Mercedes-Benz celebrates one-two-three
The winner of the 2005 DTM season’s first round is Jean Alesi. For the French Mercedes-Benz driver, today’s victory represents his second DTM triumph at the Hockenheimring as he also succeeded in winning here, back in 2003. Following the turbulent race, the former Formula One ace was accompanied on the podium by his brand-mates, Gary Paffett (runner-up) and Bernd Schneider (third), with reigning champion Christian Ekström (Audi A4 DTM) finishing fifth behind his team-mate Christian Abt. While Marcel Fässler (Vectra GTS V8), the best Opel driver, secured ninth place.
In addition to the ten points for winning the season opener, there will be an additional ‘reward’ Alesi and his brand-mates will have to cope with in the forthcoming DTM round, at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz: ten kilos ballast weight. From this season, all 2005 spec cars of the winning brand will have to take this ballast weight aboard for the following race. Whereas Opel as third placed make may reduce the weight of its cars by ten kilos.
The season opener turned out to be exactly what the 116,000 spectators had hoped for, with the 20 drivers entertaining the crowds with thrilling battles and great overtaking manoeuvres. Following a first-corner pile-up, Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen (both Audi A4 DTM) and Laurent Aiello (Opel Vectra GTS) had to retire. In the course of the race, Gary Paffett, Marcel Fässler and the reigning champion, Mattias Ekström, were involved in several thrilling battles with one another. Whereas four-time DTM Champion Bernd Schneider was penalised with a drive-thru penalty for a jump-start, thus losing valuable seconds.
In his maiden DTM race, two-time Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen secured eighth place and his first DTM point. Allan McNish (Audi) came eleventh, and Opel’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen collided with the AMG-Mercedes C-Class of DTM rookie Alexandros Margaritis. Later in the race, the German spun and returned to the box to retire.
The top-three positions in the overall rankings are held by three Mercedes-Benz drivers: Jean Alesi (10 points), Gary Paffett (8) and Bernd Schneider (6). Christian Abt was rewarded with five championship points for his fifth place while Ekström had to make do with four points.
Race quotesJean Alesi (Winner, AMG-Mercedes): “This has been a fantastic weekend. The performance of the entire Mercedes-Benz squad was just outstanding. The hard work executed in the past weeks and months has paid off. It felt just great to be back on the highest step of the podium. Now I’ve proven that I’ve still got what it needs to win. I’m impressed that there was such a huge crowd in spite of the mixed conditions. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic.“
Gary Paffett (2nd place, DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG Mercedes): “I made a perfect chance and passed Ekström. I expected an easy race, but a short time after the re-start, my door opened, thus considerably hampering my car’s performance. Particularly in the fast corners, where I was hampered by massive oversteer. What could have been possible without this problem?“
Bernd Schneider (3rd place, Vodafone AMG-Mercedes): “At the start, I rolled a little bit forward but stopped at once. Yet, I was penalised with a drive-thru penalty what was okay as that’s what the regulations say. But the great strategy of my team with one long and one short stint helped me to make up a lot of the lost ground.”
Christian Abt (4th place, Audi Sport Team Joest Racing): “This has been an extremely tough race. I have given my very best and pushed until I crossed the finish line. The car was perfect and the team worked fine. The battle of Ekström, Paffett and Green helped me to close the gap. At the end of the day, this has been a great result for a 2004 spec car.”
Marcel Fässler (9th place, Opel): “In the early stages, I had a great race and could match the pace of the leaders. After my second pit stop, I gained on Bruno Spengler and was pushed on the grass. Following this incident, my tyres were completely ruined.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Director Norbert Haug: “Today, our cars proved to enjoy an advantage over the race distance. To have six point scoring cars is a truly rare situation, therefore, this has been a special day for us. The strategy for Jean paid off as the tyre’s performed on a high level for a long time and the car worked fine from the start to the finish
Audi Motorsport Director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “I’m delighted with Christian Abt’s well deserved result. He delivered an inspired race and made no mistakes at all. Unfortunately, five of our cars were forced into early retirements. The battles between Ekström, Fässler and Paffett were great motor racing indeed, but at the same time they offered the field the opportunity of closing the gap.”
Opel Motorsport Director Volker Strycek: “Marcel Fässler delivered in fine style. We could match the pace of the leaders. Unfortunately, Marcel spun, thus destroying his fresh set of tyres. Therefore, our strategy – to push in the closing stages – didn’t work. But we are buoyed by the fact that Marcel made it to the second row on the grid.”