Rene Rast dominated the race and scored a lights-to-flag victory, while his rival Nico Mueller lost ground in the championship. BMW’s Bruno Spengler and Marco Wittmann finish on the podium.
The start of today’s race might have been the title-deciding moment. As the lights went out, it seemed like Mueller had a better start from third than Rast from pole position. Though, good as it looked, it turned out to be a jump start, gaining Mueller a drive-through penalty. Taking his penalty on lap three, he had to try something to make up ground, so he pitted very early hoping for a Safety Car. That didn’t happen and eventually, he had to stop another time as he started to struggle with his tyres in the final stages of the race. He crossed the line in sixteenth. “The jump start was clearly my own fault”, Mueller commented. “The lights were red for a long time. I only had the choice between stalling the engine or driving off.”
Rene Rast though had a perfect day. A good and clean start and he kept the lead. “That was a perfect day”, Rast said after the race. “The car, the strategy, the pit stops: everything today was just perfect. A big ‘well done’ goes to my team that has been doing an outstanding job so far this weekend. That was an important step toward the championship title today.”
Mike Rockenfeller, who started fourth, passed Bruno Spengler at the start. After Mueller served his drive-through, the Phoenix Racing driver took second place. On lap 17 both Rast and Rockenfeller visited the pits for their mandatory pitstop. The gap between the pair wasn’t huge when they rejoined the track, but Rockenfeller couldn’t get close enough to think about passing the 2017 champion. Rockenfeller was later forced to retire his car because of a suspected engine issue. A big shame as he was running second. This isn’t the first retirement this year while running in a good position. He’s still aiming to finish third in the championship.
“It could have been a really good Saturday.”, is what Rocky commented after the race. “The whole weekend was quite positive. I think we had a strong race pace. At the time I had the failure I was catching Rene in the front. I think we had a shot today to win the race. It was a really good feeling until then when the car broke down. But that happens; it’s racing. The engine should be okay. We changed a part and tomorrow we go for it again.”
Rockenfeller’s retirement meant that Rast’s advantage over Spengler was a solid 15 seconds. In the end, Spengler crossed the line 10.7 seconds behind the Audi driver and made his second appearance on the podium this year after his Norisring victory. Marco Wittmann finished third after starting from eleventh on the grid. After he made his stop, he was ahead of Spengler. However, as he ran wide in the Mercedes Arena section on his out-lap, Spengler could pass him and managed to keep the gap around five seconds. Theoretically, Wittmann still has a chance to win the championship. “I’m happy with the race – particularly as we have worked our way up from 11th to third place without any assistance – just our own pace, our own strategy.”
We saw some incredible fights between drivers for fourth, fifth and sixth. These battles almost lasted the entire race. None of the places were decided for certain until the drivers crossed the line. Jonathan Aberdein took an impressive fourth place. The 21-years old South African racing for Audi’s customer team WRT now sits tenth in the championship standings – best of the five rookies this season. Jamie Green thought he would finish fifth, but got passed by Loic Duval after a spectacular move in the final corner of the final lap.
Sheldon van der Linde started off pretty well and was also involved in these battles. For a long time, he was fighting with Aberdein and Duval for fifth but then dropped back a little. Eventually, he finished seventh ahead of his BMW teammates Joel Eriksson and Timo Glock. Robin Frijns suffered a bad start and saw pretty much the whole field go past him. He recovered well and in the end finished tenth, taking the final point.
Daniel Juncadella just missed out on the final point and finished eleventh, best of the R-Motorsport drivers. He was followed by Ferdinand Habsburg and Paul di Resta. Unfortunately, the fourth Aston Martin didn’t make it to the finish. Jake Dennis retired at the same time as Rockenfeller. “Not a great race. Obviously, we got another failure.” He commented after his race was over. “I’m pretty disappointed.”
Before today’s race, Rast had a 22-point lead over Mueller. However, after Mueller did not score any points today and Rast adding another 25, the gap between the two is now 47 points. With three more races to go, there is a possibility that the championship will be decided tomorrow if Rast scores nine points more than Mueller does.
Tomorrow’s qualifying will start at 10.25 local time (09.25 UK time) and the race as usual at 13.30 local time (12.30 UK time).