Drivers got a first impression of the track earlier this morning in a damp practice session. Audi dominated the first qualifying of the season with Robin Frijns claiming pole position.
The day started with a 45 minute practice session on a damp and drying track, typical Eiffel weather. As the track was drying, we saw quite a few improvement early on in the session. Thirty minutes into the session, it was Rast who was on top with a 2:26.735. Then, with 10 minutes to go, Ferdinand Habsburg crashed into the barriers, damaging the front of his car and bringing out the red flags. When the session resumed, there were just five minutes left. Audi’s Nico Mueller ended the session in first place with teammate Robin Frijns close behind. Best-placed BMW was Marco Wittmann in third.
Moving on to qualifying. For this season, push to pass and DRS are not only allowed during the race, but in qualifying as well.
After the first runs in the session, Mueller was on top of the standings with a 2:06.353. Followed closely by his Audi team mates Loic Duval and Rene Rast. In the second half of qualifying, more improvements came and Rast took over the lead – he was the first driver to break the 2:06 barrier. Rast wasn’t in the lead for long though, as Mueller improved again and took provisional pole. In the final minute of the session, it was Dutchman Frijns who took pole position with a time of 2:05.625. It’s his maiden DTM pole as he enters his third season in the series.
Audi dominated the session, as Frijns was followed by Mueller, Rast and Mike Rockenfeller in fourth. Best-placed BMW driver is the South-African Sheldon van der Linde in fifth, with a gap of 0.617 seconds to Frijns. Timo Glock ended the session in sixth, Audi’s Duval in seventh. The pair are followed by another BMW trio – Marco Wittmann, Lucas Auer and Philipp Eng.
Jamie Green finished the session in 11th, meaning he was the slowest of the Audi factory drivers. He will start ahead of WRT’s rookie Fabio Scherer and BMW’s Jonathan Aberdein. The second-best rookie, Robert Kubica impressed earlier today with a few best times in practice. Though, he couldn’t continue that pace in qualifying and finished 14th. WRT’s second rookie Harrison Newey struggled and will start this afternoon’s race from 15th on the grid.
Habsburg, who crashed in the practice session, had to miss qualifying as his mechanics were still busy fixing his car.