After dominating yesterday’s practice sessions, Audi continued their top form with a pole position for Nico Müller and a race win for Rene Rast.
Saturday’s qualifying session cemented Audi’s position as the most dominant manufacturer as Nico Mueller took his second career pole. The Swiss driver continues where he left off, following his race win in Misano. He set his time – a 46.337s – during his first stint. This follows the pattern from previous qualifying sessions – most times good enough for pole are set in the first stint. It’s not just a pole time for Müller however, his time beats previous Norisring track records.
No one could match Mueller’s time during the second half of the session. Qualifying proves to be a challenge at this circuit. Because it is such a short track, traffic becomes a key factor as Rene Rast found out.
Filling out the first three rows on the grid with Müller are Philipp Eng, Loic Duval, Bruno Spengler, Rene Rast, and Joel Eriksson. Aston Martin’s best placed driver was Daniel Juncadella in 13th.
After qualifying, the stewards handed out some penalties. A bitter blow came for Audi Sport Team Phoenix following yesterday’s success. Both of their drivers were excluded from the qualifying session as the team worked on the cars in Parc Ferme. They lose their starting positions – Duval third and Mike Rockenfeller eighth – and will have to start from the back of the grid. Philipp Eng also received a three-place grid drop, which means he will have to start from fifth.
When it came to the race, Müller got off the line well and held his first position. The same couldn’t be said for Rene Rast however. He stalled his engine and dropped back to the very back of the field. It looked like it was game over for Rast.
Strategy is always a key part of a good race, and proved to be the saving grace for Rast. Pietro Fittipaldi came to a stop following earlier damage, bringing out a safety car. Rast, along with Aston Martin drivers Daniel Juncadella and Jake Dennis pitted at the perfect time and maximised the advantage from the safety car.
After pitting on lap 30, pole man Mueller rejoined the track in seventh, while Rast inherited the lead. Rast proved to be unstoppable however, and the Audi driver took the win. Müller seemed very strong in the final stages of the race, making up enough place to eventually finish second. Finishing off the podium was BMW’s Joel Eriksson, who started from fifth.
There are three more BMWs in the top ten – Spengler, Eng, and Marco Wittmann in fifth, seventh, and eighth. Timo Glock didn’t finish the race as he got spun around by his teammate Sheldon van der Linde causing both of them to retire.
Loic Duval was another man who had an excellent race. Despite his exclusion from qualifying and starting from the back of the pack, he drove well and utilised a good strategy to grab fourth place. His teammate Rockenfeller was less lucky as he had to retire his car in lap 26.
Daniel Juncadella used the same strategy as Rast. He was running on podium positions for a long time, but in the end, finished sixth. Something he and his team can be very happy about though as it’s their best result so far. Two more Aston Martin drivers finished in the points – Jake Dennis and Ferdinand Habsburg in ninth and tenth.
Tomorrow’s qualifying will start at 10.35 local time (09.35 UK time) and the race at 13.33 local time (12.33 UK time).
We then can look at the championship standings again. For now, Rast is leading from Mueller and Eng.