Mortara wins at Spielberg – Wehrlein is half-time leader
He had announced if after claiming pole position in qualifying. “Here, we have the fastest car,” Edoardo Mortara said. And he was to be proven right after the first DTM race of 40 minutes at the Red Bull Ring. In spite of a broken thumb, the Italian drove victory at Spielberg home in a commanding way. Reliably, his Audi RS 5 DTM completed one lap after another and carried Mortarta to his first win of the season after 29 laps, the third victory of his DTM career. Only Mercedes-Benz driver Pascal Wehrlein was able to more or less keep up with the race winner’s speed. The 20-year-old finished second, almost two seconds down on Mortara and ahead of his fellow Mercedes-Benz driver Paul Di Resta. For Wehrlein, this result has a positive effect: he moved up into first place in the drivers’ standings and thus secured himself the unofficial title of half-time champion. The fact that after nine of 18 season races, there is no Audi driver on top of the standings for the first time was also due to the massive bad luck of erstwhile points’ leader Jamie Green.
And things had started so well for Green – unlike for the eventual winner. Pole sitter Mortara had a poor start and Green, who started behind him, even went past his fellow Audi driver before the first corner. “My broken thumb played a role in my poor start. I slightly came off the brake button,” Mortara said, but he didn’t want to reveal the cause of his injury. After the successful start with his orange Audi, Green quickly pulled a gap of a few metres between himself and his rivals and completed a faultless first lap. Only half a lap later, however, arguably the most decisive situation of the entire race followed. All of a sudden, the front runner slowed down and had to let the entire field get past. For the Brit, the race was over due to gearbox problems. “Everything was perfect and then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t shift gears correctly anymore. That’s life. Tomorrow is another day,” a remarkably collected Green commented shortly after his retirement. Internally, however, he will probably have been really upset, especially as far as the drivers’ standings are concerned, in which Green dropped from first to fourth place.
One of the drivers to move past the Brit (81 points) was the winner of the race on Saturday, who now has 83 points. After Green’s retirement, the poor start was forgotten quickly. Mortara inherited Green’s race lead and quickly pulled clear from his rivals, during which he benefited from the duel between Wehrlein and Di Resta. As Green slowed down, he slightly blocked Wehrlein and Di Resta took the chance. Two laps later, however, Wehrlein struck back in the battle for second. “The first two were simply too fast,” Di Resta said. This was to remain the only duel of the race in the group of the three front runners. The gaps got bigger with every lap. At times, Wehrlein was almost four seconds down on Mortara. The gap between second and third was even bigger: at the finish, Di Resta was over eleven seconds down on Wehrlein. “Of course, I also benefited from Green’s retirement. I would have liked to battle with him on track,” Wehrlein said. He is breaking one age record after another. On his debut, he was the youngest-ever DTM driver and he was the youngest driver to claim a pole position and a DTM race win last year. Now, he is the youngest driver in DTM history to lead the points’ standings and also the youngest one to claim the half-time champion’s title. He is leading the drivers’ standings with 94 points.
The battle for the DTM crown could become a battle of ‘young against old’. Seasoned Audi driver Mattias Ekström is only eight points down on Wehrlein. At Spielberg, Ekström once again proved his class. On the sixth lap of the race, Ekström overtook Mercedes-Benz driver Gary Paffett without any compromises, only to start the hunt for Augusto Farfus’ BMW in fifth place. Ekström showed his patience, gradually worked his way up towards the Brazilian. When he was within one second from him – and thus within the DRS window – with three laps remaining, he started his serious attack. On the final lap, the Swede threatened to mount a challenge from the outside, only to get past on the inside three corners before the finish line. “I just had to get past. In this closely-fought championship, every point counts,” Ekström commented his spirited move. The best-placed BMW driver, Farfus had to make do with sixth place: “When Mattias got closer and closer in my rear-view mirror, I already reckoned that he would try everything to overtake me. And it was like that exactly. Generally, our car isn’t as competitive as we had hoped here.” Only Marco Wittmann also managed to score points with his BMW M4 DTM (ninth place).
With nine DTM races now completed, the race at Spielberg on Sunday at 15.15 hrs marks the start of the second half of the 2015 season. Qualifying at 12.40 hrs, will already show whether Mortara will again be setting the pace in the DTM at Red Bull Ring. Mortara: “I am extremely optimistic in this respect.”