Tales from the paddock – Stefan Wendl: “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 has just the right mix for Spa: it’s fast, precise and reliable”

Jul 25, 2018

Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing, answers our questions about the highlight of the Blancpain Endurance Series calendar – the 24 Hours of Spa

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

This is what happened: Results and facts

  • Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas make it a Mercedes one‑two in the German Grand Prix
  • IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb register the first ever victory for a Mercedes-AMG GT4 in North America
  • Blancpain GT Series Asia: Nico Bastian and Patric Niederhauser win Race 2 at Fuji Speedway ahead of Alexander Mattschull and Raffaele Marciello

News snippets

Stat-Attack – German GP: What a spectacular the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim turned out to be! In a topsy-turvy race, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas recorded the first ever Mercedes one-two at Hockenheim. At the same time, it was victory number 80 for the team and the 125th podium for Lewis – all of this 92 years after Mercedes won the first German Grand Prix back in 1926. Lewis had to work hard for his 66th Grand Prix victory, staging a furious charge through the field from 14th on the grid to finish in first place. The race was complicated by incipient rain, a safety car deployment and a moment of confusion on the team radio. But at the end of the day, it was the third Mercedes victory in a row at the Hockenheimring and the fourth overall by Lewis on German soil. It takes him onto level pegging on the all-time leader board with record world championship winner Michael Schumacher for number of victories in the German Grand Prix.

Half-term report: The DTM is on its summer break, so after ten of the 20 races in 2018, it’s time to submit an interim report. And it could hardly be couched in more positive terms. In eight of the ten races so far contested, a Mercedes-AMG C 63 DTM has started from pole position. In addition, the team has won at least one of the two races on all five weekends this year, four of them being one-two finishes. Six of the ten victories and 17 of the 30 possible podiums went to the Affalterbach-based outfit. At the midway point in the campaign, the drivers’, manufacturers’ and team standings are led by Gary Paffett, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport and Mercedes-AMG Motorsport PETRONAS respectively. But it is only halftime, and there are still five race weekends with ten more races ahead. The next outing is on the weekend of 11th/12th August at Brands Hatch.

Historic double success in North America: The two-hour IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, which took place last weekend at Lime Rock Park, was the occasion of the first victory for a Mercedes-AMG GT4 in North America. This particular entry in the history books was achieved by Owen Trinkler and Hugh Plumb (both USA) who were driving the number 46 car prepared by TeamTGM. Bryce Ward (USA) and Indy Dontje (NED) in the number 57 car entered by Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport sprinted to second place to make it a one-two victory for the Mercedes-AMG GT4. After seven out of a total of twelve races in 2018, Trinkler and Plumb are second in the drivers’ standings while TeamTGM are second in the team championship. In each case, the gap to the leaders is just four points.

Double victory and class success in Asia: Meanwhile, two Customer Racing teams were also topping the podium on the other side of the planet. In the Blancpain GT Series Asia, Nico Bastian (GER) and Patric Niederhauser (SUI) in the number 999 GroupM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 stormed to victory from eighth on the Fuji Speedway grid. Their team-mates Raffaele Marciello (ITA) and Alexander Mattschull (GER) in the number 888 sister car were runners-up and also winners in their class. After eight out of twelve races, Niederhauser leads the drivers’ championship; GruppeM Racing also lead the team championship.

Driver update for Total 24 Hours of Spa: Adam Christodoulou (GBR) has been ruled out of the upcoming 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps due to injury. His place in the cockpit of the number 5 BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 will be taken by Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR). We wish Adam a speedy recovery.

Four questions for Stefan Wendl

After a P2 and a P3 finish in the past two years, there can be only one objective for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the upcoming 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, namely outright victory. To accomplish this mission, the German performance and sports car brand is entering the largest contingent of all manufacturers. In the run-up to the endurance classic, we spoke to Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing, about preparations and expectations.

Stefan, are you satisfied with the way preparations for the Total 24 Hours of Spa have been going?

Stefan Wendl: Yes, I am very satisfied. The teams have prepared well, and the driver combinations are perfectly harmonised. The official test days were used very intensively to test this out and to experiment with new ideas. Added to which, we have had the British GT races and pre-event training sessions which give our teams and drivers even more opportunity to adapt themselves and the car to this challenging circuit in the Ardennes.

How would you rate the opposition?

Stefan Wendl: They are very strong. The line-up for the 24 Hours of Spa is the best in the world of GT racing. But we have no reason to feel overawed. We will have 13 Mercedes-AMG GT3 cars there. That’ s more than ever before. It also makes us the manufacturer with the most vehicles in the race. But it’s not just a matter of quantity – we have also got the quality right. In both the Blancpain Endurance Series and the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which includes Spa, our guys are up there with the front-runners. That fills everyone with plenty of confidence. In any case, we have excellent drivers in our ranks. The number of ex-Formula 1 stars and drivers who are currently active in the DTM and in Formula E is an indication of the high standard. At the same time, it enhances the attractiveness of this legendary event on its 70th anniversary.

What will be the key to success? What are the tactical considerations?

Stefan Wendl: One of the success factors is certainly the car. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 has just the right mix for Spa: it’s fast, precise and reliable. The drivers also play a crucial role. The combinations in the individual cars are well balanced and able to win in all classes. Everything has simply come together perfectly. As for the tactics, there are no general templates. We agree these with the teams for each car and each class individually. For some of the teams, it’s not primarily about winning but about scoring points which are awarded for interim results. Of course, external factors such as the weather will also affect strategy. And ultimately, there is also that elusive element of luck.

One more question: Who will be faster – Rubens Barrichello or Bernd Schneider?

Stefan Wendl: A fascinating question. Certainly, Bernd’s experience of driving the Mercedes-AMG GT3 gives him the advantage in this particular contest.

Social Media News

#PurePitWall: Our chief strategist James Vowles answers fans’ questions about the German Grand Prix, for example why we didn’t change to rain tyres and what happened during the safety car deployment.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gf1-mWCw8fE

#LH44: What is it that makes Lewis Hamilton who he is? It’s about more than just speed – there is also Lewis the man. If you don’t know what we’re getting at, take a look at this.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7aFSqCpBVM

#VB77: What made Valtteri Bottas’s first win in a formula car so special for him? And what are the big occasions he has experienced since then with the Silver Arrows?

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8SfuQlNtBeo

Watch ‘Best of’:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq-jUCXiqPs

#FOS: The best moments from an epic event. See how Valtteri Bottas and George Russell thrilled fans at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=003E3pFICCQ

Formula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, German GP 2018. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Formula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, German GP 2018. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Formula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, German GP 2018. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Formula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, German GP 2018. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas
Formula One - Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, German GP 2018. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas