Adrenalin levels are rising – DTM gears up at Spielberg
For the moment, the quiet, picture postcard atmosphere has gone in Styria. There has been plenty of action in the Red Bull Ring paddock since Friday morning. At 9.45 am, the engines of the FIA Formula 3 European Championship cars revved up for the first tine. Since the 35 minutes’ roll-out of the DTM car, the fifth race weekend of the season really has geared up. “Being able to race here in my own country is nice. I am convinced that we will get to see two extremely thrilling races,” Austrian Lucas Auer (Mercedes-Benz) said during the opening press conference on Friday afternoon. The drivers are eager and the dry, mostly sunny weather helps as well to bring the anticipation to the racing action to unprecedented levels.
First free practice will give an initial indication about the form of the 24 drivers from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. From 16.10 hrs, the drivers will be going flat-out at the scenic track for the first time. However, this is only the start of a weekend packed with motorsport action. Both on Saturday and Sunday, visitors at the Red Bull Ring can look forward to one qualifying and one race each. The close situation in the drivers’ standings is spicing up the event even more: at the end of the season, every point can be decisive for many of the drivers.
For this weekend, BMW is considered as the favourite. The brand from Munich has the lightest cars, the drivers dominated the most recent race meeting at Zandvoort and locked out the first four places at Spielberg last year. “But that doesn’t mean a lot,” says António Félix da Costa, who scored one second and one first place at Zandvoort with his BMW M4 DTM. “It is so tough this season. Only the slightest mistake, and you drop back numerous places in the field. And even without making any mistakes, scoring a good result is difficult enough anyway. So you shouldn’t make life more difficult for yourself than it already is. And even more so as this track provides plenty of opportunities for overtaking, especially with DRS.”
Currently, Mattias Ekström is 33 points ahead of the Portuguese in the drivers’ standings, tied in second place with Pascal Wehrlein (Mercedes-Benz). Both have another thing in common: with 1,127.5 kilograms, both have the heaviest cars in the field. “When all cars would be equally heavy, I would definitely say that I am in contention for victory. However, because of the performance weights, sadly, we have to say that this is not realistic. But being an unrealistic driver, I will say that I will be racing for victory nevertheless. At the end of the day, however, I will probably have to be happy with every point that I can get. The track is simply great. It has long straights and hard braking points ahead of slow corners. The middle sector mainly has fast corners. That is a great mix.”
Local hero Lucas Auer knows the characteristics of the track very well, but mainly from his days in Formula 3. The DTM rookie will be racing at the Red Bull Ring with his Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM for the first time. “I am really looking forward to this weekend. Many fans, relatives and friends will be at the track. I think that the Mercedes will be working quite well here. For me, my start in the DTM was difficult. At the Norisring, things went very well, but at Zandvoort, it was worse again. So far, my maiden season has been a topsy-turvy affair. In my home country, I definitely want to achieve another personal highlight.”
Whether the young Austrian will achieve this, will already become apparent on Saturday at 15.00 hrs. Then, the drivers will head out onto he track for the 20 minutes’ qualifying to determine the starting grid positions for the first race of 40 minutes (Saturday, 18.15 hrs). On Sunday, the second opportunity follows when the lights go out for the 60 minutes’ race at 15.15 hrs. Initially, however, the 24 teams and their drives have the chance to gradually approach the maximum possibilities of the track. On Friday, first free practice is scheduled at 16.10 hrs, followed by the second session on Saturday at noon.