2019 DTM Season Preview

Photo by Hoch Zwei

The 2019 DTM season brings about one of the biggest shake-ups since the new era of the DTM began in 2000. There are new cars, new manufacturers, new rules, new circuits and a host of other changes ahead of the season opener on May 4th at Hockenheim. With Mercedes gone, and Aston Martin outfit R-Motorsport taking their place, the DTM welcomes a new marque to the grid for the first time since BMW’s arrival in 2012. I’ve included all the essential information ahead of the new season in thehairpincorner.com 2019 DTM season preview.

Regulation & Race Changes

2019 marks one of the biggest technical changes in the history of the DTM with Class One regulations being adopted across the series as part of an eventual technical tie-up with the Japanese Super GT championship. From new engines to new race formats, the technical makeup of the 2019 DTM grid will look very different from the one which finished 2018.

DTM Super GT
The DTM and Japanese Super GT championships will race together in a standalone exhibition race in 2019. Image thanks to DTM.

Turbochargers Are Back

Turbochargers return to the DTM for the first time since 1987 with the introduction of a more fuel efficient engine configuration. Gone are the screaming, naturally aspirated V8 engines used since 2000, and in come 2.0 litre, inline-four cylinder turbocharged engines limited to 9500 rpm with 610 bhp. Aral Ultimate will continue to be the fuel of choice, but a new, limited-use push-to-pass system similar to IndyCar has been adopted meaning that for 12 times per race, a driver can access an extra 30bhp in a bid to improve overtaking. Due to the new engine configuration, vent size and radiator size have increased.

The exhaust system has also seen an overhaul with the switch from V8s to turbochargers. The twin exit exhausts have been replaced with a single exit exhaust system on the right-hand side of the car.

Weight Decrease

The minimum weight of the 2019 cars including driver and fuel has decreased from 1115 kg in 2018 to 1065 kg in 2019 as a result of the decreased engine weight.

Aerodynamic Changes

In an attempt to improve the amount and quality of wheel to wheel battles, the size of the front splitter has been cut to 90mm. In addition, for the first time since 2016 a single-element rear wing will return, along with a revised DRS system to aid overtaking.

Interior Changes

Gone is the rear view mirror which traditionally gives drivers a view out of the rear of the car in the cockpit. Instead, the rear view mirror has been replaced with a rearview camera and a new firewall interior has been introduced which protects the cockpit behind the driver.

New Race Weekend Format

Sprint and feature races are back on the agenda after the 55-minute plus one lap races of recent years are replaced. Instead, Saturday’s will feature a 130km sprint race which includes one mandatory pitstop and Sunday will have a longer 250km feature race with two mandatory pit stops required.

Qualifying will now be held on Friday, and the results of qualifying will make up the grid for the sprint race only. The grid for the feature race will be set by the finishing positions of the sprint race.

The only round in which the new race distances won’t be adhered to is the Norisring. Instead, the sprint race will be 120km and the feature race will be 200km.

Teams And Drivers

Audi

Car: Audi RS5 Turbo DTM

Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline,
Drivers: Robin Frijns and Nico Muller

Frijns and Muller remain on board at Abt Sportsline for 2019 after a 2018 season which saw them finish 13th and 10th respectively.

Robin Frijns performed well in his debut year last season, scoring 2nd place finishes at Misano and then Hockenheim to cap off a successful rookie year which was made more difficult by Audi’s tough start to the campaign. With a full season of racing under his belt, Frijns will be hoping to push on and challenge well inside the championship’s top ten in 2019. Judging by the standard he reached on occasion last season, he should achieve that target this year.

Frijns Audi DTM 2019
Robin Frijns finished top at the Lausitzring 2019 preseason test. Image thanks to Audi.

