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DTM's new Full Course Yellow rule receives heavy criticism from teams

A new rule introduced by the DTM that prevents mandatory pitstops under Full Course Yellow or safety car periods has come under fire following the season-opener at Oschersleben.

Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team WINWARD Mercedes-AMG GT3

Starting this year, the pitlane is effectively closed whenever a FCY or a safety car is deployed in the DTM, with any urgent visit to the pits made during that period not counting towards a driver’s mandatory stop.

The purpose of this new regulation was to create a more fair contest, as previously any driver who had pitted under green conditions before the FCY/SC was left at a disadvantage to those who changed tyres under the caution period.

However, in both races at Oschersleben, a few drivers were able to peel into the pits just seconds before the FCY was deployed and return to the track with a big gap to the rest. Since they were already in the pits by the time the FCY was activated, their pitstops were considered valid by the series.

In the first race of that weekend, Schubert BMW driver Marco Wittmann leaped from 17th to first by completing his mandatory stop while others were running at reduced speeds - and he would have likely won the race had his M4 GT3 not suffered a fuelling issue.

Sunday’s race was no different, except Grasser Lamborghini’s Luca Engstler was actually able to take the chequered flag and take an unlikely win over Winward Mercedes’ Maro Engel, who also benefitted from the timing of his pitstop under the FCY.

HRT Mercedes driver Luca Stolz, who eventually took third, would have had a strong shot at winning the race had his two rivals not been able to pit in fortuitous circumstances

Naturally, team boss Ulrich Fritz was unhappy with how the new regulation decided the outcome of the race.

"You can't leave the rule as it is because no spectator understands it," he told Motorsport.com’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com. 

"When I sit in front of the TV, I wonder why a thrilling battle at the front suddenly turns into a lead for a driver who actually had nothing to do with it due to full-course yellow.

"We've had the same problem twice now. That shouldn't happen. It's not good for the sport."

The aim of the new rule was to prevent teams from speculating an FCY phase in order to gain time at their stop, a goal that has been achieved according to Abt Sports Director Martin Tomczyk

That's because there is only a 10-second countdown until the pitlane is closed for FCY - that too only for safety reasons - which, in theory, is too little for a team to react and bring their driver into the pits.

"Hoping that I will be exactly at the pit lane entrance during the ten-second countdown is far too vague and too risky," he said.

However, he believes that the effects of the change in regulations were underestimated by the series. 

"I don't think it works the way it was intended," he said. "Especially on short circuits, the problem is that the race director can never time it so that everyone has driven past the pit lane exit. 

“It's even more difficult if he can't wait until he starts the countdown because a car is on fire or something. 

“If you're in the right position, you can make your mandatory pit stop and everyone else can't."

“There is no race at all”- Fritz

While until 2023 most of the grid was able to take advantage of a FCY phase, only one or two drivers benefitted from the new rule at Oschersleben this year. 

Describing the impact of the current rule as unfair, he said: “I thought last year's solution was even better. "At least that made for an exciting race, because 50 per cent were already in the pits and 50 per cent weren't yet. And at least there was still a race after the safety car. But now there is no race at all! 

“One or two are happy - if things go well, there might be three - and the rest are just victims.”

Tomczyk also took a critical view of the situation, saying: "Luck is part of it and a bit of variability is needed in motorsport, but it must not degenerate into sporting unfairness.

“If someone is right at the back of the field all weekend and leads the field by 40 seconds by chance, then that doesn't suit the DTM."

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