Abt critical of DTM safety car timing after losing points lead

Abt Sportsline team principal Thomas Biermaier feels the DTM should have sent out a warning before deploying the safety car that cost Kelvin van der Linde the lead of the championship at Assen.

Abt critical of DTM safety car timing after losing points lead

Having qualified eighth for the opening race of the weekend, van der Linde elected to extend his first stint, hoping to overcut his rivals by running in clear air.

But the strategy backfired when the safety car was deployed on lap 15 of 35 for debris on track, with a bollard having come loose and posed a safety risk for the drivers.

The 26-second gap van der Linde had established prior to the safety car intervention disappeared at an instant and he eventually dropped to 12th place after finally making his pitstop three laps from the finish.

With Liam Lawson clinching the final spot on the podium behind race winner Marco Wittmann and Mirko Bortolotti, van der Linde fell seven points behind the Red Bull driver in the standings, having held a 12-point lead prior to the weekend.

Speaking after van der Linde's first race finish outside the top 10, Biermaier was critical of the way the race control handed the safety car situation, believing it severely compromised the podium chances of his driver.

In the DTM, pitstops made during a safety car period do not count towards the mandatory stop, unless the driver in question was already in the pits when the SC was announced.

"The safety car came at the wrong time for us to be honest and [I was] quite surprised about the safety car," Biermaier told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.

"Normally in the past you always had some pre-warnings if there is some debris on track at some corners. 

"You normally pre-warn somebody to give him the chance to make a pitstop, it's fair for everybody but this didn't happen today. 

"The race director is saying it's a safety reason, so it's always hard to argue against safety reasons. You can bring a safety car clearly, he did it. 

"But if he gives a pre-warning to the guys, it's not only for us but to all the guys who had no pitstops [completed by then]."

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The DTM last used 'slow zones' in 2019, before its equivalent of Formula 1's Virtual Safety Car was dropped altogether from the regulations this year.

Biermaier feels the safety car wasn't necessary to assist the recovery of debris from track, as a VSC would have done just as good a job had it still been part of the DTM's ruleset.

"Today we are affected so it's a little bit of emotion to be honest, but the virtual safety car works quite well in Formula 1," he said.

"So if [there is a] small part on track, somebody can run and pick it up, maybe this would be something. But it's always difficult. So sometimes with rules you are lucky, sometimes you are unlucky, so difficult to say."

Series boss Gerhard Berger defended the race control's decision to deploy a safety car, saying it was necessary as the metal piece that had been holding the bollard in place was lying on track.

He also reiterated his dislike for virtual safety cars, arguing they are not good for the show.

"The race director has to make a decision at the moment," said Berger. "He doesn't think about the championship or who is in advantage. Also, it was not a plastic, it was a metal piece. If somebody goes over with the tyre and then [it could have caused a puncture].

"For me, the virtual safety car is the next impossible thing for motorsport. If you have a virtual safety car for ten minutes like we sometimes have in Formula 1, and you sit in front of the television, what are you looking at? 

"In sports there is luck and bad luck as well, that is part of the game. And we have to provide a good show for the fans. A virtual safety car is complete nonsense to me. Either you have a yellow flag which is fine, because it's in a corner you have to be careful and you cannot overtake, or you have a safety car."

Following the second race at Assen, van der Linde has dropped 15 points behind new championship leader Lawson in the standings to third, with Wittmann now second in the table and 10 points adrift of the Red Bull protege.

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