James Hedges provides us with a Gary Paffett-centric report of the DTM round at Lausitzring, where the Mercedes driver confirmed his title credentials with his second victory of the season.
It seems that every DTM race since 2017 has been a classic. Helped by the banning of tyre warmers last year and the regulations implemented for the 2018 season, which has seen a reduction in aerodynamics for the cars, it has made them more difficult to handle but with more slipstreaming. Gary Paffett entered the Lausitzring weekend just one point behind Championship leader Timo Glock.
Gary draw plaudits from the DTM community along with Glock after the second race of the Hockenheim opening weekend, for their wheel-to-wheel racing which eventually saw the German BMW driver take victory, with Paffett finishing in third. He exited the weekend with no regrets, having taken pole and victory in the first race, and having preferred to battle for the win in Sunday’s race rather than settling for second place, providing us with one of the greatest battles in DTM history.
Although the 2005 DTM Champion topping the timesheets in FP2 at the Lausitzring, qualifying for race one did not go as planned. Paffett’s first run placed him in P10 and he was not able to improve on his time, dropping to P14 on the grid.
The race itself saw some heavy disruption after a couple of heavy shunts, with fellow Brit Jamie Green slamming into the back of Nico Muller after the latter he stalled on the grid. Gary moved up to 12th in the duration over the opening lap. After a safety car period that lasted for just over fourteen minutes, the field crossed the line two-by-two ‘IndyCar’ style for the restart. Paffett quickly promoted himself 11th, before Rene Rast was tagged by Audi teammate Loic Duval, sending him across the grass, causing the car to flip and tumble over on it’s end, almost breaking the car in two. Rast exited the car himself and walked away without harm, a testament to the build of the DTM’s life cells and technical regulations. The race was immediately red flagged while the 55-minute timer continued to count down, leaving only 20 minutes left once the race was restarted.
When it did recommence, Paffett pitted for tyres fairly late compared with the rest of the remaining cars and he initially came out in second place. However his cold tyres saw him drop down the pecking order fairly quickly on his out lap, before finishing in 9th place. Although reasonably satisfied with his performance in the race, Paffett accepted that his qualifying runs would have to improve if he was to challenge for major points on Sunday. Mercedes’ Edoardo Mortara snatched the race win, giving Mercedes their 14th win at the Lausitzring, and their second win in three races, Mortara’s first DTM victory with Mercedes-Benz following his switch from Audi.
Race 1 qualifying: P14
Final Race Position: P9
Paffett faired a lot better in qualifying for race two. He and fellow Mercedes driver Pascal Wehrlein stuck close to BMW’s Philipp Eng who took his maiden pole position in the DTM, with Paffett grapping third place – just seven hundredths behind. A theme across both qualifying sessions over the weekend was that not many drivers were able to improve on their first runs, resulting in an anti-climax at the end of both qualifying sessions.
Wehrlein squeezed Paffett fairly close to the wall as they got away from the grid in the race, preventing him from really challenging for second into the opening corner. Green, who started in 16th place, chose to change tyres immediately on lap one to give him plenty of clear air while the rest of the pack completed their first stint. As Wehrlein used DRS to challenge Eng for the lead at the end of lap two, Eng pushed the 2015 DTM Champion out wide, allowing Paffett to swoop into second. The Brit followed this up a lap later by using DRS himself to easily dispatch of Eng, who was under investigation for pushing Wehrlein off the track. The DRS window was quickly broken, with the Cambridgeshire-based racer sprinting ahead to build a 1.9 second gap with 45 minutes remaining. Paffett pitted nine minutes later but with a slightly slower stop of 8.1 seconds, rejoining in 12th but ahead of the other five cars that had already stopped.
He was unchallenged by Wehrlein after the German’s pit stop, as Pascal came out too far behind his Mercedes teammate. Marco Wittmann boxed three laps later, jumping Wehrlein and holding him off while trying to get his tyres to full temperature. Wittmann used his set of tyres that were three laps younger than Paffett’s to consistently chip the gap down to 2.1 seconds with 9 minutes to go, but he was never able to break the DRS barrier or present an overtaking opportunity as Gary managed the gap until the end of the race. Green’s ambitious strategy paid off, finishing in P6 after a late overtake on Philipp Eng. Gary Paffett took his 22nd DTM victory, ending the weekend how it began, one point behind Timo Glock in the drivers championship.
Race 2 qualifying: P3
Final Race Position: P1