DTM 2019

DTM 2019 Driver Vote

DTM 2019 Driver Vote Jury

DTM 2019 Driver Vote Jury

The 2019 drivers’ points table tells us who was the best driver of the year, right? Tl;dr and all that…?

Er, in a way, yes – but it’s a rather stark barometer, and often fails to capture the complicated nuance of racecar driving – the effort, the ability, or the intelligence that underpins any elite athlete. Not to mention the failures, the no-scores and the retirements.

So, at the end of the year, in a bid to get a clearer picture of just how our sport rated its drivers, DTM.com asked every sporting director, every team principal and a handful of senior figures (see list above) to submit their personal top 10 driver ratings for the year.

Points were scored 10-1, with every voter submitting a personal top 10.

They were all assured their anonymity – not only to spare their blushes, but also to encourage them to put allegiance to one side and vote with honesty and integrity.

Their scores have enabled us to pull together a raw, unflinching and (hopefully) honest account of the driving talent on display in the DTM.

And the results may well surprise you…

1st René Rast (GER) 128pts

1st René Rast (GER) 128pts

1st René Rast (GER) 128pts

Audi Sport Team Rosberg #33

It’s difficult to identify any chinks in René Rast’s armoury. Like F1 great Alain Prost, Rast never actually looks quick – even though he’s invariably the quickest of them all. The German builds up his speed gradually – you’ll rarely see him drop in a standout time during free practice; but, like Prost and Michael Schumacher, he’s deeply analytical, assembling all the pieces until he’s able to bang in one, surprising, devastatingly quick lap.

Rast’s ability to nail qualifying accounted for no fewer than 35 of his championship points – a crucial cushion. More importantly, those strong grid positions helped him escape the chaos behind – while others struggled in traffic, or to make tyre strategies work, Rast could simply drive metronomically, safe in the knowledge that he would be banking a decent haul of points come the chequer.

It’s hard to pinpoint any weaknesses in Rast’s game. From the back (as at Hockenheim, where he was forced to sprint to catch the pack before the restart), you could always rely on him to charge through the pack; on set-up, his analytical brain could always well manage the compromises; on mental approach, he more than others was laid low by mechanical issues, but always bounced back stronger.

DTM boss Gerhard Berger has openly claimed that Rast could have enjoyed a career as a grand prix driver. Rast’s acceptance that he has missed that particular boat, and that his sole focus is on succeeding in DTM, earns him extra credit – he’s not distracted by the glitz that lies over the fence.

Is he the greatest DTM driver ever? It’s still too early in his career to say. But, at this rate, he’s certainly extremely well placed to pursue that particular accolade…

2nd Marco Wittmann (GER) 103pts

2nd Marco Wittmann (GER) 103pts

2nd Marco Wittmann (GER) 103pts

BMW Team RMG #11

If there were a defining turning point in Marco Wittmann’s season it occurred somewhere between Saturday’s and Sunday’s races at Brands Hatch back in the summer. The double champion had monstered the first race – from pole position. And that Brands win, and the formidable Assen weekend that had earned him a mighty 74 points, left him looking a distinct title contender.

But at Brands on Sunday, he started outside the top 10 and took home a solitary point in 10th. From claiming after Assen that he needed to straighten out the kinks in his consistency and regularly bank the points, he would score just 56 more all year.

While BMW’s performance fell off a cliff-edge – they failed to win again all year – there was nothing to criticise in Marco’s pace – quick in the dry, quick in the wet, he was just left driving in tighter and tighter circles as he fought off the increasingly rapid Audis.

His ranking here – one place above his championship finishing position – is a timely reminder that the German is still very much respected within the DTM paddock.

And if 2019 were a missed opportunity, it merely served to remind us all that Marco Wittmann is a formidable, complete racing driver – and will have also doubtless served to strengthen his resolve to take the fight to Rast in 2020.

And isn’t that something everyone wants to see?

3rd Nico Mueller (SUI) 95pts

3rd Nico Mueller (SUI) 95pts

3rd Nico Mueller (SUI) 95pts

Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline #51

If Nico Mueller were ultimately disappointed not to have pressed eventual champion René Rast harder for the 2019 title, he should still be enormously pleased by a hugely impressive season – on almost every count.

The amiable Swiss driver emerged as one of Rast’s biggest challengers largely by virtue of his consistency – scoring in all but one race, and only failing to finish outside the top 10 on just two occasions (by comparison, Rast also no-scored in one race, but made up with points from qualifying whenever he didn’t finish strongly).

Still, Nico pulled together a highly credible campaign – it was less the wins that stood out but the fact that he could somehow invariably claim a podium finish seemingly after qualifying anywhere in the top 10. That spoke volumes for his racecraft and efficient reading of a race.

There’s a feeling that, with the confidence of 2019 in the bank and with the wind behind him, he will be stronger still in 2020.

4th Philipp Eng (AUT) 54pts

4th Philipp Eng (AUT) 54pts

4th Philipp Eng (AUT) 54pts

BMW Team RMR #25

Veteran rocker Neil Young once sang “It’s better to burn out than fade away” – he probably wasn’t referring to Philipp Eng’s 2019 season when he wrote it, but he may well have been.

Eng’s second year in DTM began well: rewatch his incredible getaway from pole at Hockenheim and the Austrian looked in a different league to his rivals. After following that up with a (Safety Car-assisted) maiden victory at Zolder, and a hugely confident overtake of René Rast for runner-up spot at Misano, you’d have been convinced that this was the season in which he could challenge for the title.

But from those high points, there was largely little else to celebrate. As the Audi RS 5 DTM stretched its legs, Eng often became something of a bit-player, hoovering up a handful of points here and there but too often lost in the midfield melee as he battled to make the top 10.

