Paffett on top in first free practice
When the Friday evening session at Norisring would have been qualifying for the first DTM race on Saturday, Audi’s opponents would probably have been overwhelmed for joy. After all, it wasn’t the brand from Ingolstadt that dominated first free practice on the street circuit. Especially the Mercedes-Benz drivers made their mark on the first session: Gary Paffett concluded qualifying with the fastest lap in the field: 48.553 seconds. Behind him, his fellow Mercedes-Benz driver Paul Di Resta (48.579 seconds) and Bruno Spengler with his BMW M4 DTM (48.585 seconds) made the strongest impression.
Of course, one should consider the results of a free practice session with care. Still, the first timed outing at Norisring made one thing clear: it is incredibly close. Prior to the weekend, many drivers expected lap times of the entire field to be within six tenths of a second. After practice, only four and a half tenths separated the fastest driver, Gary Paffett, from the slowest, António Félix da Costa.
Among this incredibly close competition, Mercedes-Benz succeeded in getting four cars among the top seven: Daniel Juncadella was fourth, last year’s winner Robert Wickens ended up seventh. BMW had a relatively strong showing, too: behind Spengler, Maxime Martin was eighth, Augusto Farfus ninth and Marco Wittmann tenth. Jamie Green, one of the pre-race favourites, was the best-placed Audi driver in fifth place. Behind the Brit, his fellow Audi driver Adrien Tambay was sixth.
On Saturday, it will become clear how much this first impression is worth. After free practice (10.15 till 11.05 hrs), action will start in earnest at 13.25 hrs. The 20 minutes’ session will determine the starting grid positions for the first race that gets underway at 16.48 hrs.