Rast, Rosenqvist and Ocon – the three rookies in the 2016 season
One title seemed to have been won before the 2016 season had been started: the rookie of the year title. After all, Esteban Ocon was the only new face on the 2016 DTM grid. But at the end of the day, the young Frenchman shouldn’t be the only rookie in 2016. Actually, Ocon had to cope with third position in the rookie ranking. While the unofficial title was secured by René Rast who defeated Felix Rosenqvist and Ocon with just three race appearances. DTM.com looks back on the performances of the three rookies in the 2016 season.
Esteban Ocon (two points / 10 races): When was signed for the Mercedes-AMG race seat that had become available due to Pascal Wehrlein’s switch to Formula One, the 19-year old set himself ambitious goals. After all, the 19-year old had been the rookie of the year in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and the GP3 series, in the previous two seasons. “I always was a rookie and was successful, nevertheless,” he said prior to the season kick-off at Hockenheim. Therefore, I will try to also be a factor in the battle for the top positions this weekend.” And he did so in the qualifying sessions by 7th and 12th respectively. In the races, however, he had to encounter how hard life can be in DTM: due to accidents he completed just three laps. At Spielberg he made it to the finish line in both races but encountered – like his fellow Mercedes-AMG drivers – a difficult weekend. “Unfortunately, our pace wasn’t good enough, there. Afterwards, working your way up proved to be difficult as we weren’t fast enough for overtaking,” revealed Ocon who finished 20th and 18th. At both the Lausitzring and the Norisring the Frenchman wasn’t able to tie in with his former impressive qualifying results and so, the races also didn’t offer him the opportunity to shine and score his first points. At the Norisring he retired early from race one and on Sunday he secured his best race result to date by finishing 13th. The Zandvoort weekend, however, went clearly better for Ocon. He was seventh and eighth on the grid for the two races and on Saturday he scored his first DTM points by finishing ninth. While he dropped back to 17th on Sunday. “Having finally scored my first points feels great,” he said. “After all the bad luck we had to cope with so far this feels like a second season kick-off.” Just a few days later, these words got a completely new meaning as Ocon was signed as F1 GP driver and team-mate of Pascal Wehrlein, after 10 DTM races.
Felix Rosenqvist (5 points / 8 races): Consequently, Felix Rosenqvist was offered the opportunity to demonstrate his skills at Moscow. In 2015, the Swede followed Ocon’s footsteps as Formula 3 European Champion and since then he has been – inter alia – Mercedes-AMG reserve driver. In the most difficult weather conditions, Rosenqvist delivered in truly impressive style. On the wet track he secured ninth position on the grid for the Saturday race and in the torrential rain that fell during the race he defied well established DTM aces such as Jamie Green, Timo Glock and Edoardo Mortara to finish 10 and score his first point in his first DTM race. “For some weird reasons I feel safer in these conditions than on a dry track,” Rosenqvist revealed after his debut race. “I was confirmed in my assessment that DTM is one of the planet’s most hard-fought series. When the conditions are better, with a dry track, I certainly will have more difficulties than I had today.” And he was right. In the Sunday qualifying session he impressed once again by finishing 13th but in the race he dropped back to 20th. Nonetheless, the Swede had convinced his employer after he had contested the Moscow race meeting on probation. At the Nürburgring he once again impressed with great qualifying performances (7th and 12th) but didn’t make it to the points in the races. At Budapest he qualified ninth for the Saturday grid to finish eight in the race – thus being the best Mercedes-AMG driver. “I get on better race by race,” Rosenqvist said after the race. He didn’t make it to the points in the final three races of the season but in his four race meetings he provided a lot of arguments why he should be signed as DTM regular for the 2017 season.
René Rast (8 points / 3 races): The same also applies to Audi reserve driver René Rast. He made his extremely surprising DTM debut at Zandvoort. Adrien Tambay suffered a hand injury in a first-corner collision with Maximilian Götz and Rast hat to travel to the Netherlands overnight. But although he had just a cup of sleep he did well, qualified 22nd and finished 18th. And in the season finale at Hockenheim, Rast demonstrated his full potential. As Mattias Ekström successfully fought in Buxtehude for the World Rallycross Championship title, Rast replaced the Swede to contest his first DTM weekend with proper preparation. He was among the fastest in the practice sessions, qualified 11th on Saturday and worked his way up to finish sixth in the race. And although he didn’t make it to the top 10 on Sunday, he massively impressed the entire paddock, in his first full DTM race meeting. “I always had the goal to be a DTM driver, some day,” said Rast. “Now it’s up to Audi to decide if they want to sign me as DTM regular or not.”