Three Lions – Wittmann leads home title favourites in tense Brands Hatch thriller
By the tiniest of margins, BMW’s Marco Wittmann (GER) took victory in the DTM’s opening race of the Brands Hatch weekend, ahead of Audi drivers René Rast (GER) and Nico Mueller (SUI).
The race teetered in several directions as each of the DTM’s three manufacturers battled for supremacy around the classic Kent circuit. Ultimately, Wittmann triumphed – by 0.3s – after Rast relentlessly chased him down on the final time, reducing the gap to the leader by five seconds.
Wittmann’s victory and pole position enabled him to narrow Rast’s championship points’ lead: Rast remains in the lead, with 178 points from Müller (151 points); Wittmann sits third, on 146 points after achieving the maximum of allocation 28 (25 for the win; 3 for pole) for the third time this year.
Audi’s Müller maintained his points-scoring consistency – collecting points in the 11th successive race. No other driver has managed to score in every race of 2019.
Elation, frustration, deflation: Di Resta leads, but is hit by penalty, retirement
Paul Di Resta, who won the Sunday race at Brands Hatch back in 2018, became an unlikely contender for victory on Saturday. From fourth on the grid, he made a perfect start to lead into Paddock Hill Bend. In fact, his start was deemed too perfect – race control awarded him a five-second pit-stop penalty after judging that he has jumped the start.
Before serving the penalty, however, the Scot led commandingly, pulling clear of the chasing Wittmann, and offering fans a tantalising glimpse at what might be possible once the R-Motorsport Aston Martin effort is fully refined. His afternoon ultimately went unrewarded when he was forced to retire with an engine issue late into the race.
Quotes – race one
“For the fans, this surely was a thrilling showdown, but from my perspective, victory was never under threat. Of course, my tyres degraded towards the end after we had come in early for our pit-stop – and the drivers coming up from behind had unlimited use of push-to-pass and DRS on the final laps of the race, unlike the leader. But, up until that point, I had nicely managed my margin. It was good to see Aston Martin leading the race in the early stages, my compliments to them.”
Marco Wittmann, winner
“I had hoped for some more laps! We predicted 43 laps, but it turned out to be 42 in the end. That probably was the one lap I was missing... Having stressed my tyres too much at Assen, I still had a bit of a margin here. It wasn’t to be. Nevertheless, I am happy with second place.”
René Rast, second place
“Today, we’re very happy with third place. After the difficult qualifying and only eighth place on the grid for us, a podium finish is a strong result. I couldn’t have done better. With an early stop, we probably opted for the right strategy. I was able to manage the tyres really well.”
Nico Mueller, third place