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DTM 2018 Season Review: Drivers 10th – 1st

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Gary Paffett won the DTM title for the second time in 2018. Image thanks to Auto und Motorsport.de

The 2018 DTM season was one to remember for a whole host of reasons. Mercedes became the first manufacturer to leave the series since Opel back at the end of 2005, Rene Rast embarked on a sensational and ongoing record-breaking run of six race victories in a row, and Gary Paffett became the champion for the final time before his move to Formula E for 2019. With the 2019 DTM season still very much taking shape, there are going to be so many announcements to look out for over the coming weeks months.

Following on from part one yesterday, I’ve looked at the fortunes of drivers who finished 10th – 1st in the championship table.

10th – Nico Müller – Audi – 96 points. Best result 2nd.

2018 was Muller’s fifth season in the DTM and despite a career-best three podium finishes it was another season of what could have been. There is the argument that he would have won in Austria had he not been asked to move over for Rene Rast, but even so, finishes of 19th, 21st, 9th, 12th and 10th since his DTM debut in 2014 are underwhelming. A torrid start to the season did Muller no favours at all, and it wasn’t until the second half of the year that he really got going. If he had managed to sustain his late-season form over the course of the whole year we could have been looking at a much higher final position in the table.

9th – Philipp Eng – BMW – 102 points. Best result 3rd.

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Phillip Eng was the top rookie in 2018 and looks set to go on to achieve great things in the DTM. Image thanks to BMW Motorsport

Best of the rookies in 2018, Eng enjoyed a brilliant season sweetened by two trips to the podium. The Austrian’s career path to DTM looks quite different to most, but it did him no harm in a fantastic rookie season where he finished outside the points on just eight occasions. Two podiums early on in the season at EuroSpeedway Lausitz and the Hungaroring did his confidence the world of good, and he managed to sustain his strong form into the second half of the year where BMW faltered. Eng looks to be a driver who is capable of going on to achieve great things in the DTM, and I’m looking forward to seeing just how far he can push on in 2019. It’s possible that together with Wittmann, BMW has a duo capable of winning back the title.

8th – Pascal Wehrlein – Mercedes – 108 points. Best result 3rd.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting more from Wehrlein this year. The DTM’s youngest ever champion returned to Mercedes for 2018 with a car capable of winning the title, but Wehrlein struggled in 2018, a year which resulted in a solitary podium finish EuroSpeedway Lausitz back at the start of the year. It wasn’t so much his bad form, but more so results which didn’t set the world alight which hampered Wehrlein, and he finished inside the top five on just five occasions in a car which was light years ahead Audi and BMW.

7th – Lucas Auer – Mercedes – 121 points. Best result 2nd.

2nd in the opening race of the season was a positive sign for Auer, but he finished the year 7th in the standings and no doubt disappointed that he couldn’t continue on his strong form from 2017 where he was the highest placed Mercedes. Four podium finishes across the course of the season were tainted by two disqualifications and a further four DNF’s, all potential points-scoring finishes that could have propelled him up the table. 2018 wasn’t a disaster by any means, but it wasn’t the kick-on from 2017 that Auer needed to cement himself as one of the DTM’s elite operators.

6th – Edoardo Mortara – Mercedes – 140 points. Best result 1st.

2018 was a step in the right direction for Mortara and a huge improvement on his debut year with Mercedes in 2017 where he finished in 14th. The Italian started the year strongly and was right in the title fight until the mid part of the season. A run of poor results which started at the Nurburgring and continued to the end of the season means that Mortara’s campaign ended on a whimper rather than a high, but overall it was a solid performance in 2018. We know Mortara can do better, and he’s been one of the DTM’s top drivers since his breakthrough season in 2014. It’s a shame Mercedes chose to leave the series at the end of the year, because I have a feeling that Mortara would have been a real contender for the title if he’d just had one more year with the team.

5th – Timo Glock – BMW – 144 points. Best result 1st.

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Timo Glock looked to be Paffett’s biggest challenger at the start of the season but fell away as BMW struggled to keep pace with Mercedes. Image thanks to BMW Blog.

A final position in the table of 5th place represents Glock’s best season in the DTM since his debut in 2013, and 2018 was perhaps the first year we’ve really seen him perform to his full potential. A championship contender until the mid-point of the season, Glock’s campaign started much stronger than it ended but it was a great year nonetheless, and one which was hampered by the tail-off in pace we saw from BMW. It was a good year for Glock, and he’s done more than enough to keep his seat with the team for another season.

4th – Marco Wittmann – BMW – 164 points. Best result 1st.

Like his teammate Glock, Wittmann was another driver who’s championship charge was hit by BMW’s poor end of season form. In his sixth full year of DTM competition, Wittmann yet again showed why he belongs right at the top of touring car racing and was the best placed BMW at the end of the year. Two race wins, and four further podiums took him to 4th in the driver’s table, one place better than last year. A 2nd place in the final race at Hockenheim was a nice way to end the season, and we’re left thinking what could have been had BMW been able to sustain their title charge.

3rd – Paul di Resta – Mercedes – 233 points. Best result 1st.

One of the title trio, it all went wrong for di Resta at Hockenheim and his bid win a second DTM title to add his first in 2010 unravelled. After a solid but unspectacular start to the year, di Resta came on strong during the mid part of the season and catapulted himself into title contention with back to back victories at Brands Hatch and Misano. An experienced driver and seasoned professional, di Resta and Paffett were locked in a battle for much of the second part of the year, but it was the Scot who just came up short. Nevertheless, 2018 was di Resta’s best DTM campaign since his victory in 2010, and although he’ll be sorely disappointed not to win in the final year for Mercedes, he can take some solace in the performances he delivered over the latter part of the year. Three race victories, and just three finishes outside the points all season made for a remarkable campaign, and one which di Resta can be proud of.

2nd – Rene Rast – Audi – 251 points. Best result 1st.

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Rene Rast delivered an epic performance at the Nurburgring. Image thanks to Audi Media Center

What else can you say about Rene Rast other than incredible? The fact that Rast came so close to defending his title which he won in his rookie season last year is a miracle in itself, especially given just how bad Audi’s start to the season was. Rast picked up his first race victory at Zandvoort, and would go on to begin a historic, and continuing six-race win streak, breaking records along the way. Race wins in all of the last six races at the Nurburgring, Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim brought Rast so close to the title he would have undoubtedly deserved, but it was a rollercoaster ride to the finish and come back we will remember for many years. In just two seasons in the DTM, Rast has already elevated himself into the position of one of the strongest, if not the strongest driver in the field. I have no doubt he will be challenging for the title once again in 2019.

1st Gary Paffett – Mercedes – 255 points. Best result 1st.

I think it’s safe to say that from the mid-point of the season the title looked to be Paffett’s to lose, and he so nearly did so. Three race wins from the first nine races ensured that Paffett cemeted himself as the early season favourite and for a while, it looked like he was untouchable. However, a torrid weekend at Misano where he had a DNF and a 14th placed finish saw the title race close right back up and Paul di Resta started applying the pressure. Strong weekends at the Nurburgring, Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim followed as Paffett secured his second DTM title since 2005 in the final race of the season, but it took a 3rd place finish in the final race to do so. It was Paffett’s best season since 2012, and it was fitting that he secured a long-overdue second title in his final DTM race for Mercedes. It was a throroughly deserved title win, and one which was welcomed by many.

What are your thoughts on the season? Who exceeded expectations and who needs to do more next year? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook!

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