Heartbreak almost seems like too soft a word to describe how Lawson must feel after a devastating final race of the 2021 DTM season.
A mere three points separated the top two drivers in the championship standings after the final race. But, the truth is that Lawson was not given a real chance of fighting for that title on Sunday afternoon following some questionable manoeuvres and dubious last minute team orders.
The race started in an almost identical fashion to the first race with Lawson picking the perfect time to jam the gas off the rolling start as he headed into the first hairpin ahead of Van der linde and Cassidy.
However, as the the two Ferraris of Lawson and Cassidy entered the hairpin absolute disaster struck as Kelvin van der Linde dive bombed the inside line nudging Lawson wide which cut off Cassidy from the outside.
As the stranded Kiwis tried to recover and join the track again, the line of Lawson and Cassidy was cut so severely that they faced the wall and were forced to reverse to continue racing.
The incident was noted by the stewards and eventually Kelvin was handed a 5 second time penalty for “unsafe re-joining of the track”.
Lawson had to return to the pits noting that his Ferrari was damaged over the radio. He entered the pits and was sent back out but came back into the pits the next lap around claiming the steering was broken.
Absolutely crushed by the prospect of not racing, Lawson’s engineers told him to exit and he continued out on track but was doing so in a very slow manner as he was continuously lapped while he limped the Ferrari around the street circuit.
Meanwhile Cassidy was able to continue with good pace and without damage. He made his way slowly up the grid from 20th and by lap 18 he had reached 12th.
Cassidy eventually made it into the points making up sufficient positions by lap 20 with a combination of smooth overtakes and the leading drivers heading into the pits.
The race remained calm until the final 10 minutes when things really started to head south.
Kelvin van der Linde finally pitted on lap 51 serving his 5 second time penalty before the pit crew touched the car.
Van der Linde came out behind Auer and Ellis who had pitted earlier and claimed first and second. With the two Mercedes ahead, Kelvin would need to pass them and win the race in order to become the DTM champion.
The racing got hairy around lap 53 when Kelvin and the Mercedes were fighting for their lives to hold on to, or gain any positions possible.
Kelvin van der Linde spun on lap 54 picking up a puncture after a gritty on track battle with fellow title contender Gotz, but under later speculation there was no contact when the South African spun. Actually, he had picked up damage earlier which caused the spontaneous puncture.
That was all she wrote for Kelvin, as he pitted and dropped to 17th ahead of Lawson who was continuing in 18th even though he was running in limp mode.
Nick Cassidy had picked up the lead on track and finally pitted on lap 57 with 8 minutes of racing left to run. He came out fifth on track behind Juncadella.
If Cassidy could get past the four Mercedes Ahead and stop Gotz from winning that would be the last chance for Liam to win the championship. But the Mercedes had different ideas.
On lap 62 Juncadella and Ellis lets Gotz through to second under what seemed like team orders. Then moments later the race leader Lucas Auer was told to slow letting Gotz take the lead of the race.
Auer had a full 12 second lead ahead of Gotz which diminished in a single lap under the team tactics.
After the team game was played by the Mercedes, salt was rubbed into the wounds of AF Corse as Cassidy came into big contact with Philip Ellis causing the entire front front fender of his Ferrari to be destroyed.
On the final lap Cassidy’s Ferrari started to smoke and that was the only chance left finished for Lawson’s chances at the championship.
Gotz, in front of his home fans, friends, and family crossed the line with fireworks exploding in uniform fashion as the chequered flag waved him through.
Maximillian Gotz won the DTM championship by three points after both Liam Lawson and Kelvin van der Linde failed to score a single point.
It’s easy to see that neither Lawson nor Van der Linde were very happy with the outcome.
Liam’s post race interview:
It was all looking so promising but then everything just went so wrong:
“Exact same as yesterday. I really thought the guy would learn after what he did yesterday. To do the exact same thing … Obviously it ruined our race from there.”
“Pretty gutted. Really just disappointed for the whole team, they really deserve this. They’ve worked so hard this year. Every weekend they’ve given their absolute maximum.”
“I really wanted to re-pay them this weekend with the title and we had it obviously right there as well with pole position again today. Car was really really good. Had a really good start but, sometimes you can’t stop the same idiots from doing the same stupid things.”
Here are the final results of the race:
The final standings of the 2021 DTM championship:
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