Mercedes-Benz started the new DTM season where it left off in 2010 – with a victory. Bruno Spengler (Mercedes-Bank AMG C-Class) won the first race of the season at Hockenheim with a margin of 3.7 seconds over Mattias Ekstrom (Audi). This was Spengler’s second win at this circuit following his success in 2006. It marked the 30th occasion that a Mercedes-Benz driver has won the marque’s ‘home race’ at Hockenheim.
After 191 races in the ‘new era’ of the DTM series, Mercedes-Benz lead their rivals Audi by 106 races to 55.
Five AMG Mercedes C-Class drivers finished among the top eight points-scoring positions, despite having occupied only three of the top eight grid slots. Gary Paffett (THOMAS SABO AMG Mercedes C-Class) climbed strongly through the field, from 18th on the grid to sixth at the chequered flag. Jamie Green (AMG Mercedes C-Class) and Maro Engel (GQ AMG Mercedes C-Class) also scored points, finishing seventh and eighth respectively.
David Coulthard (Deutsch Post AMG Mercedes C-Class) achieved a top ten result and Susie Stoddart (TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes C-Class) crossed the line in 12th position despite a drive-through penalty. DTM newcomer Christian Vietoris (Junge Sterne AMG Mercedes C-Class) finished 13th, while the second Mercedes-Benz DTM rookie, Renger van der Zande (stern AMG Mercedes C-Class), was forced to retire on Lap 30. Bruno Spengler also set the fastest race lap (1:35.230 minutes), his ninth in DTM. Across the race weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), a total of 58,000 spectators visited Hockenheim to watch the DTM season opener.
The start: Bruno Spengler starts from pole position for the eighth time in his DTM career. On the first corner, he defends the lead against Audi driver Mattias Ekström. Ralf Schumacher holds on to third. Maro Engel improves his position on the first lap, moving up from seventh to fifth, while Gary Paffett charges forward from 18th (his grid position) to 13th.
Lap 3: Susie Stoddart receives a drive-through penalty for jumping the start.
Lap 5: Spengler heads the field with a two-second lead on Ekström. Schumacher remains in third place, Engel up to fifth. Paffett has meanwhile worked his way up to tenth.
Lap 10: No change at the front, with Spengler leading from Ekström and Schumacher. Engel advances to sixth. The pit-stop window opens and Paffett, now in tenth place, dives in first for a change of tyres and to refuel. Renger van der Zande also pits.
Lap 11: Jamie Green and Christian Vietoris now make their first pit stop.
Lap 12: David Coulthard and Susie Stoddart also decide it’s time for a new set of tyres. Stoddart drives off with the fuel can still attached; this gets jammed on her rear wing before later falling off. After his pit stop, Paffett sets the fastest lap so far.
Lap 13: Ralf Schumacher makes his first pit stop.
Lap 14: Spengler pits as race leader and emerges with his lead intact. Schumacher remains in P3 after the first round of pit stops. Engel also pits.
Lap 15: Spengler is leading the race by 3.9 seconds. Schumacher in third, Engel in sixth. After just 15 laps, Paffett has climbed from 18th to eighth.
Lap 20: At the front, Spengler maintains a 3.4-second lead. Schumacher remains on course for a podium and is successfully defending third place against Martin Tomczyk (Audi). Engel is in sixth position, while Paffett is now only 0.7 seconds behind seventh-placed Miguel Molina.
Lap 21: Paffett is the first driver to come in for the obligatory second pit stop, which doesn’t go quite as smoothly as it should. Coulthard also pits for a second time
Lap 22: Green and Christian Vietoris make their second pit stops from tenth and 14th respectively.
Lap 23: Engel enters the pit lane from P6 for fresh Hankook tyres and fuel. Stoddart also makes her second scheduled stop.
Lap 24: Schumacher pits from third and is shadowed by fourth-placed Tomczyk. The Audi driver drags a fuel can with him on the way out and it falls on the track. Paffett demonstrates superb reactions to avoid the obstacle. The race stewards deploy the safety car.
Lap 25 : Spengler and van der Zande take advantage of the safety car period to come in for their second compulsory pit stops. Spengler retains the lead.
