Pit stops with consequences – glitches at Ekström and Wehrlein
They have to be fully focused at this crucial moment and work at lightning speed: when the drivers pit in the Sunday race, every fraction of a second counts. Usually, the pit crews execute a normal DTM pit stop in about three seconds. But there’s always something that can go wrong – even in the case of the perfectly cooperating pit crews. And these mistakes can make a major impact for the further course of a race. The Sunday race at the Nürburgring underlined the significance of a flawless stop. In the 16th round of the season, both title contenders had to cope with pit-stop glitches. Championship leader Pascal Wehrlein and Mattias Ekström, currently third in the championship, had to cope with not too perfect stops and consequently, they lost positions they had gained by working hard on the track. For Wehrlein, however, this unscheduled loss of time even proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Up to the pit stops, the race ran more or less as scheduled for both the Mercedes-Benz and the Audi driver. Wehrlein started into the race from ninth grid position, was sixth as early after turn one and crossed the line at the end of lap one in the same position, behind Augusto Farfus. And when Farfus’ fellow BMW driver opened a gap of more than a second on the Brazilian who consequently wasn’t allowed to use the DRS, any longer, Wehrlein used his tiltable rear wing to begin to pressurise Farfus. And at the beginning of lap 11, Farfus had to give in: in turn one, he was not only passed by Wehrlein but by the championship leader’s fellow Mercedes-Benz drivers Maximilian Götz und Daniel Juncadella too – and dropped back from fifth to eighth position. An order that remained unchanged up to the pit stops.
Ekström also had to fight hard, at this point in time. The Swede had been 17th on the grid but with a good start he gained six positions on lap one. A few laps later he also passed Mike Rockenfeller, thus having worked his way up to the points. And at the beginning of lap nine, when Daniel Juncadella attacked Timo Glock to pass the German for eighth position, Ekström used his chance of gaining even more ground. Glock touched Juncadella who passed him on the inside, went off the racing line – and was passed by Ekström right away. Now the Swede held ninth position, followed by Glock, Rockenfeller and Tomczyk – to pit a short time later.
There, however, the usually extremely quick Abt-Sportsline crew encountered one of its rare glitches. Problems at the left front wheel cost Ekström about a second and valuable positions. When all the drivers had pitted, the 37-year old was 12th, behind Glock, Rockenfeller and Tomczyk. The only rival he could pass again was Glock and so, he failed to make it to the points. Ekström: “Working my way up cost me a lot of energy and tyre substance and during the pit stop, I dropped back again. There’s no need to sugarcoat anything: this was a flubbed weekend – at the absolutely wrong point in time.”
Wehrlein pitted a lap later than Ekström and his HWA crew also had its problems while changing the left front wheel. He also lost more than a second and three positions, with Farfus, Juncadella and Götz benefiting from his mishap – that turned out to have been a blessing in disguise, in the end. “Had the stop been executed as scheduled, this would have resulted in an unsafe release,” Wehrlein said after the race. “In consideration of this fact, I have to say that I was lucky.” In the case of a faster stop, the 20-year old nearly unavoidably had hampered Farfus in the pit lane – with a drive-thru penalty being the standard ‘reward’ for such an offense. Thanks to the slow-ish stop he got away without the penalty but had to work his way back up on the track. And he succeeded in doing so. At first, he passed Farfus in the chicane to also overtake Juncadella and Götz a short time later. Wehrlein finished fifth and extended his championship lead.