Auer: “I want to attain the next level”
Lucas Auer was one the positive factors on the 2017 DTM grid. For a long time, the 27-year old Tyrolean was one of the title contenders but on the home straight of the season, the Mercedes-AMG driver slightly lost the momentum. Nonetheless, ‘Luggi’ revealed in his conversation with DTM.com that he likes to look back on the 18 races of the season and his three wins. “It was a great season for me. Compared to 2016 I made a massive step forward and had a lot of cool moments. But there also were things I can learn from,” admitted Auer who virtually rocketed into the season by winning one of the Hockenheim races, finishing fourth in the other and claiming another win at the Lausitzring.
Auer scored 69 of his 136 points in the first four races of the season and in the following 14 rounds he failed to score seven times and added just another 67 points to his tally. “I had a fantastic start into the season – just incredible. In these races we were amazingly fast but we just weren’t able to repeat these performances later. We lacked the pace and in the middle as well as at the end of the season we also hadn’t the necessary luck. At the beginning we dominated the action but then we were passed by the competitors.” And – like every driver – he also made mistakes, every now and then. Such as the one in the Sunday race at the Nürburgring when he spun – without any other driver being involved – from third position onto the grass and consequently failed to score.
Nonetheless, Auer proved to be the best of the Mercedes drivers. DTM old hands, such as Robert Wickens (9th), Gary Paffett (10th) or Paul Di Resta (11th), were outperformed by the young Austrian. “Internally you have got the same material and the same preconditions. Your fellow Mercedes drivers can hark back to the same tools. While you can’t influence the performance of Audi and BMW. For me, this result is extremely important” said Auer who made consistent progress after having finished 23rd and 12th in the championship, in his first two years in DTM. But Auer remains greedy. “You mustn’t forget that this was my first year as Team HWA driver. Next year I want to make it to the next step. I am convinced that we will make progress when we get better used to one another. It definitely is my goal to attain the next level.”
Internally you have got the same material and the same preconditions. Your fellow Mercedes drivers can hark back to the same tools. While you can’t influence the performance of Audi and BMW.
Incidentally, Auer succeeded in performing a special feat that proved to be unique, in the multifaceted DTM season: for all the three races that were won by him (Hockenheim, Lausitzring, Nürburgring) he also secured the pole. “Standing at the very front makes things easier. The qualifying is of extreme importance in every motor-racing category. Afterwards you just have to make a good start and have to have the necessary pace – what is the case anyway as you wouldn’t have secured the pole, otherwise. When we were fast we more often than not also secured great results. There are a lot of situations we have to deliver in and these situations we delivered in fine style,” he said regarding his three lights-to-flag wins.
Despite these successes, none of them was the personal season highlight for Auer. At the only street circuit on the DTM calendar Auer experienced his most emotional moment. “The three wins were nice, the three poles were nice – but finishing second in the Sunday race at the Norisring was a very special moment. The race was super-cool and very exhausting. It featured a lot of overtaking manoeuvres and then it was temporarily red-flagged after the crash. I was absolutely at the limit and in the closing stages I had a cramp in my left foot. Should I choose a race it would be this one as I had to fight so hard for my second place.”
On the other hand, he was anything but amused that things ran poorly for him in his home races at Spielberg: he scored just meagre four points and consequently lost his chance of winning the title. Nonetheless, this weekend wasn’t the absolute low point in the season for Auer. “I’m not of this opinion. Spielberg certainly was a disastrous weekend for Mercedes. Things like this just happen. If something goes wrong a lot of things tend to also go wrong. It goes without saying that you are particularly motivated to shine when racing at home. But sometimes it just isn’t possible.”
Meanwhile, Auer maintains an extremely low profile when asked about a future in Formula One. Recently, speculations circulated saying that he might be signed as test driver for the 2018 season by Force India. “There’s nothing I have to say to these speculations. After the DTM meeting in Moscow I tested for them for the first time. The test was amazing, it was cool and it made a childhood dream come true. When it comes to the rest we just have to wait and see. Time will show.”