His fourth place here (two positions ahead of his championship position) speak highly of his reputation in the paddock. He’ll be hoping for a more consistent ride in 2020.

5th Robin Frijns (NED) 47pts

5th Robin Frijns (NED) 47pts

5th Robin Frijns (NED) 47pts

Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline #4

Dovetailing his DTM drive with a ride in Formula E (with Envision Virgin Racing), the ultra-laidback Dutchman showcased his abilities as a great all-rounder, taking two victories in the electric series but, in his second DTM season, still failing to bag that elusive win.

Frijns often bemoaned his poor fortune: there’s an element of truth to that – he failed to finish in four of the first nine races – but he also never quite had the sheer pace to manhandle his way to the fore when he had an opportunity to score big points.

That’s not to say he wasn’t quick: he picked up a handful of podiums in the opening round, and was knocking on the door of victory all year long – but luck, or whatever else you might wish to believe in, never quite came his way.

Nonetheless, a couple of great, fired-up drives at the end of the season (at Lausitzring and Nürburgring) show that he’s more than capable of taking wins in DTM.

6th Mike Rockenfeller (GER) 42pts

6th Mike Rockenfeller (GER) 42pts

6th Mike Rockenfeller (GER) 42pts

Audi Sport Team Phoenix #99

Like Aberdein, Mike Rockenfeller’s 2019 campaign was characterised more by stealth than by outright take-your-breath-away pace – and that includes his race-winning performance at Assen!

The 2013 DTM champion’s campaign kicked off strongly, with a runner-up spot in the opening race, but then he largely disappeared, his season only really gathering pace again after that mid-year win at Assen, where he managed the tyre-wear and stroked his car home to a faultless victory.

If the German was never ultimately up front, he was usually there or thereabouts, somehow frustratingly lacking the final few tenths of lap-time needed to transform his race afternoon from a defensive outing into an attacking one.

Like Loïc Duval, his performance in November’s non-championship Dream Race at Fuji showed that he can still find plenty of pace.

 7th Jonathan Aberdein (RSA) 35pts

7th Jonathan Aberdein (RSA) 35pts

7th Jonathan Aberdein (RSA) 35pts

WRT Team Audi Sport

The young South African was so understated that it was sometimes easy to miss his standout performances – of which there were plenty. Unlike countryman Sheldon van der Linde, Aberdein’s speed crept up on you more gradually: he spent the opening races bedding himself in with DTM newcomers WRT, but by round three at Misano, he was as quick as anyone.

In Italy, he started from P2 and P3, earning top 10 finishes in both races, then he followed it up with further front-row starts in Assen and the Lausitzring, and top-four finishes in the Netherlands and at the Nürburgring.

A quick, tidy and efficient racer – he’s never going to win kudos as a showman, but he quietly gets the job done and can certainly bring the points home on a regular basis.

8th Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) 35pts

8th Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) 35pts

8th Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) 35pts

BMW Team RBM #31

Jenson Button’s labelling of the young South African as ‘the dirtiest driver he’d ever seen’ after their on-track encounter at Hockenheim was an unfair slight on the BMW rookie, who consistently flattered his machinery and pulled off some genuinely giant-killing performances during the year.

Central to that theory was his sensational pole at Zolder – only his fourth ever DTM race. If he couldn’t quite hold a candle to eventual winner René Rast, the youngster remained in contention until the closing laps, when fading tyres saw him drop to a still respectable fifth.

That initially impressive pace gradually slackened off as the BMW challenge to Audi faltered, but van der Linde was still able to flatter his machinery, regularly hauling his BMW DTM M4 into the top 10. Quick in the wet, quick in the dry, and always ready to stick it to his rivals.

Genuinely quick, and still only 20. A real find.

9th Jamie Green (GBR) 24pts

9th Jamie Green (GBR) 24pts

9th Jamie Green (GBR) 24pts

Audi Team Rosberg #53

As an avid football fan, Green will surely appreciate the notion of his season being a game of two halves. After a barren (and, to be frank, disappointing) 2018 season, Green badly needed to get back on the horse. Missing the Misano race – due to appendicitis surgery – didn’t help his momentum, but it was his failure to wrestle the max from his car during qualifying that affected him most.

Benchmarked against the season’s pacesetter Rast, Green lacked the certain something needed to pull out a quick lap when it truly counted. That said, he could invariably piece together a strong race – albeit one hampered by poor starting positions.

His much-needed podium finish at Zolder was proof that he could race as hard as anybody, but it was his string of strong results at the end of the year – pole at Lausitzring, the DTM’s 500th race, and pole and victory at the Nürburgring – that showed that the pace, and the confidence, are very much still there.

10th Jake Dennis (GBR) 23pts

10th Jake Dennis (GBR) 23pts

10th Jake Dennis (GBR) 23pts

R-Motorsport Aston Martin #76

While not its highest points-scoring driver, the young Brit was arguably the standout figure of the new R-Motorsport Aston Martin squad. Like all the Aston drivers, Dennis’ season was undermined by a season-long lack of reliability – but whenever he got an opportunity, he grabbed it with both hands.

Fast and fearless, Dennis was never afraid to get stuck in – his fiery drive at Zolder saw him take advantage of a chaotic, tyre-influenced race to claim sixth, and his eighth place in the Hockenheim finale was earned with an almost-gleeful zeal to keep faster cars behind him at bay while he wrestled with his slippery car in the slippery conditions. An exemplary graduate of the ‘school of send’.

Committed to GT and sports car racing, he has a long and successful career ahead of him.

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