Bernd Schneider Champion -- Jean Alesi Wins
Christijan Albers 12th after tyre failure and runner-up in the championship
Bernd Schneider (Vodafone AMG-Mercedes) is the 2003 DTM Champion. The 39-year-old came home sixth in the thrilling season’s final at Hockenheim and achieved his fourth DTM Drivers’ Championship after 1995, 2000 and 2001. Christijan Albers (ExpressService AMG-Mercedes), who had trailed Schneider with only one point prior to the race, ended up twelfth after a tyre failure and is runner-up.
Jean Alesi (AMG-Mercedes) won the race in front of a crowd of 105,000 during the weekend with 0.213sec ahead of Mattias Ekström (Abt-Audi TT-R) and Marcel Fässler (AMG-Mercedes). Already in the last race Schneider and Albers had won the Teams’ Championship for Vodafone/ExpressService AMG-Mercedes whilst Mercedes-Benz had secured the manufacturers’ title two races ago.
Alesi, third in qualifying, passed Peter Dumbreck (Opel Astra V8 Coupé) after the start at the hairpin and was second after the opening lap behind Mattias Ekström (Abt-Audi TT-R). Schneider, fifth in qualifying, improved to fourth at the start, Albers remained ninth as in practice.
The Dutchman came in for his first pit stop on lap 6 followed by Schneider one lap later. On lap 14, when the first round of pit stops was over, Schneider was fifth whilst Albers had improved to seventh position. Two laps later, Schneider made an early second stop due to a damaged left rear tyre and dropped to twelfth place. At this point of the race, Albers led the championship.
After his second stop on lap 23, Albers rejoined the race behind Schneider and Timo Scheider (Opel Astra V8 Coupé). Two laps later Albers passed Scheider at the hairpin, and another two laps later, again at the hairpin, the Dutchman slid off the track with a damaged left rear tyre while in Schneider’s slipstream. Albers returned slowly to the pits for a third stop - this was the end of his championship hopes.
Alesi took the lead on lap 14 and maintained his position until the chequered flag. In the closing stages he defended the lead against charging Ekström who finished second 0.213sec behind.
Bernd Schneider, Vodafone AMG-Mercedes, Bernd Schneider:
"I’m extremely happy about the championship and I thank everybody in the team for the excellent work throughout the season. This title is something really special for me, because I won it after a hard season and against strong opposition."
Christijan Albers, ExpressService AMG-Mercedes:
"I thank the team for their efforts, they gave me a great car. The race today was great fun, and without the tyre failure, I would have had a great battle with Bernd. On the one hand, I’m a bit disappointed, but on the other side I’m satisfied about my season at HWA in which I scored four race victories."
Jean Alesi, AMG-Mercedes:
"A fantastic victory. This was the maximum I could return to our team at the end of the season after they did their maximum for me all year."
Marcel Fässler, AMG-Mercedes:
"A great race. I had several good battles and the crowd was really fantastic."
Original-Teile AMG-Mercedes, Thomas Jäger came home eleventh as the best driver with a 2002 CLK. Bernd Mayländer retired on lap 30 due to a drive shaft failure. ARTA AMG-Mercedes, Katsutomo Kaneishi finished 17th. Service 24 h AMG-Mercedes driver Stefan Mücke ended up 15th. At Gary Paffett’s car the engine stalled two laps from the end, the reason for that has still to be investigated.
Norbert Haug, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director:
"A thrilling DTM race. Bernd deserves the title, congratulations on his fourth DTM Championship. When he and Christijan were sixth and seventh in the race, everything was still possible. Unfortunately a tyre failure on Christijan’s car ended the battle prematurely - I’m sorry for Christijan, he performed well throughout the season. A good job by Jean, he drove a great race under maximum pressure from Abt-Audi driver Mattias Ekström. Thanks and compliments to the HWA team with Hans-Jürgen Mattheis and Gerhard Ungar. They worked excellently."