The two Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse Ferraris finished third and sixth in the third round of the DTM at Zolder. Liam Lawson made up for his disappointing retirement in Race-1, while Alex Albon, despite the ballast, claimed an excellent sixth place which helped his teammate in the standings.
Start and Safety Car. The leading cars set off smoothly, but at the back, Ellis hit Abril, who stalled his car in the gravel of the first chicane, bringing out the Safety Car. With a strong start, Lawson moved up two places to fourth behind Kevin Van der Linde, while Albon, blocked in his attempts to recover and with 15kg of ballast after yesterday’s podium, sat in eleventh. At the restart, Lawson passed Van der Linde fairly but decisively on lap six. In the meantime, Albon got the better of two rivals, with Klien’s stop helping him climb to eighth place. Wittmann was flying before his lap 11 pit stop, with Lawson taking over the lead before pitting later. The New Zealander came out in fourth, behind Goetz and Auer, who gambled on an early pit stop.
Déjà-vu. Meanwhile, out in front, Albon appeared to imitate yesterday’s tactics, taking advantage of the free track to record some fast times. The 488 GT3 Evo 2020 driver lay in first, ahead of Nico Mueller and Sheldon Van der Linde, the only ones still to make the compulsory stop. Lawson had the chance to climb the podium after the race officials inflicted a five-second penalty on Auer, who was in virtual second. Meanwhile, Albon pitted on lap 28, returning to the track behind Mueller in sixth.
Thrilling finale. The Audi driver tried to catch up on Lawson with a sequence of high-speed laps, but the Red Bull AF Corse man pushed hard, keeping Auer’s advantage to under five seconds. The New Zealander returned to the podium after yesterday’s disappointment and shortened the gap in the standings to Kevin Van der Linde, eighth, thanks also to the support of teammate Alex Albon, sixth at the finish. Kevin Van der Linde leads the championship on 101 points, followed by Lawson with 80, while Alex Albon is in fifth on 54, behind race winner Marco Wittmann.
Liam Lawson “Yes, I think it is normal for a driver to reset and move on when you have these bad days. Obviously, it was extremely disappointing for our championship as well. We lost a lot of points, but you run the risk of that when you qualify at the back as we did. But to start from where we did and recover for the podium is nice even though I asked too much from my tyres and couldn’t push it to the end for the win. The championship is obviously something we think about, but it is important not to focus entirely on this. Today’s result is good because I gained some of the points I lost yesterday. This year, Kelvin has been extremely consistent, which puts him in the position he is now. I think pace-wise, we are strong, and I think we have a good package, so when we can tidy up on these little things, then for sure we are in a good position to keep fighting for the title”.
Alex Albon “Yes, it was a better weekend for us. I feel like we had a few missed opportunities though, which is a bit frustrating, but nothing really in our control. So, I am happy with how it went. I think we took a bit of a step forward as well. I feel like I understand the car a bit better. So yes, all good”.
Albon mounts podium place in race 1
Alex Albon secured an excellent third place in the first round of the DTM weekend at Zolder in Belgium. It was the Thai driver’s first podium of the season. After setting off from the middle of the group, with Albon ninth and Lawson tenth, the two Ferraris rounded the first turn unscathed. However, Juncadella braked late at the first chicane, hitting several cars, including Lawson’s. A very violent rear-end collision sent the New Zealander’s 488 GT3 Evo 2020 spinning out into the gravel. The Ferrari returned to the track, but after pitting, he was forced to retire. All AF Corse’s hopes then turned to Albon, who moved into second place after the drivers ahead of him made their first compulsory pit stops. The Thai increased his pace and set quick times behind Rockenfeller, who stopped on lap 12. Albon now held an almost 34-second advantage over Van der Linde, but the latter was in virtual first place, having already pitted. Albon pitted shortly after the halfway point and, even though he stalled during the restart, like at Lausitzring, the AlphaTauri AF Corse driver re-entered in third. From then on, the race was all about the top three, Van der Linde, Rockenfeller and Albon, all bunched within two seconds of each other. Although Albon tried to attack the two leading Audis, the difference in acceleration on exiting the corners prevented him from launching a proper attack. Thus, he finished the 55-minute plus three-lap race in third place. The first podium of the season for the ex-Formula 1 driver only partially mitigated the disappointment over Lawson’s early departure. Van der Linde, on 97 points, stretched his lead in the standings over the New Zealander on 65.
“It was an okay race. We obviously did the right strategy call. The pace was good, and the car had been good all weekend. The penalty, I think, was a bit unfair in free practice, so we had to pay the price today in the race. Otherwise, I think we could have definitely won the race. Unfortunately, it is just so difficult to overtake. So, to make up six positions is great, and yes, we’ll see tomorrow”.
Liam Lawson: “So it was obviously not a good day, especially for the points. The only positive is we have good tyres for tomorrow. But the actual incident itself, I think, is pretty clear from the outside. It is normal that at the back, you get quite desperate. Drivers trying to make things happen all on lap one, which is not really smart. And we just got caught out in a crash that was next to us. So, I am pretty disappointed that the driver wasn’t penalised. The first issue was qualifying in the first place. So, if we fix quali, then we are not in amongst those drivers, and we can have a better start to the race”.