A tough duel for the DTM title: no presents were given between René Rast and Nico Müller in the 17th and penultimate race of the season at Hockenheim. They staged a nerve-wrecking duel for victory, in which Müller just came out on top against Rast, reducing the gap in the drivers’ standings to 13 points. Excitement, therefore, is at its peak going into the final race of the season on Sunday (start: 13.30, live on SAT.1 from 13.00). The situation: Rast is leading with 325 points from Müller with 312 points, can become champion by his own means in the race and defend his title. While Jamie Green (GBR) and Loïc Duval (FRA) completed the clean sweep of the top four for Audi by finishing third and fourth respectively, South African Jonathan Aberdein was the best-placed BMW driver in fifth. Dutchman Robin Frijns (Audi) finished seventh and therefore is no longer in contention for the title.
A duel from lights to flag: multiple lead changes, multiple contacts
Rast versus Müller – the duel was the main act throughout the Saturday. In chilly temperatures in the morning, Rast claimed his sixth pole position of the season. Müller was just a little bit slower and put his green-and-white Audi on the front row of the grid alongside Rast’s red-and-white car. The race was a hotly-contested affair. Both rivals battled fiercely throughout the distance, sometimes even with contact. Müller came out on top in the dash towards the first corner after the start, was alongside Rast and the two Audis tangled twice, forcing Rast to run wide, enabling Müller to take the lead. Cleverly executed tactical manoeuvres led to multiple lead changes, but also came along with further contact. The duel was hard, but remained largely fair.
Temporarily, it looked as if Jamie Green could come up to help his Audi Sport Team Rosberg teammate Rast. At least he closed up to the frontrunners. After the mandatory pit stop with tyre change, Rast briefly dropped back to fourth, but the 34-year-old quickly closed up to the rear end of Müller’s car again. Rast wanted to make a decisive move on the final lap but overlooked the pit board indicating the final lap and then, there was the chequered flag, without an opportunity for Rast to mount the challenge he had planned. The German was not only surprised but also annoyed. Müller, Rast, and Green crossed the finish line within one second from each other.
Two restarts after safety car interventions without surprises
The safety car had to be deployed twice. Right after the start, Marco Wittmann (GER, BMW), Robert Kubica (POL, BMW) and Harrison Newey (GBR, Audi) collided. For Wittmann and Newey, the race was already over in the first corner as a result. Later on, Timo Glock (GER, BMW) slid into the gravel trap, prompting another safety car intervention. The field bunched up for the mandatory double-file IndyCar style formation at the restart on both occasions, but there were no surprises.
Now, first of all, the focus is on the decision in the battle for the title on Sunday. Rast or Müller, that is the big question on Sunday afternoon (start 13.30, live on SAT.1 from 13.00).
» Quotes – race 1, Hockenheim
“That was a spectacular race! I knew that it was going to be close. My team has played a major role in this victory. The pit stop and the strategy were perfect. I have made good use of push-to-pass and DRS, but the situation could have changed quickly at any time, too. The result is perfect, I have made up seven points and anything can happen on Sunday!”
Nico Müller, Audi, winner
“I still have a 13 points’ margin, so from that perspective, everything is still okay after this race as well. That is the main thing. Towards the end, I was counting down the laps and I wanted to start the decisive attack on the final lap. Four, three, two, and then, the chequered flag was out already. I was surprised. I also went to see race control because of it, but they explained me that the lap is automatically displayed when the leader is crossing the finish line. I was probably too close and didn’t see the indication of the final lap. Anyway, my pace was good and finishing on the podium on Sunday is enough for me to seal the title.”
René Rast, Audi, 2nd place
“Being on the podium is always nice. The last time this happened was in the season opener. For a large part of the race, I was in a first class position and was able to watch the duel between René Rast and Nico Müller from up-close. I certainly didn’t want to crash the party of these two. In fact, I was just keeping an eye on the gap I had over the drivers behind me.”
Jamie Green, Audi, 3rd place
» Results – race 1, Hockenheim
01. Nico Müller (SUI), Audi RS 5 DTM, 36 laps in 1h 1m 1.045s
02. René Rast (GER), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 0.622s
03. Jamie Green (GBR), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 1.033s
04. Loïc Duval (FRA), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 4.960s
05. Jonathan Aberdein (RSA), BMW M4 DTM, 6.580s
06. Mike Rockenfeller (GER), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 6.611s
07. Robin Frijns (NED), Audi RS 5 DTM, + 6.727s
08. Robert Kubica (POL), BMW M4 DTM, + 8.668s
09. Philipp Eng (AUT), BMW M4 DTM, + 9.025s
10. Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), BMW M4 DTM, + 11.056s
Fastest lap: René Rast (GER), Audi RS 5 DTM, 1m 30.487s
Pole position: René Rast (GBR), Audi RS 5 DTM, 1m 28.405s
Weather conditions: 11°C, sunny
Track conditions: 19°C, dry surface