Nico Muller is entering his sixth season with Audi in the DTM, and the Swiss driver will be hoping that 2019 is the breakthrough year he has long been waiting for. Muller struggled at the start of the 2018 season but went on to score two podiums, one at the Hungaroring and one at the Red Bull Ring on his way to 10th in the championship standings. Muller, who despite being a seasoned DTM operator with 84 races under his belt has won just once in the DTM since his debut with Team Rosberg in 2014, despite showing race-winning pace on more than one occasion. He’ll face a tough task given the strength of his Audi teammates but a stronger start than last year would do him the world of good. Solidifying his placing in the top ten at the end of the season would be a good result.

Audi Sport Team Phoenix
Drivers: Loic Duval and Mike Rockenfeller

Loic Duval will be hoping to build on an improved showing in 2019 where he finished in the points eight times on his way to 17th in the championship standings. It’s safe to say that despite a glittering CV which includes a win at Le Mans and victories in the World Endurance, Japanese Super GT and Formula Nippon championships, Duval hasn’t yet shined in the DTM. However, he will be hoping that the new regulations for 2019 will work to his advantage. He will be looking to add his sole DTM podium which came at Zandvoort in 2018 but the pressure will be on to better the results he has scored in the last two seasons.

2013 champion Mike Rockenfeller completes Team Phoenix’s lineup and 2019 will mark his 13th straight season in the DTM. 11th in the standings last year with two podium finishes at Hockenheim and the Red Bull Ring, Rockenfeller hasn’t really maintained a title challenge since his title-winning season, with his 4th place finish in 2017 being the closest he has come. One of the most experienced drivers on the grid, Rockenfeller is one of the DTM’s best and most consistent operators and you can count on him being near the front if the Audi RS5 DTM is fast. He’ll be hard pressed to be the top dog at Audi given the speed of Rene Rast and emergence of the likes of Frijns, but he’ll be aiming to finish in the top five of the championship at least.

Mike Rockenfeller testing for Audi at the Lausitzring.
Mike Rockenfeller testing for Audi at the Lausitzring. Image thanks to Audi.

Audi Sport Team Rosberg
Drivers: Rene Rast and Jamie Green

Last year’s championship runner-up and 2017 series champion, Rene Rast starts 2019 as a clear title favourite given the tremendous form he has shown since he joined the DTM two years ago. An established driver with plenty of race and title-winning experience before he joined the DTM, Rast has fast risen to the top of the series pecking order and won the final six races of the 2018 season in a feat never seen before in the DTM. In fact, no-one else has won in the DTM since August 26th 2018. I’m sure that had Audi unlocked the pace in their car earlier in the season, Rast would have most likely won the title again last year. He’ll be up there again in 2019, there’s no doubt about that, and he’ll be most people’s pre-season pick for the title.

Jamie Green experienced a 2018 horror-show finishing last in the standings after coming home 2nd, 3rd and 3rd in the previous three years. Green’s dramatic fall from the DTM peak in 2018 shows just how competitive the series is, but given his past form, it’s difficult to see the same thing happening again in 2019. This season will be his 15th straight season in the DTM, and as one of the most experienced drivers on the grid, Green has won plenty of races and taken part in many championship battles without winning an overall title. Whether 2019 will be his year or not is too hard to say, but it’s fair to say that a maiden DTM championship is somewhat overdue. I rate Green highly, and he’ll be desperate to put 2018 behind him and return to where he belongs at the head of the field in 2019.

Jamie Green Audi 2019
Jamie Green will be looking to bounce back from a tough 2018. Image thanks to Audi

Audi Sport Team WRT (Audi Customer Team)
Drivers: Jonathan Aberdein and Pietro Fittipaldi

A new team on the grid for 2019, Team WRT will be Audi’s customer team in the 2019 DTM with rookies Jonathan Aberdein and Pietro Fittipaldi behind the wheel. Both drivers face a season of steep learning curves and intensity in their maiden DTM year as WRT seem to have formed an Audi junior team of sorts. With two seasons of German Formula 3 and 4 under his belt, Aberdein will be looking to keep pace with teammate Fittipaldi and bag an occasional points scoring finish in his opening year.

WRT Audi 2019
Two rookie drivers in a team which is new to the DTM, Audi Sport Team WRT face a tough learning year in 2019. Image thanks to Audi Sport.

