Marcel FÃ¤ssler finally converted pole position into a win at the A1-Ring after a hard fought, thrilling battle with double champion Bernd Schneider. The two Mercedes drivers went head to head in the final half dozen laps in what was a truly ...
Marcel F?ssler finally converted pole position into a win at the A1-Ring after a hard fought, thrilling battle with double champion Bernd Schneider. The two Mercedes drivers went head to head in the final half dozen laps in what was a truly nail-biting fight for the win but F?ssler kept his cool and took the chequered flag ahead of Schneider for his first win of the season.
Alesi had slipped down the field after his poor start and got entangled in a three-way collision that really had nothing to do with him. Opel's Peter Dumbreck hit the rear of Schneider's Mercedes then bounced into the Audi of Christian Abt. Abt in turn hit Alesi and the pair of them shot off into the tyre barrier. Alesi rebounded and came to a halt in the middle of the track, bringing out the safety car.
"The start was good," F?ssler told Motorsport.com. "It was almost perfect. But the safety car came out and I lost all my advantage. My car was good, there were no major problems, then Christijan (Albers, who was behind F?ssler at that stage) dropped back."
Come the first pit stops F?ssler and Schneider stopped together in the first of many clashes for the pair. Schneider's stop was faster but F?ssler's AMG crew was determined not to be beaten and as Schneider was pulling out, the Swiss shot out in front in a last second rush.
"He was fast in the first one," said F?ssler of the initial foray. "But I kept him behind me." The second round of stops was an out and out stunner by Marcel's pit crew: Schneider pitted and F?ssler went in on the next lap: 3.9 seconds by AMG, a DTM record! "A great stop," Marcel confirmed, laughing. "Really, really fast. It was something really special."
After that it all went a bit mad; Schneider was all over F?ssler but just couldn't find a way past. Marcel's tyres and brakes were fading on the last half dozen laps and the tension notched up to breaking point. F?ssler locked up under braking and Schneider charged -- but the Swiss held him off time and time again.
On the final lap it seemed F?ssler had finally lost it: again he locked up and Schneider was right there, along side, bumping and pushing door to door, side by side through two corners. Yet still F?ssler kept his cool and held the lead, defending beautifully from the pressure of his fellow Mercedes driver.
"It was a tough one," F?ssler admitted. "I pushed a bit hard on my out lap (after the second stop) and my tyres were affected a bit. Bernd's tyres worked better and he closed the gap. Then I had brake balance problems: at first it was the back and I changed the balance to the front but then the front was locking up."
"It was not easy but I knew if I didn't make a mistake he (Schneider) would not be able to overtake. You don't have time to think or feel in that situation, you just go for it. It was great after such a hard race to win; not just me, it was a team effort, me and my team won."
F?ssler retains his third place in the championship standings and closed the gap to Albers by two points. The next race is at Zandvoort in the Netherlands on September 21st. "Zandvoort is one of my favourite tracks," he commented. "Maybe I can win there to, I hope at least to keep the championship open until Hockenheim."