Tales from the paddock - Ulrich Fritz: “The moment people are injured, the sporting outcome becomes of secondary importance”

06.
June 2018
Stuttgart

Head of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport DTM Ulrich Fritz looks back on the events in Budapest and how the season is going so far

  • 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: Paul Di Resta and Lucas Auer register the team’s second one-two victory of the season in Saturday’s race in Budapest
  • DTM: Mercedes-AMG (294 points) take a 58-point lead over BMW (236 points) in the manufacturers’ championship.

News snippets

Montreal, here we come: The team travel to the 49th Canadian Grand Prix and the seventh race of the year next weekend. It will be the 39th occasion on which the race has been staged at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. The track, which is on an island in the St Lawrence River and is otherwise better known for its population of groundhogs, brings back many happy memories for Lewis. It was here, after all, that he achieved his maiden Grand Prix victory back in 2007. Since then, the four-time world champion has added a further 63 Formula 1 wins, five of which have also been in Montreal. He is now only one victory short of matching record world championship winner Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven at this particular venue. In terms of pole positions in Montreal, Lewis and Michael are already on level pegging at the top of the all-time leaderboard on six each. For the team as a whole, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been a happy hunting ground in recent years: the last four poles (Nico Rosberg 2014, Lewis Hamilton 2015 - 2017) and the last three victories (Lewis 2015 - 2017) there were all claimed by a Silver Arrows driver.

Stat-Attack – Budapest: At the Hungaroring, the team were reminded once again of the highs and lows of motor racing. After claiming their second one-two victory of the season (the 106th overall) on Saturday, the focus switched away from race results to more important matters as events unfolded in the pit lane. With five drivers among the Top Ten 10 in the first race, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport finally laid to rest the hoodoo of the Hungaroring, a track which has not always been kind to the team in the past. Paul Di Resta’s ninth DTM victory was also the 185th triumph in the DTM for the brand with the three-pointed star. Following his P1 in the equivalent fixture last year, Paul is now a two-time winner at the Hungaroring and has increased his tally of DTM podium finishes to 32. What’s more, it was victory number four for the team after only five races of the 2018 campaign. Paul also continues to polish his credentials in the pole position stakes, Saturday’s quali taking him to a career total of eight. Six of these resulted in victory, while the other two ended with the runner-up spot.

Week-end review: Mercedes-AMG Motorsport continued to register top results in prestigious races around the world last weekend: after finishing second and third in the opening fixture of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Monza and second at Silverstone, the teams fielding Mercedes-AMG GT3s again put in a solid all-round performance at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France. The best result posted by the twelve-strong contingent of vehicles built in Affalterbach went to the number 88 car entered by Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP and driven by Adam Christodoulou (GBR), Thomas Jäger (GER) and Raffaele Marciello (ITA). In the six-hour race, which was a nail-biter right to the end, the number 35 (SMP Racing by AKKA ASP), the number 44 and the number 43 (both STRAKKA Racing) cars were three more Mercedes-AMG GT3s that made it into the Top Ten. Customer Racing teams were also celebrating in their individual classes, as podium finishes were recorded by the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the Pro-Am and Am categories as well as in the Silver Cup.

Meanwhile, Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED) and Ben Keating (USA) of Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports were winning friends and admirers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The duo went into the 100-minute race at the Raceway in Belle Isle from sixth on the grid and ultimately finished fourth. Bernd Schneider (GER) and Kenny Habul (USA) of the Customer Racing Team SunEnergy1 Racing were eighth.

In a chaotic race in the Australian Endurance Championship, Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto (both AUS) kept a cool head despite two interruptions to the race and steered the number 8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 entered by Team WM Waste Management to third place in the general classification. This was the fourth time in succession that Twigg and D’Alberto have made a podium appearance in the Australian Endurance Championship. The Customer Racing vehicles entered by Scott Taylor Motorsport, The Bend Motorsport Park and Egglestone Motorsport took the flag in seventh, tenth and eleventh place respectively.

Kuo Kuo Hsin (CHN) had two Top Ten finishes in the China GT Championship. The D2 RACING SPORT driver was tenth in Race 1 and fourth in Race 2.

Three Mercedes-AMG GT4s were also competing in the Belcar Endurance Championship at the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps last weekend. The number 31 Selleslagh Racing Team car finished third in the GT4 class, while the team’s sister vehicle finished in sixth place. QSR Racing School’s Mercedes-AMG GT4 took the chequered flag in tenth.

Three questions for Ulrich Fritz

Uli, with the benefit of a few days’ reflection, how would you sum up the Budapest weekend?

Ulrich Fritz: It was certainly one of the most emotional DTM weekends we’ve ever had. Everything started so well. At the beginning of the race weekend, we were not sure where we stood compared to BMW and Audi. In the past, Budapest has not been a track that we’ve been particularly strong on. Then came the first qualifying session, and it was apparent that we were really on song and that we could get something here. The one-two win and Gary taking the lead in the championship were certainly the high points of the weekend. Unfortunately, the jubilant mood didn’t last long, as the discussions about the alleged team order started up immediately. After Sunday’s unprecedented qualifying result – a grid lock-out of the first five positions plus a P7 – we all thought “Wow, today could be a really great day”. Unfortunately, the opposite turned out to be the case. The moment people are injured, the sporting outcome becomes of secondary importance. It was certainly a shock to all concerned when the situation in the pit lane began to unfold. We all hope that the injured will recover as soon as possible. That’s the most important thing. I don’t really want to say too much about the sporting result, but it’s obviously very frustrating when you look all set to score a hatful of points and you then see your strongest opponents on the podium at the end of the day. The fact that Marco, Timo and Philipp dispensed with the customary champagne shower on the podium shows great character. We’re certainly not going to mope about the lost points now but instead concentrate on the fight-back at the Norisring.

Since Sunday, there has been a lot of discussion about whether at least the accidents after Lucas’s could have been prevented. What’s your opinion?

Ulrich Fritz: The race management has a very, very difficult job in situations such as we saw on Sunday. In circumstances like these, decisions have to be made in seconds. However, the implications of these decisions not only affect the safety of everyone involved and the course of the race but also championships and possibly even careers. Of course, in hindsight it would have been right to bring out the red flag earlier. But with what we know now, that’s easy to say. It’s important that we all take a very close look at what happened and discuss how we can avoid such things in the future. We started this discussion right after the events in Budapest.

Going back to sporting matters, how would you rate the performance of your team so far?

Ulrich Fritz: Purely from a performance perspective, the weekend in Budapest was an extremely strong one for us. Across the three brands, it has to be said that the cars are actually very closely matched. This shows all the more what a great job our engineers are doing on the setup and our drivers are delivering on the track. It’s a very good feeling when you know that you’re in with a chance of winning races and that you are real contenders for the title. Timo may be in the lead at the moment, but we have some drivers who are within striking distance. It’s going to be anything but dull in the remaining races.

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Tales from the paddock - Ulrich Fritz
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