Audi's Mattias Ekstrom won Race 2 of the DTM season opener at Hockenheim, twice losing his lead but keeping his cool in changing conditions to regain the top spot.
Following yesterday’s 40-minute sprint race, in the new-for-2015 format Sunday’s event is a one-hour affair with a mandatory pitstop.
Starting from pole on a bone-dry track after a thrilling wet-but-drying qualifying session, Mike Rockenfeller was jumped by Ekstrom into Turn 1.
BMW's Marco Wittmann had a clear run through the first corner and tried an outside attack at Turn 2 and grabbed second place, as Rockenfeller fell to third.
The ultra-aggressive Wittmann then lunged past Ekstrom with a borderline move for the lead at the Spitzkehre hairpin, while Edoardo Mortara nipped past Rockenfeller for third.
Miguel Molina, who had qualified second but had a three-place grid drop after spinning out Antonio Felix da Costa in Race 1, dropped back from his P5 spot behind Martin Tomczyk, da Costa and the leading Mercedes of Robert Wickens.
Ekstrom tagged the tail of leader Wittmann at the hairpin on lap three, and repassed Wittmann a lap later in the Mercedes Arena, and escaped from DRS range by lap eight.
Tomczyk passed Rockenfeller at the hairpin, as Mortara attacked Wittmann for second, passing him on the Parabolika sweeper with DRS on lap nine. Ekstrom was 2.1s clear at this point.
Molina had passed Wickens for seventh at the hairpin on lap six, then set about da Costa, with whom he’d clashed the day before, moving past on lap nine.
Rain turns race on its head
Rain arrived on lap 10, Wittmann losing third to Tomczyk when he slithered off at Turn 2. Mortara had also run off the track, retaining second, but now had Tomczyk right on his tail so he pitted for wets, along with Wittmann.
Ekstrom was struggling to communicate with his team, as his radio messages were distorted, but pitted on lap 13, followed by Tomczyk and Rockenfeller.
Mortara’s extra lap on wets gave him the lead, as Ekstrom rejoined just ahead of Wittmann.
Molina stayed out to lead on slicks ahead of da Costa and Timo Scheider, but the rain intensified, so the leaders who had pitted had caught them by the time they went for wets too.
Mortara’s lead over Ekstrom, which was 2s, tumbled as the race approached its halfway point, and the Swede made a decisive before Spitzkehre on lap 17. He would pull away thereafter, winning by 7.3s despite worsening weather conditions.
Wittmann gained third place from Tomczyk courtesy of pitting a lap sooner, but Tomczyk repassed him at the hairpin on lap 23.
Paffett: the star of the race
The star of the race was Gary Paffett, who was relegated to the back of the grid after not running with the rear wing spacer that prevents DRS use. Paffett charged through, taking full advantage of the rain – likely running a wet setup – to rise to eighth place by half distance.
He was allowed up to seventh by Wickens on lap 18 to regain his mantle as top Mercedes driver, then attacked Bruno Spengler’s BMW for sixth. After a nudge at the hairpin, Paffett barged his way past with a thump at Turn 2 on lap 21.
Paffett passed Rockenfeller for fifth in the Mercedes Arena on lap 23, then Wittmann at Turn 2 a lap later.
Paffett then caught his assailant from Saturday, Tomczyk, in the closing stages. He passed him for third with a graceful round-the-outside move at the hairpin with 10 minutes remaining.
Wickens and Spenger had an entertaining duel over seventh, settled at Turn 2 with a couple of laps to go, with Pascal Wehrlein also passing Spengler before the finish.
The fight that needed to be resolved in the final laps was between Wittmann, Rockenfeller and Wickens for fifth. Rockenfeller briefly passed Wittmann at the hairpin, but the BMW man repassed on the exit.
Yesterday’s winner Jamie Green started down in 17th, and rose into the top 10 by half distance but then slipped well back as the rain intensified.
Other frontrunners from yesterday, Nico Muller and Paul di Resta, got together and spun at Turn 2, di Resta complaining of a lack of grip from his wet tyres.
|20||Antonio Felix da Costa||BMW||1h04m05.434||1m21.578|
|22||Paul Di Resta||Mercedes||1h04m18.013||1m34.157|