When Purple Bull introduced that it could be returning to the DTM this yr, this time with a group of its personal, the highlight was very a lot on Alex Albon moderately than his youthful team-mate Liam Lawson.
In spite of everything, Albon had made a reputation for himself in F1 over the past two years and his presence was going to spice up the stature of a championship that had undergone a serious overhaul over the winter.
However whereas Albon has been spectacular in his personal proper this yr, it’s Lawson who has actually shone within the different AF Corse Ferrari and is now on the verge of constructing historical past within the German championship.
Regardless of having to adapt to a automotive in contrast to something like he’s pushed earlier than, the Kiwi was speedy straight out of the gates within the DTM, changing into the collection’ youngest winner when he claimed victory on his debut at Monza.
Whereas Lawson is first to confess that his AF Corse group had a much bigger position to play within the success, having delivered a speedy pitstop to permit him to leapfrog his rivals, his tempo on the out-lap was equally necessary in finishing the undercut.
Over the subsequent seven races, Lawson frequently completed on the rostrum, however some obtrusive errors and a advantageous run of kind from Abt Sportsline driver van der Linde meant he wasn’t precisely a title favorite on the center level of the season.
In reality, after three non scores throughout the Zolder and the Nurburgring occasions, Lawson confronted a frightening 49-point deficit to van der Linde within the standings because the championship reached its midway stage.
However then got here the turning level of the season, the Purple Bull Ring weekend at first of September. On his employer’s residence turf, Lawson sensationally received the opening race from pole place, earlier than repeating that outcome the next day with 25kg of further weight on his automotive – a situation that was deemed inconceivable when the DTM introduced that it could be bringing again success ballast to the collection this yr.
Kelvin van der Linde, Abt Sportsline, Liam Lawson, AF Corse
Picture by: DTM
Lawson’s against-the-odds double win coincided with van der Linde enduring his worst weekend of the season, ending simply fifth and sixth throughout the 2 races. Whereas the South African had anticipated the Austrian monitor to be the weakest monitor of the calendar for Audi, not even he might have imagined a 37-point swing within the championship in a single weekend.
Van der Linde has since bounced again from a troublesome run of races and the 2 drivers are roughly on a extra even footing heading into the ultimate spherical of the season on the Norisring this weekend.
On paper, Lawson does have a considerable 14-point benefit with solely 56 factors on provide throughout the 2 races. Nevertheless, neither he nor AF Corse has any previous expertise on the iconic German road circuit, leaving them on the again foot in comparison with van der Linde and Abt Sportsline.
After all, it’s not the primary time Lawson is having to adapt to a brand new monitor, however the bumpy nature of the Norisring supplies a novel problem for each drivers and the groups.
“It’s totally very brief,” he says of the German monitor. “I have been taking a look at earlier races from the final couple of years, it is actually cool. DTM has onboards from Class One automobiles.
“It seems to be extraordinarily bumpy, very very tight, clearly. I do know the group is working very laborious to determine roughly baseline set-up for a monitor like this and try to examine it to one thing they’ve been on earlier than.
“Clearly simulator work is nice however it’s nothing fairly compares to the true factor, so it is at all times going to be a brand new expertise once I get within the automotive however it seems to be like a cool monitor.”
Race begin, Bruno Spengler, BMW Workforce RMG, BMW M4 DTM
Picture by: Mario Bartkowiak
The success ballast, too, might play a job in deciding the result of the title, particularly as the additional weight hurts acceleration out of sluggish corners.
Lawson will carry 18kg of further weight on his Ferrari into the primary race of the weekend on Saturday following his second-place end at Hockenheim final weekend, whereas van der Linde’s Audi will likely be utterly freed from ballast.
This provides the South African an actual probability to chop down the hole to his championship rival on Saturday, buoyed by a automotive he feels will swimsuit the traits of the two.3km circuit.
“Audi is in a lucky place to have numerous knowledge from the automotive [at Norisring],” stated van der Linde. “We all know how the automotive reacts to this bumpy type road circuit. We all know precisely what we have to do with the set-up. The automotive fits the monitor, we’re actually sturdy within the brakes, particularly within the bumpy braking zones.
“I am simply coming right here with a completely Positive mindset. Completely nothing to lose and I believe that is the correct strategy to go about it.”
After all, if van der Linde is ready to capitalise on the scenario to nab a victory on Saturday, he should take a hefty weight penalty going into the ultimate race of the season, turning the tide in favour of Lawson once more.
Historical past has proven that the Abt driver hasn’t been capable of muster the sort of outcomes his title rival Lawson has managed with further weight on his automotive. In reality, van der Linde struggled to even end on the rostrum every of the 4 instances he was carrying the total 25kg of ballast on his automotive.
So until the manufacturing facility Audi driver can buck that pattern come Sunday, it’s Lawson who’s primed to be topped the primary DTM champion in its GT3 period….
Kelvin van der Linde, Abt Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3, Liam Lawson, AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo
Picture by: DTM
The surface bets
Whereas Lawson and van der Linde are the first contenders for the title, two different drivers head to Norisring with a mathematical probability of successful the championship.
The primary is DTM returnee Maximilian Gotz, who sits 26 factors adrift of Lawson within the standings and will very a lot spring a shock this weekend. Nevertheless, having not received a race because the second spherical on the Lausitzring again in July, the HRT Mercedes driver will want extra than simply consistency to stage a serious upset on his residence turf.
Manufacturing unit BMW driver Marco Wittmann can also be within the hunt, however with a 41-point deficit to Lawson his possibilities of including a 3rd crown to his CV are moderately slim. Had issues turned out in another way at Hockenheim, the place a Stability of Efficiency change left him struggling down the order, Wittmann might need been within the thick of the title struggle heading into this weekend.