Marco Wittmann leads BMW 1-2-3 in a chaotic red-flagged race
BMW Motorsport turned around their fortunes after a disastrous day yesterday, with Marco Wittmann taking the victory in a red-flagged race and locking out the podium with Timo Glock and Philipp Eng.
At the start, Mercedes’ Lucas Auer took the lead from pole position, followed by team-mates Pascal Wehrlein, Paul di Resta, Edoardo Mortara and Gary Paffett. Daniel Juncadella was side-by-side with Audi’s René Rast for half a lap, overtaking the reigning champion at Turn 8, making it a Mercedes AMG lock-out of the first six positions.
Timo Glock spun at Turn 3 after contact from Audi’s Nico Müller, dropping to the rear of the field and pitting at the end of the lap together with fellow BMW driver Joel Eriksson and Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller. The incident will be investigated after the race.
Rain started falling over the track on lap 4, with all the leading drivers still on slicks. Wehrlein overtook Auer for the lead at Turn 1 on the following lap, with Juncadella also losing to Rast at the same time. BMW’s Augusto Farfus pitted for the second time to mount wet tyres, just two laps after changing to new slicks.
Auer came in for rain tyres, locked up his brakes and crashed into the pit garage, hitting marshals and mechanics. Mortara and BMW’s Bruno Spengler made an almost replica of Auer’s incident moments later, hitting staff and equipment.
The safety car was called into action, but the race had to be red-flagged as several ambulances had to come into the pit lane to tend to the injured staff.
Auer said: “It was really strange; I had already grip problems and was going slow. I don’t know what happened; I just want to know how the people are.”
The race was restarted behind the safety car with 28 minutes plus one lap remaining and with the entire field mounting slicks as track was drying under the sun. The grid had to be re-ordered with the cars that had been stuck in the pit lane during the red flag, with Wehrlein and Paffett leading the pack, but still to complete their obligatory pit stop.
Wehrlein was quick to charge ahed with Juncadella overtaking Paffett, who was struggling and falling down the order on rain tyres. Rast spun off the track at the exit of Turn 13, narrowly avoided by the cars behind and was able to rejoin the field. The Briton pitted at the end of lap 12, with the mechanics struggling to change the front left tyre due to the damaged bodywork.
Juncadella overtook Wehrlein for the lead on lap 13, as the Audis of Müller and Green were closing in, as the top four drivers were the only ones to not have completed their mandatory pit stop. BMW’s Philipp Eng was in fifth, the first of the drivers to have changed tyres, but was soon overtaken by team-mate Marco Wittmann.
Meanwhile, di Resta was stuck behind Farfus and Spengler that were fighting ahead of him, despite the Scot having better pace than them. Di Resta was able to overtake Farfus on the outside of Turn 3, with Spengler his next target. Di Resta passed Spengler on the following lap for sixth, repeating the move on Eriksson to take fifth position not long after.
Müller was the last driver to pit at the end of lap 23, with Wittmann leading the race with a five-second advantage over Glock.
Wittmann took his first win of the season as the chequered flag dropped, with BMW locking out the podium with Glock in second and Eng in third, who came under attack from Rockenfeller in the closing stages but was able to defend.
Di Resta was the best-placed Mercedes in fifth, followed by the BMWs of Eriksson, Spengler and Farfus. Auer and Mortara completed the top ten.