Alex Albon celebrated his first victory at the Nürburgring and gave Ferrari its second success in DTM history. In an eventful race, the Thai driver for AlphaTauri AF Corse, who started the race from first place on the grid, escaped all incidents and won in commanding style. The Formula 1 substitute driver for Red Bull is the sixth winner in the eighth DTM race. In dry, good weather conditions, Spain's Daniel Juncadella in the GruppeM team's Mercedes-AMG completed the podium ahead of two-time DTM champion Marco Wittmann in the Walkenhorst-Motorsport BMW.
After eight of 16 races, Kelvin van der Linde from Audi Team ABT Sportsline is the unofficial "half-time" champion of the 2021 DTM, although the South African came away empty-handed for the first time this Sunday after a collision with Liam Lawson and Mike Rockenfeller. With 129 points, Kelvin van der Linde enters the second half of the season as the leader of the standings. His lead over Maximilian Götz (96) has shrunk to 33 points. New third in the points table is Wittmann (94), Albon (82) has moved up to fourth.
Porsche had little luck in its DTM debut. As on Saturday, Michael Ammermüller in the SSR Performance 911 failed to finish, but had clearly shown its potential with fourth place on the grid. The 19-year-old Belgian Esteban Muth gave Lamborghini its best result of the season with fifth place. Ex-Formula 1 driver Timo Glock also finally scored his first DTM points of the season in eighth place in the BMW fielded by ROWE Racing.
"It was a really good day for my team and me today," said Albon, the first Thai winner in the DTM. "The team worked a lot overnight and it paid off. Today we made a step forward, we want to take this momentum with us." The Red Bull-Ferrari combination of AF Corse is the first DTM team to win races with both drivers - Albon and Lawson - this season.
Action-packed race: "Never experienced in DTM: five cars side by side at times."
As on Saturday, the spectators in the grandstands witnessed breathtaking moments at the start in close formation of two cars, and this was repeated twice more during safety car phases. From first place on the grid, Alex Albon in the AlphaTauri-Ferrari stormed to the front and led the DTM field, which numbered 23 cars for the first time, ahead of Daniel Juncadella (ESP/GruppeM-Mercedes-AMG) and Michael Ammermüller (GER/SSR Performance) in the Porsche. But the first incidents occurred as early as the first lap, when Swiss Philip Ellis (Mercedes-AMG/WINWARD) skidded through the gravel trap and subsequently scattered various carbon parts on the track. When Maximilian Buhk (GER) with the Mücke-Mercedes-AMG was stranded in the pit wall after being pushed, the safety car was deployed for the first time.
When the first re-start was made after lap three, Albon pulled away again. Behind him, the next hullabaloo with Ammermüller, Luca Stolz in the Toksport-Mercedes-AMG, Ellis and Götz already followed in the second turn. When, after the first pit stops, guest starter Hubert Haupt, who celebrated a comeback after his DTM starts in 1991/1992 as well as 2001, rolled out with a technical defect on the Mercedes-AMG of his HRT team, the safety car slowed down the field again. It was clear that all those who had not yet completed the compulsory stop were at a disadvantage - and that was eight drivers.
The next incident was caused by Liam Lawson, who attempted an optimistic manoeuvre in the chicane, but failed. As a result, the two ABT Audi cars of Kelvin van der Linde and Mike Rockenfeller, of all people, retired, and Lawson received a drive-through penalty. Having arrived at the Nürburgring in second place in the standings, the 19-year-old Red Bull junior Lawson failed to score any points.
Surprisingly, former Formula 1 driver Christian Klien (GER/JP Motorsport) led after the second safety car period and collected the first leading kilometres for McLaren. Albon, however, quickly moved closer and regained the race lead in commanding fashion with Juncadella and Wittmann in tow.
"It was really extreme at times today. At times we were running with up to five cars next to each other - that was intense. I've never experienced that in the DTM before, but it was still a lot of fun," Wittmann reported. "In moments like that, it's always important to make the right decision between risk and caution. We managed that well today."
Dramatic qualifying: four brands on the first two rows of the grid
As on Saturday, when 22 cars were within a single second of each other, the qualifying session on Sunday morning was a hot battle for positions. Rain showers caused some spectacular spins, but all of them were without consequences. Although the rain became heavier, the times improved in the end. And in the end, AlphaTauri AF Corse rejoiced: Alex Albon (THA) gave the prancing horse from Maranello its first pole position in the DTM. Mercedes-AMG with Spaniard Daniel Jancadella (GruppeM), BMW with Zolder winner Marco Wittmann (GER/Walkenhorst) and Porsche with Michael Ammermüller (GER/SSR Performance) followed behind. This meant that four brands were represented in the first two rows of the grid. In the 23-strong grid, all seven brands represented were to be found in the top ten. In qualifying as well as in the race, the 2021 DTM demonstrates an extraordinary balance.