Round one at the Norisring: A collision with consequences
Just two seconds more and the strategy could have paid off. Seven drivers opted for starting on wets into the Saturday race of the Norisring meeting and they all finished behind race winner Pascal Wehrlein who had opted for contesting the first stint on slicks. And the wet-weather tyre strategy could have been successful without a collision on lap one that resulted in a safety-care period, caused by a collision that made an impact not only on the front end of the field.
When the 24 drivers squeezed their way through the ‘Grundig Kehre’ (Grundig Hairpin), it all went wrong: BMW’s Maxime Martin touched the rear of Lucas Auer’s Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM, thus causing a chain reaction. Auer spun and turned Audi driver Miguel Molina around. BMW rookie Tom Blomqvist wasn’t able to avoid the spinning cars and crashed Molina’s rear. And it came close to a wonder that further incidents could be avoided in the turmoil. For those involved, however, this wasn’t a solace. For Martin and Blomqvist, the race was over right way with Auer (twelfth grid position) and Molina (ninth grid position) losing a lot of ground. The Portuguese crossed the line in 20th and last position while Auer did slightly better at least by coming 15th. “Yes, I dreamed of securing my first DTM points, here,” admitted Auer. “After all, this was my best grid position to date. But in the corner, things got so tight that there were countless close encounters. There was nothing you could do.”
Possibly, the first-lap accident even made a major impact on the race result. Due to the collision, three laps of the race were contested at slow speed behind the safety-car and only then, the race was re-started. And on those three laps, the drivers on wets hadn’t the chance of making use of the advantage they were provided with by their tyres, on the still wet track. After all, they gained up to four seconds per lap on the rest of the field, in the first minutes of the race. And as they would have needed just another two seconds to rejoin the race ahead of Wehrlein, following their stop for slicks, it’s easy to assume hat the three laps behind the safety car may have cost them the crucial seconds. On the other hand, you also have to consider the impact the three slow laps behind the safety car made on the track. Had the field contested the first three laps in anger, the racing line – at least – would have dried clearly earlier. But as this wasn’t the case, the track remained wet for a longer period of time and the drivers racing on wets benefited from the major advantage provided by their tyres for this longer period of time. Mercedes, however, won’t care. After all, the manufacturer held the lead with four cars (at least) in the top positions both before and after the pit stops.