTM action in five years in the UK gives the grid’s British contingent a shot at securing a home victory. Paffett, Di Resta and Green will be hoping to reach the top step of the podium on Saturday or Sunday and whilst two of those three can be considered among the favourites, unfortunately, one cannot. Mercedes’ final DTM season is going down as one of their best in recent memory. Following the technical changes over the winter, the C63 DTM has more often than not, been the class of the field in 2018 and Paffett and Di Resta sit 1st and 2nd in the championship table. A 1st and 2nd on his best weekend of the season so far last time out at Zandvoort saw Paffett extend his lead at the top of the table to 27 points, putting him over one race victory clear. Di Resta also enjoyed his best weekend of 2018 at the Dutch track, with a 2nd place finish on the Saturday and 3rd on Sunday ensuring he is Paffett’s closest challenger.
Whilst his British compatriots enjoyed their best weekends at Zandvoort, the same can’t be said for Audi driver Jamie Green. As Mercedes are reaping the benefits of the technical changes Audi are not, and the Rs5 DTM has been the most affected out of the three cars. Jamie Green sits 18th and bottom of the championship table, six points off Audi teammate Loic Duval in 17th. He scored only his third points finish of the year last time out in Zandvoort with a 10th place finish in race one, and has yet to show the form which took him to third in the championship in 2016 and 2017.
Is This The Start Of The Audi Resurgence?
I can’t have been the only one astounded at Rene Rast’s victory on Sunday at Zandvoort. From 17th in race one, to 1st in race two, Rast’s incredible turn of fortune was Audi’s first race win of the year and there will be one question in the paddock this weekend. Can they do it again? Qualifying on Saturday will tell us whether Audi really are getting on top of their car this year, or whether Zandvoort was a flash in the pan. If they really are back on the pace it adds a fascinating element to this year’s title race. More often than not this year the competition for Paffett has come either from his Mercedes teammates or BMW. Adding an extra manufacturer into that mix opens the field right up and Paffett’s current cushion of 27 points to Di Resta could prove vital if Audi start picking up more points.
What of Glock and Wittmann?
Despite all of the focus on the performance of Mercedes, the BMW’s in the hands of Glock and Wittmann have been consistently scoring highly, and sit 3rd and 4th in the table respectively. After a stunning start to the year which included four podiums in six races, Glock will be looking to get his championship challenge back on track at Brands Hatch to avoid losing more ground to Paffett. A result card which reads 10th, 10th, 6th, 10th in the last four races isn’t one which is going to win him the title and finishes inside the top five are vital this weekend. Glock and Paffett have already enjoyed some epic battles this season, and if the BMW’s can qualify strongly we could be due another.
Glock and Wittmann will need all the help they can get from their BMW stablemates to try and reel in Paffett. Philip Eng is enjoying a fantastic rookie DTM season and sits 7th in the championship table with two podiums. Bruno Spengler sits 10th, with rookie Joel Eriksson 14th and Augusto Farfus 16th. We know the BMW in the right hands has the capability to win races so the pressure is on Spengler, Eriksson and Farfus to maximse the potential of the car and help their teammates in the driver’s championship, and BMW in the constructors.
Mortara The Dark Horse?
Helped by the speed of the Mercedes, Edoardo Mortara is having a far better second season with the team than his first. I’ve rated Mortara as one of the DTM’s quickest drivers for a few years now, and with two race wins already in 2018 he sits in 5th, just one point behind Wittmann. Mortara is my dark horse both for big points this weekend and for the title should any of the drivers above slip up. After losing out to Wittmann so narrowly in 2016, the Italian has the talent and race craft to challenge for the title but after a brilliant weekend at the Norsiring, he struggled to 13th and 8th last time out.
Brands Hatch is a perfect opportunity to Mortara to make his mark on this year’s title race. He has the experience of battling for a championship, and the raw speed to win races. With the form book wipe open for this weekend and most drivers racing at Brands for the first time in the DTM, this is his chance to make his mark at Mercedes.
We’re going into qualifying with so many unknowns, but you have to think that Mercedes are going to be the team to beat once again. I think Paffett and Di Resta will be right up among the frontrunners all weekend, especially buoyed by the home crowd but I can’t pick a winner between them. If I had to choose, I’d go with Paffett. My dark horse is Mortara. Without the pressure of being the hunted at the top of the table, Mortara will be free to push the car to its absolute limits in qualifying and I think this will work to his advantage. You can never discount the BMW’s, but I can’t see any drivers other than Glock, Wittmann or Eng troubling the front. Audi are a complete unknown and I’m not sure they’ll be able to beat Mercedes or BMW, but I’d expect either Rast or Rockenfeller to be their strongest performers.
DTM Standings Ahead of Brands Hatch
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