Polesitter Liam Lawson went on to finish a credible 3rd place in the first race of round 6 in Assen, Netherlands.
The Kiwi was happy with the results but his face showed a different story. The result could have been higher if it weren’t for some team tactics occuring near the end of the race that ended Liam’s hopes of a win.
Even though the frustrating last lap spectacles happened, Lawson picked up 18 points for the 3rd place finish seen as 2nd place finisher Mirko Bortolotti was driving the T3 motorsport Lamborghini as a guest driver (guest drivers cannot earn championship points).
Now the young Kiwi is 1st in the DTM championship with a lead of 8 points over Kelvin Van der Linde. The South African failed to score points today due to an abrupt safety car release causing the ABT’s team strategy to be essentially null and void.
Here is how the race went down:
Liam Lawson stormed into a dominant lead as he took the first corner uncontested. Behind him though a number of drivers were frustrated with the start as it was not clear whether the front row had hesitated under the green lights.
Marco Wittman in P2 was shunted from behind by Maximillian Gotz and similar shunts and bumps were given and received throughout the midfield.
Daniel Juncadella crashed out on the first lap after contact was made with Indian driver Arjun Maini. The incident caused a yellow flag plus the two drivers retired with Juncadella still stranded on track.
Due to the crash all cars passed through the pits to avoid debris on track and the start was put under investigation with multiple drivers reporting a bumper-car style start.
At the restart Liam once again got away well but not without being chased down by a determined Bortolotti in his Lamborghini.
The guest driver overtook Lawson for the lead on lap 6, turn 6. It seemed Liam didn’t have the pace to keep the Lamborghini behind with his added success ballast.
Lawson pitted on lap 8 with an underwhelming time of 8.8 seconds. Unfortunately, that meant he came out behind Maximillian Gotz who pitted a lap earlier meaning the kiwi was on track in net 2nd.
Fellow AF Corse teammate Alex Albon retired his Ferrari on lap 12 after hitting a bollard on track and damaging the car. A disappointing end for the AlphaTauri Ferrari as Albon was working hard to hold his position in the top 10.
Another safety car joined the track on lap 15 once again for the issue of debris. Many cars had lights and segments of their bumpers hanging on by a thread after the shunts and bumps of the race start. It seemed the parts could only hang on so long with some ending up in the middle of the tarmac.
Back to another restart saw Lawson move up to 4th on track but keeping his net 2nd in terms of those who had pitted. Out front were the two ABT boys Kelvin Van der Linde (in 1st) and Michael Rokenfeller keeping a defensive stronghold of 2nd.
Marco Wittman made it past Lawson down the inside pushing Liam wide onto the gravel and through the grass back onto the track during the middle of lap 20. Wittman who also had ballast of 18kg, compared to Lawson’s 25kg, was dying to get past.
That incident was then put under investigation the lap after with a possibility of contact between the two championship contenders. Later on lap 25 Wittman was handed a 5 second time penalty meaning Lawson in second would pick up the net lead.
Meanwhile, out front team tactics were at play as Rockenfeller slowed down his pace to allow his colleague Kelvin to push out front in an attempt to increase the gap before his pit stop.
The defending was getting ridiculous with the gap never increasing enough for the ABT cars to gain positions after the stop. Eventually on lap 27 Wittman finally snuck past the blocking team player Rokenfeller with an aggressive outside move.
However, Wittman still had the 5 second penalty on board. Consequently, poor Lawson was stuck behind the ABT Audi and his rival with the penalty had free air ahead to blast into the distance.
Simultaneously, the age of the tyres were starting to show and the pace had hit a plateau. Meanwhile behind Bortolotti was clearly pushing Lawson with the young kiwi adamant to hold his line and keep his position.
But, as the race progressed into the final 3 laps Wittman had finally inched the gap to over 5 seconds with Rockenfeller holding up Lawson that meant Bortolotti was able to get through into 2nd with 2 laps to go.
Finally, the two ABT cars pitted for their mandatory stops with Wittman winning the race, Bortolotti finishing second, and Lawson coming across the line 3rd.
Here are how the results ended up after tedious final laps:
Post race interview with Lawson:
You are now the leader of the championship that’s got to feel fantastic?:
“Yes of course! It was a pretty crazy race I was avoiding the crashes at the start there.”
“… Kelvin was unlucky with the safety car and that ruined their strategy. That put us in a good position moving forward … I tried to get in front of the BMW but Marco was very aggressive today I think he definitely wanted that win.”
“It wasn’t worth taking the huge risk to get passed Rockenfeller who was fighting for his life but wasn’t in the same race.”
“It is what it is. Still really good points today really happy with that, we’ll try to keep some of that pace for the second race tomorrow.”
Featured image source: dtm.com