DTM goes to Styria’s Red Bull Ring this weekend with Audi’s Mattias Ekström lying third in the championship but still searching for answers
As I mentioned last week, I’ve been up in the mountains for a few days, combining some training with a family holiday. It was the first week without any racing for quite a while so the first chance to get off the road and relax a little bit. You never really stop preparing for the next race but it’s good to be able to do that preparation with a little bit of peace and quiet.
After the first trio of races it’s obvious that we need to improve. It’s been good to have some time to reflect on those races, analyse the performance and think about what happened and what we need to do. I’m optimistic that it’s possible to still get on top this season. I’m well aware closing that margin won’t be easy but I still think it’s far from impossible.
The overriding problem with our performances to date is that we still haven’t got the optimum balance in the car so we’re still searching for the basic set-up. In the past, driving several generations of A4 DTM we’ve known what the baseline set-up would be on a Friday, and over the practice sessions fine-tuned that to the track and the conditions. With the new A5 DTM we’re not quite there yet with that balance, which means we’re not entirely sure which is the best direction to go in over the weekend. For me the Red Bull Ring is going to be about learning a bit more about the car and getting some more experience of how to get it into the sweet spot where it will let me drive that little bit quicker.
We’ve had fleeting glimpses of it over the first three events but we haven’t been able to hit it consistently. It’s always a little frustrating when you go through a period like this – and inevitably as a team you have them every so often – because you know the pace is in there somewhere but you can’t find it consistently. You’ll do the same things that you always do but not necessarily get the same results. To get the consistency you have to completely understand the car and so far we haven’t been able to do that.
There are several issues to be solved. You can’t focus on one thing because what matters is a package, and so far we haven’t had the package to win races. We had a quick car during qualifying in Hockenheim and started the race from pole position but haven’t had a race car quick enough to win at any of the circuits so far.
Turning that around requires a big effort from the team but that’s part of the wider programme that Audi Sport will be doing. Audi’s policy has always been that its teams in DTM should share information and so our data will be pooled with that developed the others. Obviously it isn’t a case of finding solutions that work across the board because you can’t really apply things that are successful for one team and driver directly to another setup because that never works out too well – but it’s good to know the directions everybody is working in.
It’s fair to say our attention is definitely turned inwards at the moment though. Obviously over the first three races Gary Paffett has been very strong and is leading the championship by a good distance. I’m of the opinion that when we are sorted, we are good enough to win races. For the moment that’s where we have to expend our energy. As soon as we’ve got ourselves sorted out, we can start looking at the bigger picture.