Motorsport.com’s new columnist, TV broadcaster David Addison, has a message for manufacturers everywhere. And they aren’t going to like it…
"Push him out." Three little words that have had a big impact on the DTM, its fans and two of three manufacturers that make the series happen.
In case you don't follow the DTM, a quick recap: Timo Scheider received a radio message from his Audi boss Wolfgang Ullrich telling him, on the last lap of the second Red Bull Ring race, to dispose of the Mercedes ahead. And it was a beautiful snooker move: Scheider braked a gnat's too late for turn three, bumped Robert Wickens into the back of Pascal Wehrlein (erstwhile championship leader) and off they both went. Foul? Yes. No question.
Scheider says he didn't hear a message, which is odd as everyone else connected to the race did. Ullrich said it couldn't have been him as his radio channel wasn't open. Really?
This is the same Ullrich who in 2007 pulled all of his cars out of the race at Barcelona when he felt that the Mercedes tactics were unfair and his cars were being picked on. Funny old world!
But isn't Scheider-gate just an example of a bigger problem that the DTM has? Team orders.
It is impossible to look at the DTM without thinking manufacturers. Not teams, manufacturers. It is Audi versus BMW versus Mercedes, so Phoenix, ART and Schnitzer are rather forgotten about. Drivers, while theoretically being the stars, are then compromised as they have to support their better-placed marque-mates, so it is very hard to get a real steer on just how good a driver is if he is never given the support required to make an impact.
Manufacturers are all-controlling
And it is this reliance on results for the brand – not driver nor team – that is one of the things that is hurting the DTM. Scheider pushed out two Mercs, yes. But a corner before, Robert Wickens baulked him to allow Wehrlein to jump both of them and maximise his championship chances. Both are examples of orchestrating a result for the benefit of your team...
Let drivers race. Look at the old days of V8 Supercar racing in Australia when it was just Ford versus Holden. There was a works team for both brands and a host of private teams and if Holden's motorsport boss had asked one team to give up a place for another he'd have had a short reply ending in “… off”.
There the teams were a big deal, their rivalry helping to make the racing and the series a success. But in the DTM, the teams seem to be a conduit for putting cars on the grid and to – at times – take the blame if things go wrong. They spend time in practice looking for thousandths of a second to move up the order, but all that can be undone if the call comes to cede a place in the race.
Team orders have always been a part of motorsport and are hard to police and drive out totally. But DTM fans are wising up. They know when they see seven BMWs in a line at Zandvoort that the chances of anyone making a move and risking upsetting the dream result for the manufacturer aren't good. And they will soon look elsewhere for entertainment.
Give the fans what they want
The future of the DTM will have different technical regulations but if the organisers want to improve racing, how about not only making less technical cars but running them as private teams like in GT3. Build cars, sell cars but then stay out of it and let teams and drivers slug it out.
Remember the early ‘90s DTM, when you as a team could buy an M3 or a 190E and go racing? Those days are gone. Let us have more cars available with teams having a larger part to play.
And while we are at it, can we have more rugged cars? Wickens retired from race one in Austria and said he didn’t know why. The answer was damaged aero after a nudge he never even felt.
The DTM has made a positive effort to improve the spectacle for the fans this year, but you can't promote close racing if the cars are too fragile and aero dependent.
Get rid of aero: fans don't care if a car is lapping at 1m25s as opposed to 1m30s, but they do care about overtaking and fair racing action!
About David Addison...
David is a freelance broadcaster and journalist based in the UK. He began commentating in 1991 and has worked all over the world on everything from Formula 1 to F1 Stock Cars. He is the lead commentator for ITV4’s coverage of the British Touring Car Championship and covers the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, Blancpain Endurance Series, DTM, ADAC GT Masters and more.
He also edits the British Racing Drivers’ Club magazine.