Tales from the paddock – Ulrich Fritz: “I would caution against anyone thinking that we already have the championships sewn up”

Jul 18, 2018

Halftime in the 2018 DTM: Ulrich Fritz looks back on the first half of the season after ten out of twenty races and presents his half-term report

  • This is what happened: Weekend results and facts
  • News from the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport teams
  • Three questions for Ulrich Fritz
  • Social media news: What’s new online?

This is what happened: Results and facts

  • DTM: Gary Paffett leads the way as Mercedes-AMG Motorsport monopolise the Top Four positions in Race 1 at Zandvoort
  • DTM: Gary Paffett and Paul Di Resta claim two of the podium spots in the second race
  • DTM: Mercedes-AMG Motorsport leads all three championships – drivers’, team and manufacturers’ – at the halfway point

News snippets

Hockenheim, here we come: After the ‘ triple-header’ comes the ‘ double pack’. The team has only just finished contesting three races within the space of three weeks – a first in the history of Formula 1. Now they have back-to-back weekends to contend with. It starts with the return of the German Grand Prix to Hockenheim, which was last held in 2016. The two previous races at Hockenheim were both won by a Mercedes driver: in 2014, Nico Rosberg enjoyed a home win, and in 2016, Lewis Hamilton notched up personal victory number three in Germany. The first Silver Arrows victory on German soil was in the 1954 Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, with the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel. In qualifying too, the silver cars have been invincible in recent years: the Mercedes works team has staked out pole position in 2013 (Nürburgring, Lewis), in 2014 and in 2015 (Hockenheim both times, Nico).

Stat-Attack – Zandvoort: The visit to the Dutch North Sea coast was well worthwhile for the team. They left Zandvoort on Sunday evening having booked five of the six available podium spots. An almost perfect weekend, from which the team emerged with a 1-2-3-4 victory, a double podium and a triple championship lead. Saturday’s winner, Gary Paffett, had the greatest cause for satisfaction, having not only extended his lead in the drivers’ championship but also increased his tally of DTM wins to 23, which puts him level with Mattias Ekström on the all-time leaderboard. Only record championship winner Bernd Schneider (43 wins) and Klaus Ludwig (37 wins) have more to their account. After the victory and two pole positions, Gary had yet another record in his sights for Race 2 on Sunday: since the introduction of the new format in 2015 with two qualifying sessions and races per weekend, no driver has yet managed two poles and two victories at a single event. He ultimately missed out by the narrowest of margins, finishing as race runner-up, but it is after all still only halftime in the 2018 DTM...

Podiums and Top Ten finishes in North America: The Pirelli World Challenge is entering the home straight. Last weekend at the Portland International Circuit, it was rounds seven and eight of the 2018 SprintX GT and 2018 GTS. In the general classification, Daniel Morad (CAN) is currently fourth and still very much in contention for the title. The number 2 Mercedes-AMG GT3 which he shares with Matt Brabham (USA), grandson of Formula 1 legend Jack Brabham, took fourth place in Race 1 but failed to finish on its second outing after it was involved in an accident. The best results of the weekend were registered by David Askew (USA) in the number 63 Mercedes-AMG GT3 entered by DXDT Racing: a P3 on Saturday was followed by a P2 on Sunday. Matt Fassnacht and Christian Szymczak (both USA) driving a Mercedes-AMG GT4 entered by Murillo Racing followed up twelfth place in their classification in Saturday’s race with a Top Ten (P7) finish on Sunday.

One-two in the French GT4 Cup: Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jim Pla (both FRA) of AKKA ASP took the overall victory in Race 2. In the runner-up spot were Alexandre Bardinon and Thomas Laurent (both FRA) of M Racing – YMR, making it an impressive one-two victory for the Mercedes-AMG GT4. This is now the second win of the season for Beaubelique and Pla. AKKA ASP had already put in a strong team performance in the first race on Saturday. The duo of Benjamin Ricci and Thomas Drouet (both FRA) finished third ahead of team-mates Beaubelique and Pla in fourth. At the halfway point of the French GT4 Cup, Beaubelique and Pla are only ten points behind in the GT4 title chase.

Three questions for Ulrich Fritz

Uli, we’ve reached the midway point in the 2018 DTM. How would you sum up the first half of the season?

Ulrich Fritz: At the start of the campaign, we certainly weren’t expecting to have established such a clear lead in all three championships at this stage. We knew that we had invested a lot of energy in preparing for our final season, so it is a well-deserved reward for the entire team. And to be honest, there is a degree of gratification. I remember the opening weekend at Hockenheim when accusations were levelled that we would only be coming along for the ride this year and that we wouldn’t be playing a competitive role. You don’t hear comments along those lines any more. But I would also caution against anyone thinking that we already have the championships sewn up. That is certainly not the case. BMW have almost always been on song throughout the season, and Audi came back into the reckoning at Zandvoort. If we ease up now, our lead will soon melt away.

Who would you say have been the biggest winners from the first half of the season?

Ulrich Fritz: All things considered, I would say the fans. All the changes that we made prior to the season have definitely had an effect. We’ve seen some great racing with spectacular wheel-to-wheel action. That’s precisely what the spectators want from the DTM. In sporting terms, it’s not hard to answer that question when you look at the championship table. Gary has had a sensational season so far. Going into the first weekend, we were wondering whether he would ever win another race with me as his boss. Some commentators were counting up the number of days he had gone since his last victory. And now he already has three wins this season after only ten races.

We’ve heard comments and rumours to the effect that all the other Mercedes drivers have been told to drive for Gary. What do you say to that?

Ulrich Fritz: That is nonsense. There are definitely no team orders to that effect. Everyone here is allowed to win. It would not be very smart to throw our weight behind one driver after ten races when five of our guys are in the Top Eight of the championship. Ultimately, the more irons you have in the fire, the better. In the past, we’ve seen what happens when a driver goes two or even three weekends without scoring any points. In those circumstances, it’s good if you have multiple contenders for the title. Many of the comments are also simply part and parcel of the sport and are simply made to cause trouble or as a distraction. One shouldn’t take them too seriously.

Social Media News

#FOS: Valtteri Bottas thrilled the crowd at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018 with this action-packed run in the W07. Here is a cockpit view, including donuts and burnouts.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oo0fSuTuUxM

#70YearsSilverstone: The British Grand Prix provided the perfect occasion for Silverstone to celebrate its 70th anniversary. Esteban Gutierrez drove the W07 in the anniversary parade. This is what it looked like from his cockpit.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=InaduTuzuUs

#INWED18: The team and Dare To Be Different got together to host an event at our factory marking International Women in Engineering Day 2018. Our talented female engineers told several groups of girls how they came into motorsport. There was also a pit stop challenge, simulator training and a glimpse behind the scenes – including the top-secret wind tunnel!

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kKNglgrudI

#30YearsDTM: Circuit Zandvoort is one of the most demanding tracks on the DTM racing calendar. Current and former Mercedes drivers tell us what makes it so special...

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk-yUbEg03c

Tales from the paddock – Ulrich Fritz
Tales from the paddock – Ulrich Fritz