Audi and Nico Mueller dominated the opening race at Spa-Francorchamps. A top-five lockout finish for the four rings in a race where tyre degradation was a big issue.
Robin Frijns, starting from pole position, had a great start and led the field through La Source and Eau Rouge. After leading the first five laps, his teammate Mueller was closing in on him on Kemmel straight using DRS. Then, passing Frijns into Les Combes. Mueller made his mandatory pitstop on lap 12 and rejoined the track in front of Rast, who made his pitstop two laps earlier. The Swiss driver controlled the race from that moment. In the end, he crossed the line with a nearly 20 seconds gap to P2. His fifth victory in the series.
Jamie Green had to start the race from 11th on the grid, last of the Audi factory drivers. However, the Briton took advantage of other drivers’ tyre issues and drove a strong race which led to finishing second. An impressive result, his 42nd career podium. Finishing third is Audi Team Phoenix’s, Loic Duval. It looked like both he and teammate Rockenfeller were going to finish second and third. But, in the final laps of the race, both started struggling with their tyres. Green first managed to pass Rockenfeller, and on the penultimate lap, he also managed to pass Duval at Blanchimont.
Rene Rast seemed to be in a comfortable position, trying to close the gap to Frijns on lap seven. But, a few laps later he started to struggle, leading to Rockenfeller passing him on the outside of La Source. Rast decided to pit on lap 10, as he didn’t have any grip left on his tyres. While running second, Rast found himself under pressure from behind. Despite his best efforts, the reigning champion couldn’t hold out, allowing Rockenfeller and Frijns past.
Unlike the other drivers, Rast decided to make a second pitstop, saying ‘I don’t know what’s wrong’, on the radio to his engineers. His tyres were completely gone again. The two-time champion rejoined the track in tenth. In the end, he managed to gain back positions in the final six laps of the race, finishing fifth.
BMW struggled again compared to Audi. Their highest-placed driver today was Philipp Eng, who started from tenth. He, together with Harrison Newey, were the last ones to complete their mandatory pitstops on lap 15. Eng crossed the line in sixth. Lucas Auer, the returnee, finished just behind in seventh, followed by Timo Glock. Completing the top 10 are polesitter Frijns and BMW’s new face Jonathan Aberdein.
Two-time champion Marco Wittmann was in a reasonable position, best of the BMW’s until he started to lose pace in the final stages of the race. In the end, he only managed to finish 11th. Best of the rookies this season was Fabio Scherer in 12th, ahead of teammate Newey. Robert Kubica, who’s also new to the series, struggled and crossed the line in 14th.
Sheldon van der Linde is the only driver who didn’t manage to cross the finish line. The South African suffered from technical issues, forcing him to pit in the first few laps of the race. Ferdinand Habsburg didn’t start today’s race, as a result of his crash in this morning’s practice session. Even though his mechanics tried their hardest to fix the car, it was too heavily damaged.
Tomorrow’s qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps will start at 10.45 local time (09.45 UK time) and the race at 13.30 local time (12.30 UK time).