After qualifying on pole, Audi’s Mattias Ekström had to settle for third place at Hockenheim when the 2012 DTM season finally got underway.
So, after all the build-up we finally had the first DTM race of the season. Obviously having got pole position on Saturday I was hopeful we could win the race but on Sunday we simply weren’t quick enough to challenge Mercedes. Taking the pragmatic approach I’m happy to finish third because there were other quick cars on track behind me. It’s nice to be on pole but I’ve long since learned the lesson that it’s the race where you score the points.
Overall we had a good weekend: we didn’t make any mistakes, didn’t do anything wrong – we just didn’t have the pace. It’s OK, finishing on the podium at the first race is a decent start but we know we have to improve.
'We simply weren’t quick enough to challenge Mercedes'
Stepping outside the bubble for a minute, I’ve got to say the weekend itself was amazing. The crowd was just enormous, the atmosphere in the paddock was electric, there was a huge effort from the teams, the sponsors and partners with the hospitality, the trailers, the equipment, plus we had a big presence from VW and Porsche for the support races.
I know that sounds like I’ve got a bad case of the first day back at school but, really, it isn’t that. I haven’t spent the winter pining for DTM (with my little son at home life’s been pretty exciting and I haven’t had a moment of boredom since he was born). No, DTM has definitely gone up a notch: this was the most impressive DTM weekend I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen a few.
And we need to improve. We have to get better, we have to put ourselves on pole again, and when we’re there, we have to be stronger in the race. I think we have a good feeling for the setup of the new A5 DTM so I don’t think that’s a problem. Maybe we struggled a little on Sunday because it was very hot and we weren’t exactly spot-on for those weather conditions. We need to learn a little more about that.
I’ve got to say I really didn’t expect to see the three competing brands 1-2-3 in qualifying but that’s going to provide a huge boost for the series and everybody has now seen that the three manufacturers are able to compete at the same level. As we move from circuit to circuit everyone will have their strengths and the weaknesses and we’ll gradually learn what those are – but I think the competition is going to be pretty fierce all year. I think the key to winning the championship is probably going to be consistency: finding a good average that gets you a decent result at every round.
I’m back home at the moment but I’ll be heading out to Lausitz tomorrow. Historically it’s a circuit that’s been good for Mercedes but we’ve caught up a little recently. The key characteristic of the track is very, very low grip. It’s one of those where practice is all about getting a good mechanical setup.
I think we’re ready for it. I know I am and I’ll make sure we are ready as a team. We have to throw everything into this, we have to make good decisions, and we have to make ourselves better. Bring it on!