Paul di Resta may have been largely invisible during much of the 2009 DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) season, but he emphatically demonstrated his return at Brands Hatch today, taking a solid if hard-fought victory over Timo Scheider.
"A great race for me," the young Scot smiled. "It's fantastic to score my first win of the season in my home race and to achieve the 150th win for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM together with my team. Already yesterday's qualifying with the pole position was perfect and today my C-Class was at its best. The safety car periods towards the end of the race made it exciting; however, I always controlled the field."
Starting from the pole position, di Resta took control of the race even before the first corner, leading fellow front-row starter Scheider into the turn, followed by Bruno Spengler and Tom Kristensen. Scheider closely followed di Resta throughout the opening laps, until falling behind Spengler and Martin Tomczyk during the first round of stops.
"I concentrated on the start and the start did go well, but on the outside I chose not to take any risk against Paul," Scheider explained. "So, I was a good boy and got right in line. I had no problem following him. Then the small chaos broke loose. There was a lot of traffic, even at the first pit stop. At the second stop, there was a problem at the right rear."
In the closing stages, di Resta had a comfortable six-second lead over Scheider's Audi, but two safety-car periods negated that gap, allowing the German veteran to close up on the tail of di Resta's Mercedes. Still, there are scant passing places on the Brands hatch "Indy" circuit, and there was nothing there for Scheider to dive into without risking it all. At the flag the gap was 0.896 seconds.
Tomczyk (Audi) and Gary Paffett (Mercedes) had started fifth and sixth, but the duo moved up with the spins of Kristensen and Spengler, and Tomczyk claimed the final podium position, just 0.526 seconds adrift of Scheider.
"Advancing from fifth to third place is a good showing because overtaking is difficult at Brands Hatch," said Tomczyk. "The whole strategy fit, and so did the whole race as a matter of fact. I had a great duel with Bruno. That was tough but I was a step ahead and managed to overtake him."
Paffett was less than half a second further back, and Audi's Mattias Ekstrom was equally close to Paffett in fifth -- a traffic jam precipitated by the final safety-car period.
"I moved up from sixth on the grid to fourth at the chequered flag - which is not bad here as overtaking is almost impossible at Brands Hatch," said Paffett. Therefore I am still happy with my result, although a podium finish was possible."
Drive-through penalties abounded in the race, starting with Alexandre Premat for a jump start. Ralf Schumacher was called for speeding in the pit lane, Christian Bakkerud for crossing the blend line exiting the pits, Jamie Green for contact, and Katherine Legge for impeding the leaders.
Apart from di Resta's triumphant return, the happiest driver in the paddock was probably Scheider, the defending champion, who made a positive move in the title fight: with Paffett and Ekstrom finishing further back, Scheider strengthened his lead: he now has a five-point gap to Ekstrom and nine to Paffett.
"Things weren't so easy today," Scheider reflected. "That's why I'm very happy with second place -- this has enabled me to extend my lead of the championship."
With di Resta's Mercedes victory today, the cars with three-pointed stars will carry an extra 5 kg of weight next weekend, while the Audis are shedding 5 kg. With only three races remaining on the calendar, the Barcelona race in two weeks' time will be critical for all the title challengers.