The opening race of the DTM Hockenheim weekend served up a feast of a show with the Ferraris of Red Bull AlphaTauri AF Corse protagonists in a thrilling race with Albon second and Lawson fourth.
Chaos at the start. The 488 GT3 Evo 2020s of Lawson, starting from third in spite of 18kg of ballast, and Albon starting from ninth, managed to make it through some frenetic early action around the first four corners of the German track, which would trigger a Safety Car entrance. With Kelvin Van der Linde in the lead and Götz in second, Lawson was forced to tread very carefully, without taking any unnecessary risks but without conceding any vital points to his championship rivals either. Albon, on the other hand, was able to exploit the full Ferrari potential with far less at stake. The Thai driver took advantage of the collision that eliminated Maini and Auer to climb the order and find just the right momentum to move up in the standings.
Comeback. Götz, Lawson and Ellis were among the first to pit for the mandatory stops, although neither were able to gain positions on their rivals. Albon, meanwhile, was able to overtake and move into virtual fourth position, shortly before pitting on lap 13. The service work by the AF Corse mechanics was once again impeccable and the AlphaTauri driver managed to pass Muth. Albon continued to churn out fast times to close the gap on the leaders, overhauling Ellis first, then Juncadella, before moving into Lawson’s slipstream. The New Zealander was unable to slow down his team-mate, who would attack and overtake Götz on lap 21. As soon as he had overtaken, Lawson was then able to catch the Mercedes driver and outstrip him a few laps after the withdrawal of Marco Wittmann, second place in the standings on the eve of the round in Hockenheim.
In spite of faster pace than Van der Linde’s, Albon was unable to close the gap separating him from the South African, while Lawson, on the final lap had to endure being overtaken by Rockenfeller, Van der Linde’s team-mate, after a fierce one-to-one combat, relegating him into fourth place.
The chequered flag unfurled to hail victory for the Audi driver while Albon finished second, clinching a fourth podium of the year, while Lawson posted fourth. The results mean that Lawson keeps hold of the championship leadership, on 188 points, joined by Van der Linde. Albon lies in fifth, on 122 points, keeping his title hopes alive.
Alex Albon: “It was a good race after a qualifying session in which I could have been faster. I started ninth and there were some collisions ahead of me but I managed to pass a couple of cars at the start. With a faster race pace I was able to extend my stint and push harder. I was able to take advantage of a new set of tyres and this allowed me to overtake more. I really enjoyed the race, especially after coming back from the Assen weekend where it was hard to overtake. Here the track allowed such overtaking manoeuvres, so more battles were expected in the race.”
Liam Lawson: “The race was tough and finishing fourth is not the most ideal result but we mustn’t forget the ballast we had on board. I think the outcome is good though, especially considering the aggressiveness shown by some drivers today. On the final lap, I think the battle with Rockenfeller went a bit over the top. The result of Alex [Albon, ed] shows that the car has great racing potential. I think we will have to rethink our strategy to be more competitive tomorrow.”