First answers to many questions – DTM season opener beckons
Conditions could hardly be any better: the DTM season opener at the Hockenheimring will be taking place in bright sunshine. Spirits were upbeat also for Timo Glock, Gary Paffett and Jamie Green during the opening press conference on Friday afternoon: anticipation for the first races of the year 2016 could be clearly identified in the faces of the three DTM drivers. The situation could hardly be more thrilling: “I wouldn’t be putting my money on anyone,” Paffett answered when asked about his favourite. It is the extremely close competition that is making the season opener at Hockenheim to such a thrilling affair, and that little bit of uncertainty about where everybody really is in terms of performance. Everything seems possible, and not just during this weekend. Green: “You just have to look at the past two years. In their title-winning years, Marco Wittmann and Pascal Wehrlein were not quite considered to be the favourites. I have been around for a long time and there is one thing I have learned: anyone can become champion here.”
Glock also knows that the battle for the winners’ trophy is more open than in hardly any other series worldwide, but is still considering the experienced drivers to have a little advantage. “During testing, I found out once again. You get back into the car after a long time and you notice that the feeling for the car slightly disappeared over the winter,” said Glock, who made the transition from Formula 1 to the DTM in 2013. “It simply is a huge step and I will certainly be needing a couple more years before I don’t have such difficulties anymore. Over and over again, I can get it together in single races, but for me, the consistency that the likes of Mattias Ekström, Gary Paffett, Jamie Green or Bruno Spengler have, simply is still lacking. In a series in which thousandths of a second decide about victory or defeat, this consistency is of utmost significance. I am working hard to make the next step into this direction.”
After an intense preparation, for Jamie Green, the DTM briefly wasn’t in the centre of his attention five days prior to the opening round. On Monday, the Brit welcomed his third child. “The birth could have happened this weekend, so I am very happy that my daughter was born earlier. A really beautiful moment for me and my wife, becase, after our two sons, we really wanted a daughter,” says Green, who is now hoping for more after having become runner-up with four race victories in the previous season. “I always want to get the best out of myself. That is my aim as an athlete. And then, it doesn’t matter whether media are calling me the favourite. For me, the pressure is the same. Comments may be positive or negative, it is always better not to let them get to you.”
Paffett, too, is a father of three. He doesn’t believe that his role as a father affects his performance in the car. “Certainly, the birth of my sons made me a better person. But all private aspects are blacked out when on track as that is the only way to be successful. I am taking the same risks as before,” Paffett says. In 2016, he will be taking these risks with a new car. All the Mercedes-Benz drivers will be competing with a new silhouette while all other elements of the car are the same as in the previous year due to the frozen regulations. “That really was a hard winter. We had a lot of work to adapt the set-up to the new design to be able to use the full performance we had last year,” says Paffett, who nevertheless hopes to be one of the title contenders. “You always have to take Eki into account. The same can be said for Jamie, especially after the season he had last year, and then there are many others, and hopefully, I am one of them.”
From tomorrow, Saturday, there is no more room for guesses, because the drivers will respond to all the speculations on the track. After the free practice sessions on Friday afternoon (17.00 till 17.30 hrs) and on Saturday morning (11.20-11.50 hrs), the first qualifying of the year is on. From 13.50 till 14.10 hrs, the starting grid positions for the 40 minutes’ season-opening race at 16.00 hrs will be determined.