Paul di Resta recorded his first win of the season last weekend in Hungary. The second race, however, turned into a fiasco due to the combination of rain, a treacherous pit lane and a red flag. Self-declared Gary Paffett superfan, James Hedges, reports.
The Hungaroring is not a track blessed with overtaking opportunities, so qualifying would be even more crucial during the third DTM weekend of 2018. Jamie Green and Audi were hoping for a better performance after their horrific start to the 2018 campaign.
The reduction of aerodynamics following changes to the technical regulations have hurt the team as a whole, as they pride themselves on this area of development. Historically, the characteristics of the track have suited Audi, while Mercedes on the other hand have not had as much success, even though Paul di Resta (above) won at this track in 2017. Fellow Brit Gary Paffett has never finished on the podium in Hungary, an unfortunate statistic that he hoped to overcome to keep up his title challenge.
Di Resta claimed pole position for the first race after Lucas Auer ran out wide in sector two on his final run, losing a couple of tenths. Green qualified in P7 – his best so far this season, while Gary Paffett finished the session in P9, crucially nine places in front of championship rival Timo Glock, who entered the weekend one point ahead of Paffett at the top of the championship.
Green pitted for new tyres at the end of lap one, a risky move that matched his strategy back at the Lausitzring, The Hungaroring would push the task of maintaining the tyre’s lifespan until the end of the race to the max, because of the high track temperatures. Di Resta’s pit stop on lap 9 was far slower than usual due to an issue with the front right, losing a couple of seconds, which allowed teammate Auer to assume effectively the lead of the race.
Paffett was one of the last drivers to pit, opting for a more traditional strategy by pitting halfway through the race with 28 minutes remaining. Gary was swamped by the chasing pack as he came out of the pits with cold tyres, dropping to P12, in front of Glock. The Mercedes team captain wasted no time in claiming a position back from Pascal Wehrlein before dispatching Bruno Spengler a lap later, using his brand new rubber to its full potential.
Di Resta resumed control of the race as Auer’s tyres started slowly degrading. Auer put up no opposition to the Scotsman, who pitted three laps later than the Austrian. The three Audis of Duval, Frijns and Rockenfeller finally stopped over the course of the next few laps, which proved to be quite late in the game.
Green’s strategy did not come off as he was passed in the last few minutes of the race by Frijns, who had fresher tyres, before finishing in P9. Di Resta came under some light pressure towards the end of the race as both he and Auer had to pick up their pace to stay ahead of the charging Audis of Nico Muller and Rene Rast. Yet he converted pole position into a win and his second at the Hungaroring in as many years. Paffett came home in P6, a gain of three positions from qualifying while rival Glock finished 14th in what was a dreadful day for BMW, as all six of their drivers finishing in the last seven positions. Paffett rose to the top of the driver’s championship by seven points, while di Resta shot up to third in the rankings.
Paul di Resta – P1
Jamie Green – P7
Gary Paffett – P9
Final Race Position:
Paul di Resta: P1
Gary Paffett: P6
Jamie Green: P9
Qualifying provided a great deal of optimism for the second race of the weekend, as all of the Mercedes drivers were grouped in six of the top seven positions on the grid, giving di Resta and Paffett a great platform to work from. Jamie Green was the third quickest of the Audis in tenth.
The main event descended into something of a farce, with Paffett later calling it “the most embarrassing DTM race I’ve been in.” Spots of rain were reported as the formation lap got underway, but the field mostly behaved themselves in the opening lap, aside from Muller clipping Timo Glock on the exit of turn two, forcing him to the back of the field.
The heavens opened fully on lap four, with Auer losing the lead losing the lead to Wehrlein at the beginning of the following lap. Wittmann took his mandatory pit stop on lap 5, stopping for wet tyres. Auer pitted soon after, inadvertently pulling the trigger for what was to come. He was unable to stop his car as he pulled into his box, his Mercedes sliding into the side of the Mercedes garage, pinning one of the marshals against the wall and hitting another.
An ambulance was on the scene at the pit lane when five more cars, including Mortara and Spengler, entered the pits, coincidently also as the safety car was deployed. Both drivers suffered the same fate as Auer, also striking their own team members, with Mortara bringing the pit gantry down. The race was immediately red flagged with 42 minutes remaining. Paffett and Green sat P2 and P5 respectively after the red flag fell, as they had not pitted prior.
DTM regulations permit drivers to change tyres during the red flag, however this does not count towards their statutory pit stop. Jamie Green expressed his confusion during the red flag period, asking whether or not the pit stops that were taken in the lap that the red flag was issued would count. Those cars were forced to restart the race from the pit lane.
With 28 minutes remaining the race got back underway, with the track now almost bone dry due to the searing Hungarian heat. Paffett was caught on the restart, and contact with Glock damaged the rear right. The broken piece of bodywork was torn off by his mechanics during Paffett’s stop, but this had caused Gary to drop to dead last.
Di Resta pulled off a couple of impressive moves in the final few minutes of the race, including passing Farfus around the outside of turn two, before overtaking Spengler and Eriksson in successive laps. He finished in fifth place, ahead of both of the other British drivers.
Of course, all our best wishes go out to the marshals and mechanics that were injured during the race, and we hope they make a quick and full recovery.
In the aftermath of the race, Auer, Spengler and Mortara were all disqualified from the race for their pit lane incidents. The race stewards came in for a lot of criticism after the race, for not closing the pit lane after the initial Auer crash, not declaring a red flag sooner, and for the penalties given out to the three drivers.
What, at the beginning of the day, was a seven-point lead in the Driver’s Championship for Paffett, turned into an 11-point deficit behind Timo Glock. The next DTM weekend comes from the Norisring, where Paffett will hope to get back on track, and di Resta will be hoping to take further advantage of his ever-growing form.
Paul di Resta – P3
Gary Paffett – P5
Jamie Green – P10
Final Race Position:
Paul di Resta – P5
Gary Paffett – P15
Jamie Green – P13