Season Review: 2021 DTM Championship Part Two


January 12, 2022

by Kevin Henderson

The first half of the season was dominated by Kelvin van der Linde, who looked set to go on and comfortably win the title. The second half of the season saw a resurgent Liam Lawson claw his way back into the title fight, with the ever-consistent Max Götz always in with a shout. Here is how the second half of the DTM season played out.

Race Weekend Five: Red Bull Ring

After a string of poor results, Lawson kickstarted his title fight back into action at the Austrian circuit. He qualified in pole and made sure his Ferrari was in front at the first corner. He and Götz pulled away as the rest of the field battled behind them.

Despite some late pressure Lawson took the victory from Götz in second, with Swiss driver Philip Ellis in third. The victory moved Lawson up into third in the title fight, with Götz dramatically closing the gap on championship leader van der Linde.

The South African qualified down in eighth, but managed to finish in fifth despite a desperate late attempt to get ahead of Alex Albon in the Alphatauri AF Corse Ferrari.

Sunday's race saw Marco Wittman in pole, with a rejuvenated Lawson in second. The top two sped away from the pack in the opening lap. Wittman pitted first, but the AF Corse team performed a lightning quick stop to get Lawson ahead of the German by a second after pitting on the next lap.

Although Wittman made a determined effort to get ahead of Lawson on the final lap, the New Zealander held onto victory by the smallest of margins.

Lawson's dominant weekend saw him cut the gap to van der Linde to just 12 points, meaning the title fight was well and truly on with just three rounds to go.

Race Weekend Six: Assen

A visit to the Dutch circuit saw a major turning point in the championship, as dreadful luck hit van der Linde meaning he would lose top spot in the standings.

Lawson once again found himself on pole with Wittman alongside, just like in Austria. An early safety car after a messy start saw Lawson retain the lead, with guest driver Mirko Bortolotti in second.

The first bout of bad luck hit van der Linde as he decided to stay out rather than take his mandatory stop. The safety car was brought out and bunched the pack up together, meaning he would drop down the order once he did stop.

Wittman forcefully got himself ahead of Lawson, a move which earned him a five second penalty. Despite the penalty, Wittman got himself ahead of Götz and into the lead to take the victory.  Lawson took second, and in doing so propelled himself to the top of the championship standings.

The race on Sunday saw a new winner in Lucas Auer, he qualified in pole and with the lack of any success ballast comfortably took the victory. 

Lawson took second place and extended his lead in the championship. After the poor luck in Saturday's race van der Linde took fourth spot, but dropped behind Wittman who had now entered the championship fight.

Race Weekend Seven: Hockenheimring

The championship's return to Germany saw the title fight swing back in van der Linde's favour on the Saturday, but took a turn for the worse in Sunday's race.

The South African qualified in pole, and despite an early safety car held on to take a lights to flag victory. 

His closest rival Lawson got involved in a few scrapes in a scrappy race and could only finish in fourth. After elevating himself into the title race, Wittman had to retire after being involved in the incident which brought out the safety car.

The race on Sunday saw the title race really heat up as Lawson and van der Linde came to blows on the track. The South African had qualified in pole, but lost the lead to Auer, who was closely followed by Lawson, dropping the South African into third. 

After some door rubbing, and position swapping, van der Linde attempted to make a move on his championship rival. The move wasn't very clean and he bumped into the Ferrari, sending it offline.  The move would grant him a five second penalty and give Lawson the advantage in the title race. 

Things went from bad to worse for van der Linde as a slow stop dropped him further down the order. In a desperate attempt to make up time, he was hit with a further penalty for track limits infringements meaning he would pick up just one point from the race. 

Race Weekend Eight: Norisring

The title looked to be heading Lawson's way as he sat 16 points ahead of his closest rival van der Linde as the teams entered the final race weekend. Götz still had an outside chance of claiming the title, but was some 26 points behind the championship leader. 

The two title protagonists sat side by side on the front row as the championship entered its penultimate race. Lawson made the most of his position and held onto the lead at the start of the race. His rival made a determined effort to get past the Ferrari, but outbraked himself into the hairpin, knocking into the wall and dropping to seventh, giving the advantage to Lawson. In the melee Lawson also dropped down to second.

Götz stormed through the pack and took the lead from Ellis, who emerged in front after the first lap incident. Lawson finished in third to extend his lead in the championship going into the final race of the season.

The finale on Sunday was not without controversy, from the first corner to the last lap. As the cars went into the hairpin for the first time, van der Linde tried a desperate lunge down the inside of the championship leader. The South African clattered into the Ferrari, who in turn collided with his team mate, leaving both Ferrari's stranded at the side of the track.  The damage had broken Lawson's car, he bravely stayed out until the race was over in a desperate attempt to get some points, but to no avail. 

With Lawson effectively out of the race, it would still take a victory for either van der Linde, or Götz to take the title. Something that still looked highly unlikely, especially for van der Linde as he was hit with a penalty for his contact with Lawson on the opening lap.

Van der Linde was still battling away, and managed to get in front of Götz despite the extra five second penalty he served during his stop. In a wildly defensive move, van der Linde swung across in front of Götz as he attempted to pass. The contact would cause a puncture for the South African and once and for all put an end to his title hopes.

The title still looked to be heading to Lawson, but with just a few minutes on the clock Götz soon passed the Mercedes of Ellis in second. It was clear there was not only team orders, but manufacturer orders being put in place as Götz was soon in front of the Mercedes of Auer and into first place. 

Despite the odds being firmly against him at the start of the weekend, the victory meant Götz would take the title in controversial fashion on the last few laps of the season.

The championship fight had been a fantastic one between these three drivers. It was unfortunate that the title was decided by orders from the manufacturer rather than on the race track. The inaugural season of the new specification of car in the DTM certainly served up a great championship, which will hopefully deliver on the track once again in 2022.

Image Credit: DTM

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