Why Audi has dropped down DTM's pecking order

BMW and Mercedes shared the first wins of the 2018 DTM season as the new regulations relegated last year's dominant force Audi to also-rans, baffled by the sudden drop in form.

Why Audi has dropped down DTM's pecking order
Start formation lap
Mike Rockenfeller, Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Audi RS 5 DTM
Robin Frijns, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi RS5 DTM
Loic Duval, Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Audi RS 5 DTM
Nico Müller, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi RS 5 DTM
Mattias Ekström, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi RS5 DTM
Nico Müller, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi RS 5 DTM
Mike Rockenfeller, Audi Sport Team Phoenix, Audi RS 5 DTM
Robin Frijns, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi RS5 DTM
Crash, Nico Müller, Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline, Audi RS 5 DTM

Having feared that a simplistic common aerokit and conventional suspension would "hurt" it more than others, Audi confirmed those worries at Hockenheim as the DTM field grappled with a 30% reduction in downforce and smaller set-up windows.

That largely ended the DTM’s long-held perception of “Formula 1 with a roof” as various winglets and aerodynamic devices disappeared overnight.

It immediately benefitted Mercedes, which had shied away from the high-cost development that Audi used to find the DTM-leading aerodynamic advantage that took it to a clean sweep of the titles last year.

Audi’s Jamie Green explained to Motorsport.com where Audi had to adapt compared to its rivals.

“All the details around the front flicks - the little winglets we had on the front – we now have one and it’s half the size of what it used to be,” he said. “We used to have two per side and they were big.

“There are lots of other little details around the splitter, underneath the splitter. All the side channels between the front wheel and the rear wheel are different now.

“We used to have air ducts taking air into the rear wheel arches which have now gone. So, massive difference.

“We also used to have some details on the front wheel arches that shape the air around the car, which have gone now.”

“You look at the car now, it’s a lot more basic and clean with a lot less details, flicks and winglets that were all giving us grip.

“So, that’s mainly bodywork and a little bit under the floor but it’s a big percentage of downforce loss."

He also added that the suspension also changed Audi’s approach.

“The suspension used to be more complicated,” Green said. “So there was obviously a lot more things to think about with set-up, whereas now you’ve got four springs and an anti-roll bar on each axle, so the car is more simple now.

“There are less things to work on, so it’s a bit more straightforward to set-up and our optimal set-up is just different to last year.”

The removal of all those designs meant that Audi suffered from oversteer and excessive tyre degradation through Friday and into Saturday as Mercedes took pole two tenths clear of BMW on Saturday.

Reigning champion Rene Rast was able to finish ninth and improved to second in qualifying on Sunday but with the caveat that Audi sacrificed race pace.

When Mike Rockenfeller took an opportunistic second, Audi was at a loss to explain its turnaround. But race one winner Paffett suspects Audi simply had more to lose.

“To be honest we [all three manfuacturers] got handed the aero package and put it on the car,” he said. “I don’t think it was that complicated, I think Audi had more downforce to lose than we did.

“We have all been given the same aero package and we’ve all gone to try and maximise the parts we’ve been given. At the moment, it seems Mercedes has done a better job of that.”

BMW added that it expected a learning curve through the season, and Timo Glock suspects the picture would be clearer in races following the similar Laustiz.

"At the end of the day you can say everyone had one proper test because Vallelunga wasn’t really one [due to poor weather]," BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt told Motorsport.com. "It helped the [ITR] test was here at Hockenheim and the conditions are not very far away [in the races].

"It will be a learning curve through the year and we have two new tracks on the calendar [Brands Hatch and Misano] which will be a challenge for everyone.

"At the end of the day, you want to have things a bit mixed up and you don’t want to know at the start of the season how it will go."

shares
comments
Audi can't explain Hockenheim improvement

Previous article

Audi can't explain Hockenheim improvement

Next article

Mercedes form makes DTM exit frustrating - Paffett

Mercedes form makes DTM exit frustrating - Paffett
Load comments
The number-crunching behind the new-look DTM's equalisation drive Prime

The number-crunching behind the new-look DTM's equalisation drive

Switching to GT3 regulations marked a fresh start for the DTM in 2021, but it has also drawn a line in the sand against other series using similar cars by engaging AVL Racing to develop a bespoke Balance of Performance system. Here’s how it works.

DTM
Jul 23, 2021
The initial verdict on DTM's move to GT3 cars Prime

The initial verdict on DTM's move to GT3 cars

OPINION: Facing collapse last year, the DTM has shifted its philosophy from a championship for silhouette-based touring cars to GT machines not too dissimilar to those racing across multiple series worldwide. But despite some initial BoP-based teething troubles, there were some pleasant findings as the 'new DTM' got underway at Monza

DTM
Jun 22, 2021
Why Albon has his work cut out in the new-look DTM Prime

Why Albon has his work cut out in the new-look DTM

The DTM moves into its bold new GT3 era with welcome support from Red Bull, which enters two AF Corse-run Ferraris. That includes one for ex-F1 driver Alex Albon, who’s determined to make a success of his GT switch

DTM
Jun 17, 2021
The slow-burner threatening to unseat Audi's DTM king Prime

The slow-burner threatening to unseat Audi's DTM king

It's taken him a while to emerge as a consistent title challenger, but in the final year of DTM's Class One ruleset, Nico Muller has smoothed the rough edges and has double champion stablemate Rene Rast working harder than ever to keep up in the title race.

DTM
Oct 14, 2020
Does 2000 hold the answers to the DTM's current crisis? Prime

Does 2000 hold the answers to the DTM's current crisis?

It's 20 years since the DTM roared back into life at a packed Hockenheim with a back-to-basics approach as the antidote to its high-tech past. Now it's on its knees again, so is it time to recall the lessons learned in 2000?

DTM
May 28, 2020
Ranking the 10 best Audi DTM drivers Prime

Ranking the 10 best Audi DTM drivers

Audi last week announced it would be exiting the DTM at the end of 2020, bringing the curtain down on 20 years of continuous participation since the series' reboot in 2000.

DTM
May 5, 2020
Why the DTM must reinvent itself after Audi exit Prime

Why the DTM must reinvent itself after Audi exit

Audi's announcement that it will withdraw from the DTM at the end of 2020 was the latest blow for a series that has lost three manufacturers in as many years. Some major soul-searching will now be required to assess how it can survive.

DTM
Apr 28, 2020
Why cynic Berger changed his mind over green tech in racing Prime

Why cynic Berger changed his mind over green tech in racing

DTM boss Gerhard Berger was a detractor of Formula E and held a reluctance for his series to embrace greener engine technologies. However, this cynic's tune has had to change to ensure DTM's existence as the motorsport world moves forward

DTM
Dec 13, 2019