DTM

DTM: Nico Mueller wins final race of the 2019 season to become vice-champion

Feature Image Credit: Audi Media Center

Nico Mueller ends the season on a high at a very wet Hockenheimring. Torrential conditions and a red flag caused a little delay, but even that couldn’t stop him from taking the victory.

Continuing on from his fortunes in this morning’s qualifying session, things ran well for Nico Mueller as soon as the green flag dropped. The Swiss Audi Abt Sportsline driver made an excellent start and swiftly created himself a gap at the front. Behind him, Mike Rockenfeller and Rene Rast made up a few positions as well, jumping to second and third respectively. When the pack went through the Parabolika turn for the first time, the action heated up as cars ran four-wide. Rast got around the outside of Timo Glock, Marco Wittmann and Rockenfeller and managed to get past Rockenfeller.

A few corners later, Jonathan Aberdein and Nick Cassidy’s Lexus slightly touched, causing the SUPER GT guest to spin. The race was neutralised and a safety car was brought out on the track. Daniel Juncadella stopped on the side of the track as his car caught fire, prompting the stewards to bring out the red flag. A disappointing start of the final race for Aston Martin, as fellow R-Motorsport driver Paul di Resta didn’t even manage to start the race. The Scotsman came to a halt on the second of two formation laps, after a suspected engine issue.

At the restart, it was Mueller leading from Rast and Rockenfeller. But soon, Rast closed the gap to the leader and even though Mueller defended, it wasn’t enough to hold off the champion. Philipp Eng and Pietro Fittipaldi both were handed a drive-through penalty, as team members were still on the grid during the red flag period when the three-minute warning is given.

On the fifth lap of the race, the majority of the field came in to make their pitstops, including Rockenfeller, Wittmann, Glock and Aberdein. When they returned to the track, Wittmann received a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release, having almost collided with WRT’s Aberdein. One lap later, Mueller and Duval came in. Mueller suffered a slow stop which allowed Rast to stay in front of his main rival following his stop on lap seven.

Image Credit: Audi Media Center

Not for long though, as Rast had to defend from Mueller while still being on cold tyres. The 2019 champion slipped wide at Turn 10, resulting in Mueller re-gaining the lead. Rast was seemingly struggling and Rockenfeller took advantage of it. The Audi Team Phoenix driver was back in the second position. Now also Glock started pressuring Rast, but he managed to keep the German BMW driver behind.

In the final stages of the race, Rast regained his pace and was clocking fastest laps. He tried to close the gap to Rockenfeller in second but never got close enough. Jamie Green and Joel Eriksson waited until lap 26 to make their mandatory pitstop. Mueller crossed the finish line in first, having led for almost all of the race and took his third victory of the year. Also, he’s the only driver to finish every race this season. He may not have had a perfect season, but he’s been consistent throughout the year. After a long battle with Rast for the title, he is now crowned the 2019 vice-champion, his best result so far in his career.

“Today for me personally was very important,” the Swiss driver commented. “To end this season on a high, especially after Nürburgring and yesterday. It is what I wished for and what we worked for very hard.” He continued: “I didn’t put the foot wrong and I’m very, very pleased to seal the vice-championship like that. The way we lost the title battle was not the way that I wished for at all. I knew it was going to be tough but to lose it the way we lost it that hurt a lot. It kind of makes up a bit for that, to seal the vice-championship with a win today.”

Image Credit: BMW Motorsport Twitter

Rockenfeller crossed the line in second, finishing 4.6 seconds ahead of the two-time champion Rast. Behind them, the battle was still on. Green re-joined the track after his late pitstop in fourth position, with Glock close behind. It took the German BMW driver a few corners to pass him. So, he ended fourth as best-placed BMW. Joel Eriksson finished sixth ahead of Dutchman Robin Frijns.

Jake Dennis finished eighth as the highest-placed Aston Martin driver. This is also the first time he has scored in both races of a weekend. His teammate Ferdinand Habsburg just missed out on points as he crossed the line in eleventh. Bruno Spengler and Loic Duval rounded out the top ten. After his good start, it looked like Wittmann could fight with the Audi’s for a podium position. But thanks to his penalty, the best he could manage was 12th.

Another difficult race for the Japanese SUPER GT guests. After qualifying surprisingly high in sixth place for yesterday’s race, ex-Formula 1 champion Jenson Button crossed the line in 16th place, saying it was a ‘tough day’. Ronnie Quintarelli finished 17th, after pitting two times as his stop under the Safety Car phase didn’t count as mandatory.

“With the dry tyres, we can get them in a working window. But the wets we can’t. Obviously, it’s very difficult for us as drivers coming and using a tyre that is so much harder than we’re used to. But, you learn to adapt. I think we did as drivers, but the cars didn’t. So, we tried everything but we just couldn’t switch the tyres on. We were running 2 or 3 seconds slower than these guys. It was a tough day.”

That was it from the 2019 DTM season, the new turbo-era and fastest DTM ever. There has been some exciting races and a close battle for the championship. Even though Mueller has probably been the most consistent, Rast scored more wins. The German entered the series in 2017 and won the title straight away. This year, he won for the second time – an impressive feat. Audi Sport won the manufacturers’ championship, and Team Rosberg the teams’ tile. That’s not quite it for DTM action though, as we can look forward to one more race weekend this year – the Fuji SUPER GT x DTM ‘Dream Race’ from 23 to 24 November.

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