Bernd Schneider took his 39th DTM victory in the last event of the season at Hockenheim, in his 200th race. The Mercedes man led home a one-two-three for the manufacturer, with Jamie Green second and Gary Paffett third. Paffett became the first...
Bernd Schneider took his 39th DTM victory in the last event of the season at Hockenheim, in his 200th race. The Mercedes man led home a one-two-three for the manufacturer, with Jamie Green second and Gary Paffett third. Paffett became the first ever British champion of the German series with his podium finish. "I love this circuit!" the new title holder exclaimed.
It was cold and wet at the start of the season finale, with a light rain falling. After the formation lap the grid was so untidy that the lights went yellow and the start was aborted as mechanics rushed out to try and straighten things out. After a second reform lap the grid was just as untidy as before but this time they let it go.
Pole-sitter Green was slow away, allowing the Audi of Tom Kristensen to take the lead but he was swiftly deposed by Schneider. The Opel of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Paffett were battling for fifth, Frentzen getting the advantage, and the year old Audi of Frank Stippler was doing a grand job to hold on to fourth.
Audi's title defender Mattias Ekstr?m had made his way up to ninth from starting 15th and Paffett was all over Frentzen and dispatched the Opel for fifth. The track was rapidly drying out but there was still a lot of spray. Ekstr?m and Opel's Manuel Reuter were scrapping but Mattias stayed ahead and at the front it was Schneider from Green and Kristensen.
Mika H?kkinen's Mercedes and the Opel of Laurent Aiello were having a few arguments, while Christian Abt's year old Audi spun off into the gravel. By then Paffett was up to fifth and homing in on Stippler then Aiello also visited the gravel which allowed Ekstr?m up to eighth, but the Swede had Reuter hanging on his rear wing.
Allan McNish's Audi shed its right door for an unknown reason and with a third of the race gone there were still no pit stops. Schneider, Green and Kristensen held station at the front and Jean Alesi whipped his Mercedes past the Opel of Marcel F?ssler for 12th. In front of them Reuter was harassing Aiello for 10th and it was F?ssler that kicked off the pit stops.
Kristensen was attacking Green for second and made it stick up the inside of the turn, while Alesi dispatched Reuter and homed in on Aiello. Schneider, Green, Paffett and Frentzen all visited the pits together and held formation but it was a long stop for Frentzen, some problem with his right front.
Back on track Schneider and H?kkinen had some contact, as did Alesi and Frentzen, and F?ssler was up to sixth after the pit stops. Alesi then had some argy-bargy with Ekstr?m, while the year old Mercedes of Alexandros Margaritis met an abrupt end in the tyre wall. Ekstr?m was struggling, being passed by the year old Mercedes of Stefan M?ke.
Audi's Martin Tomczyk was next to come to grief, over the gravel and into the tyre barrier, while Ekstr?m and Alesi were still trading punches. Paffett finally made his way past Stippler for fourth and it was Stippler who kicked off the second round of mandatory pit stops. Frentzen had another spin and Alesi finally dispatched Ekstr?m at the Spitzkurve.
Kristensen came out of his second stop just in front of Paffett and the pair argued for a few corners, side by side, banging wheels, but Kristensen held the Mercedes off. By then F?ssler was harassing Ekstr?m for sixth but not finding a way past.
Frentzen careered off track over the gravel and into the tyre wall with a big impact. It took a long time to extract him from the car, with many medics attending, and as yet there is no news on his condition but he appeared to be intact, if a little shaken.
F?ssler finally got the better of Ekstr?m for sixth and then Mattias had the year old Mercedes of Bruno Spengler breathing down his neck. In the final laps Spengler got the advantage and Schneider took the chequered flag for his 39th win in his 200th race. Green took a fine second place and new champion Paffett secured a Mercedes podium lock out in third.
"The whole weekend I had this feeling that the race win was possible," said Schneider. "However, in today's conditions you also needed a bit of luck. Therefore I'm even happier to repeat last year's victory in the final race."
Green was satisfied with second. "Bernd had a better start than me and this was a preliminary decision. After I had changed to slicks I was able to re-pass Tom Kristensen. I'm satisfied to have achieved my second podium finish of the year."
New champion Paffett was quite subdued: "I'm really happy to achieve this championship. It's a great feeling to win the title. It has been a perfect season and everybody in the team worked really hard throughout the year and I want to thank them."
It was a shame Ekstr?m had such a poor qualifying, which prevented us seeing a last gasp battle for the title but Paffett is a deserving champion. Like many other series, the DTM is now over for 2005. It was a good one, as the DTM always is. Roll on next year for, hopefully, more of the same.