Grandson of two-time F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, Pietro Fittipaldi will be looking to carve out his own legacy in motorsport. With a resume that features experience in a range of competitions including Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Formula 4, Fittipaldi will need to draw upon all that experience in his first DTM year. Like his teammate, he won’t be expected to challenge for bucket loads of points, but consistent improvement throughout the year will be the aim. If he scores some points it would be an added bonus.

BMW

Car: BMW M4 Turbo DTM

BMW Team RMG
Drivers: Bruno Spengler, Marco Wittmann, Timo Glock

A seasoned DTM campaigner, Canadian Bruno Spengler has struggled for form in the series since his 3rd place in the standings in 2013, but like some of his fellow more experienced drivers, Spengler will be hoping that the new-for-2019 regulations help level up the playing field once again. A title winner in 2012, Spengler knows what it takes to win in the DTM but went winless last year finishing on the podium just once at the Nurburgring on his way to 12th in the championship standings. Going into his eighth year with BMW and 15th in the DTM, Spengler has enough experience to be a threat on his day, but he’ll need to string together more consistency than he has in recent seasons to challenge for the title once again. Returning to the championship’s top ten will be a clear target for 2019.

Bruno Spengler at the 2019 preseason test.
Bruno Spengler at the 2019 preseason test. Image thanks to Hoch Zwei and DTM.

Marco Wittmann has established himself as the top dog at BMW since his first title victory in 2014 and after finishing 4th last year, the double champion will be looking to continue the strong form he has shown ever since he joined the series. A DTM driver since 2013, Wittmann has never finished outside the top ten in the championship and will be many people’s preseason pick for the title. A strong start to 2018 which included two wins before the halfway point tailed off once the series reached Zandvoort, but Wittmann will be hoping to not lose momentum again mid-season this year. On his day he’s unbeatable, and on many others he still incredibly fast. A title challenge will be the aim once again in 2019 as he seeks to win his third DTM championship.

Timo Glock enjoyed somewhat of a breakthrough season in 2018 finishing on the podium four times in the opening six races to feature in the title race until the midpoint of the year. He ended 2018 5th in the standings, his best result yet in the DTM and going into the 2019 campaign Glock will be aiming to sustain the strong form he showed last year. Glock’s 2018 season suffered from a drop in pace mid-season, something which he will be keen to avoid this year. I think he’ll win more races, but it’s going to take a mammoth effort to win the title. However, with a solid junior series and F1 record, Glock is well-equipped over the course of a title campaign and that could work to his advantage. Maintaining a top-five finish in the table would represent a successful 2019.

BMW Team RBM
Drivers: Philipp Eng, Joel Eriksson, Sheldon van der Linde

2018’s top rookie, Philipp Eng scored two fantastic podium finishes at Lausitzring and the Hungaroring early in the season to finish a fine 9th in the championship table. He will be looking at 2019 as a chance to emulate BMW teammate Marco Wittmann and challenge for the title in his second DTM season. With a solid pedigree in the Porsche Supercup before joining the DTM, Eng will be hoping to continue the upward trajectory his DTM career is on. With a great depth of experience across a range of championships, Eng should be well-placed to take advantage of the new regulations and will certainly be looking to break into the top five, and secure a maiden DTM victory this year.

Eng DTM 2018
Philipp Eng on his way to his first DTM podium at the Lausitzring early on in 2018. Image thanks to Autosport.

Another rookie who did a solid job in 2018, Joel Eriksson enters his second DTM season with BMW after a year which saw him take a sensational debut victory under the lights at Misano. Despite the victory coming in the second half of the year, Eriksson’s first half of 2018 was generally more consistent than the latter half and the Swede will be aiming to deliver results on a more consistent basis in 2019. Perhaps the stiffest competition Eriksson will face is from fellow 2018 rookie Eng, and that should be the yardstick he measures himself by. Breaking into the championship’s top ten at the end of the year would be a brilliant result.

