DTM Monza Race One: Lawson takes maiden victory for AF Corse at team's home circuit in Monza

June 19, 2021

by Kevin Henderson

Young New Zealander Liam Lawson claimed a comfortable victory in his and the AF Corse team's debut weekend in the DTM, edging out pole sitter Vincent Abril with Max Götz rounding out the podium.

Mercedes looked like they were going to be the dominant force ahead of the opening race at Monza, with the front two rows of the grid occupied by the AMG-GT3 cars represented by three different teams. Vincent Abril in the Team HRT run car took pole position just 0.072s ahead of Dani Juncadella in the Team Gruppe M Mercedes, with Lucas Auer sitting in third representing Team Winward.

The rolling start saw Abril fiercely defend his position going into the opening corner, despite Juncadella's best attempts at sneaking the Mercedes up the inside, Abril bravely held on and kept the lead. Swiss driver Philip Ellis made a great start managing to move himself up two positions into fourth by the end of the first lap, but unfortunately his car began to slow coming out of the final corner and ultimately led to his retirement.

The only other retirement in the race was Dev Gore, he was tapped into a spin by Timo Glock, which ended up with the American getting stuck in the gravel and out of the race. 

British driver Esmee Hawkey was putting up a brave defensive drive against former F1 driver Alex Albon in the opening few laps. She managed to stay in front until lap five when Albon dived up the inside of the first corner, Albon's defensive exit held up the Brit and Marco Wittman took the opportunity to get past her.

Some teams gambled on an early pit stop strategy to try and lever themselves up the grid. Nico Müller, Mike Rockenfeller and Hawkey after her battle with Albon decided to all come in on the fifth lap. Kelvin van der Linde was one of the next group of cars to come in, and his stop cost him a position on the track and possibly further post-race penalties as he nearly ran over the stick man of the team at the garage next to his. Another driver losing out in the pits was Lucas Auer, the right rear refusing to come off cleanly which cost him a lot of time, he was in fourth going into the stop but would end up finishing in 13th.

The lead changed on the 11th lap; first place man Abril exited the pits as Lawson charged down the start finish line towards the first corner. Lawson cleanly squeezed his Ferrari round the outside and took the lead, a position which remained unchallenged for the remainder of the race.

The battles seemed to be happening a little further down the pack. Debutant Albon looked determined to get a decent finish in his opening race weekend in the DTM. He battled Müller and eventually bullied his way past at the chicane taking a wing mirror of in the process. Juncadella decided he was going to make the most of Müller being slowed and try and get past but Müller held firm pushing the Spaniard out onto the gravel. 

This move seemed to irk Juncadella, as a few laps later he tried an ambitious move on Müller which sent the Swiss driver into a pirouette. He gathered it up quickly and only lost one more position in the process. The move will be investigated by the stewards post-race.

The opening race of the season did not disappoint with plenty of battles up and down the grid. With the introduction of new specification cars it was difficult to determine how this would affect the racing, but the DTM seem to have struck a perfect balance. The second round takes place tomorrow, where Lawson will be looking to build on his impressive debut, and AF Corse will also be hoping to dominate at their home circuit at Monza representing the prancing horse.

Image credit: Red Bull Racing


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