Lap 28: The safety car heads for the pit lane. Spengler defends his lead; Schumacher is in third place ahead of Timo Scheider (Audi). Paffett overtakes Molina; Green seizes the opportunity to sail past the Spaniard as well.
Lap 29: Paffett overtakes Engel. Sixth to eighth places are occupied by AMG C-Class drivers Paffett, Engel and Green.
Lap 30: Following a collision, Van der Zande returns to the pits minus bonnet; race over for the stern AMG C-Class.
Lap 32: Green passes Engel to take seventh position.
Final lap: After 38 laps and a total distance of 173.81 kilometres, Bruno Spengler wins the opening race of the 2011 DTM season at Hockenheim. Ralf Schumacher claims the first podium of his DTM career in his 33rd race. Gary Paffett, Jamie Green, Maro Engel and David Coulthard finish in the top 10.
Comments after the race:
Bruno Spengler (Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG C-Class) – Winner:
“What a start to the season! I’ve been waiting since 2006 for my second win in Hockenheim, so it was high time. I’m looking forward to a long night of celebration with my team. The crew were excellent today, keeping me well updated with what was happening on the track and helping me to defend my lead. It was a great job all round.”
Ralf Schumacher (Salzgitter AMG Mercedes C-Class) – Third:
“Before the season, I had set myself the target of claiming my first podium. Now I’ve done it on the first weekend of the season. The race was very hard and I was involved in a lot of battles. My brakes locked a few times, but all in all, it was tremendous fun. Many thanks to Mercedes-Benz, my HWA team and my mechanics, who have shown great patience and always believed in me.”
Gary Paffett (AMG Mercedes C THOMAS SABO-Class) – Sixth:
“I am very satisfied with the result: it’s fantastic to finish sixth after starting at the back of the pack. The pit stops went smoothly and my lap times were good. After this strong performance, my target is to win the next race. My THOMAS SABO AMG C‑Class is good enough for that, so I’m optimistic.”
Jamie Green (AMG Mercedes C-Class) – Seventh:
“I am very pleased that I scored points after a rather low-key qualifying. This is a good way to start the season. Special thanks to my team for the great performance today.”
Maro Engel (GQ AMG Mercedes C-Class) – Eighth:
“For most of the race, I was confident I was going to hang on to sixth place and I’m happy with the way things turned out. I suppose I could have done even better, but after the safety car period I lost pace. It felt as if something had happened to the car. I’m very positive for the future and would like to praise the team for such a great job. The fight with Martin Tomczyk was a lot of fun; I hope the spectators enjoyed it too.”
David Coulthard (German Post AMG Mercedes C-Class) – Tenth:
“I’m pleased that I managed to complete this first race of the season. There were a few tight situations and I went past a couple of other drivers. I’m quite satisfied with this for starters.”
Susie Stoddart (TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes C-Class) – Twelfth:
“I’m sorry about jumping the lights. That was clearly my fault. Unfortunately, that ruined my race. The car had good speed today and I had a great battle with my team-mate towards the end. Because my car was so good today, I’m feeling optimistic about the rest of the season.”
Christian Vietoris (Young Stars AMG Mercedes C-class) – 13th:
“I think I was a little too cautious, especially on the first lap. Then I was hit with a drive-through penalty. At least I finished 13th, though there is clearly still room for improvement.”
Renger van der Zande (stern AMG Mercedes C-Class) – Retired:
“I got off to a good restart, but when the car in front of me suddenly slowed, I couldn’t stop in time. The collision loosened my bonnet which then flew off, so that was the end of my race. Up to then, I had been posting decent lap times. Now I’m hoping for better things in my home race at Zandvoort.”
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
“It was a very cool and confident performance by Bruno Spengler, who showed how to win in style. In terms of pure speed, Ralf Schumacher was also a contender for the win today, and his convincing third-place finish brought him a well deserved podium. Five of our C-Class cars finished in the top eight today and, with Gary Paffett also charging to sixth after starting from last place, what more could you want? Thanks to all our team members from engineering and admin through to logistics, catering, marketing and press. Each of them has done an excellent job to make this weekend at Hockenheim perfect for our guests and for the spectators, both on and off the track.”
Source: Daimler AG