Entering his first season in the DTM, Sheldon van der Linde will face a baptism of fire when he lines up on the grid at Hockenheim for the first time. The 19 year old South African joins BMW’s DTM program after a season driving an Audi R8 with his brother in the ADAC GT Masters. The pair finished 2nd in the standings, winning at Sachsenring and Hockenheim and missing out on the overall title by just one point. There’s no doubt that van der Linde is in for a tough rookie season but the fortunes of recent DTM rookies suggest that a background in GT Racing can certainly help when it comes to learning the ropes. He may well spend the first half of the season out of the points and down the lower end of the field, but continuous and consistent improvement will be the aim. By the end of the season, he should have at least a handful of points.

Aston Martin

Car: Aston Martin Vantage AMR DTM

R-Motorsport
Drivers: Paul di Resta, Daniel Juncadella, Ferdinand Habsburg, Jake Dennis

jake Dennis testing for DTM
Jake Dennis testing for R-Motorsport. Image thanks to R-Motorsport.

ne of the most eagerly anticipated debuts in motorsport of the last few seasons, R-Motorsport will run four Aston Martin Vantages in the 2019 DTM season. With plenty of catching up to do during the season, 2019 will very much be a learning year for the team as they look to work in partnership with former Mercedes stablemates HWA and turn the Vantage into a race winning DTM car.

The most experienced of the team’s four drivers, 2010 series champion Paul di Resta will spearhead R-Motorsport’s assault on the DTM. After challenging for the title for much of 2018, di Resta’s campaign began to unravel midway through the Misano weekend and he ended the season 3rd in the standings. No stranger to race and championship success, di Resta is entering his 10th DTM season and will be looking to finish at least best of the Aston Martins and challenge for points regularly. In a new car and team for 2019, di Resta will be under no illusions that he is going instantly replicate the success he had with Mercedes, rather 2019 will be a building year and he has a fantastic opportunity to be part of growing a race winning DTM outfit from scratch. His team will need his experience just as much as he will need them.

Aston Martin DTM 2019
Paul di Resta will be looking to lead R-Motorsport to DTM success. Image thanks to DTM.

Daniel Juncadella will be R-Motorsport’s second experienced driver and the Spaniard will be looking to build on his best ever season in the DTM in which he took his first race victory at Brands Hatch. Juncadella ended the 2018 season 15th in the standings after a poor second half of the year, however, like with di Resta, his experience and feedback will be vital to R-Motorsport in developing the Aston Martin Vantage. There’s no doubt that 2019 will be a struggle, but Juncadella should be aiming to at least match if not better di Resta and score regular points if the car is fast enough.

Ferdinand Habsburg will make his DTM debut in 2019 after finishing 13th in the European Formula 3 championship last season. The Austrian will be looking to make steady progress in his debut season with R-Motorsport but will be under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him. Like with the rest of his fellow rookies this year, the first part of the season will very much a learning curve but in a car which is completely new to the DTM the time Habsburg takes to establish himself in the points may take longer than most. Nevertheless, scoring points during the season would represent a brilliant achievement in 2019.

The final rookie on the 2019 grid, Jake Dennis joins R-Motorsport after being part of the team’s lineup in the 2018 Blancpain Endurance Cup. Winning at Silverstone on his way to 13th in the overall standings, Dennis will be hoping that previous experience with the team combined with a 3rd place finish in the 2017 European Formula 3 championship equips him well for his first season in the DTM. Like teammate Habsburg, Dennis will initially be looking to match or better his fellow rookies before setting sights on his more experienced teammates di Resta and Juncadella. It will take some time to adjust, but previous GT racing experience will prove invaluable. Dennis will be looking to progress quickly in 2019.

2019 DTM Calendar

May 4th/5th – Hockenheim, Germany

May 18th/19th – Zolder, Belgium

June 8th/9th – Misano, Italy

July 6th/7th – Norisring, Germany

July 20th/21st – Assen, Netherlands

August 10th/11th – Brands Hatch, United Kingdom

August 24th/25th – EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Germany

September 14th/15th – Nurburgring, Germany

October 5th/6th – Hockenheim, Germany

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