DTM: Battling weekend for Hawkey and Floersch at Red Bull Ring
Esmee Hawkey showed determination and battled through adversities at the Red Bull Ring, as Sophia Floersch returned to DTM and showed improvements on Sunday to finish P15.
The fifth round of the new DTM era went underway at Red Bull Ring, with the popular German series re-opening its paddock to the public. Under sunny skies and in a very lively atmosphere, Liam Lawson - the youngest driver on the field - had a nearly perfect weekend and claimed two race victories for AF Corse and closed in on the championship leader Kelvin van der Linde, who could not do better than fifth on Saturday. The series, now one of the most competitive GT3-based championships in the world after the move of the ITR-promoted series from the Class One regulations to GT3-spec rules in a cost-efficiency move at the end of 2020 - has seen the debut of former F3 racer and current WEC driver Sophia Floersch and porsche Carrera Cup GB Pro-Am champion Esmee Hawkey. Floersch, at her very first season in GT3 machinery, is targeting a learning-oriented season in a championship filled with GT specialists. In the #99 Schaeffler-sponsored Audi R8 LMS by ABT Sportsline, the young German has scored four 15th place finishes in the opening three race weekends of the season, before missing the Nurburgring round due to a clash with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which she contested with the all-female crew Richard Mille Racing in the LMP2 class. Hawkey made a late switch to DTM and made her debut at the wheel of the T3 Motorsport's Lamborghini Huracan ahead of the Monza curtain-raiser, without much testing under her belt. Still, the British racer managed to improve significantly weekend after weekend and was 11th at the end of Race 2 at Nurburgring, in what is currently her best result of the season, just outside the points-paying positions. With the series travelling to Red Bull Ring, Floersch returned to DTM on one of her favourite circuits and with a different car-specification compared to the previous rounds: as one of the only three drivers on the grid that had been developing the all-new "Space Drive" steer-by-wire concept by Schaeffler-Paravan, Floersch returned to a traditional mechanical steering system at Nurburgring. Coming off a positive weekend at the Eifel, Hawkey was looking forward to continuing her progress on the Styrian hills. “I’m raring to go at the Red Bull Ring this weekend,” Esmee said before the event. “We’ve gone from strength to strength so far this season and I’m thoroughly enjoying every second of it." "The Nürburgring gave me a new challenge to contend with in terms of the rain but I felt really comfortable and that’s given me even more confidence as we head to Austria." - continued the 23-year-old driver. "The Red Bull Ring is another new circuit for me but I’ve put in plenty of laps on the simulator and we've tested here previously - it’s a really unique track as it’s compact, fast and undulating.” Race 1 Red Bull junior Lawson scored pole position on Saturday morning, ahead of Maximilian Gotz and Arjun Maini - the Indian driver having his best qualifying of the season so far after scoring his first championship points last time out at Nurburgring. Esmee Hawkey qualified in 17th place for the first race, with Floersch in 20th. Liam lawson had a great start held the lead into Turn 1; Floersch passed Dev Gore but then went wide into the run-off and dropped back again, before a few cars tangled at Turn 2: between them, Floersch tagged the back of the #26 Lamborghini Huracan of Esmee hawkey, but both continued. At Turn 4, Ellis, Sheldon van der Linde and Maini also made contact and the Indian re-claimed third after a very exciting opening lap. There was action throughout the field - championship leader Kelvin van der Linde battled Alex Albon, but the AF Corse driver clipped the gravel and was passed by Abril. The first pitstops came at lap 6, with Ellis, Wittmann and Buhk anticipating Maini, Sheldon van der Linde, Abril and guest driver Maximilian Paul. The undercut gave Philip Ellis the virtual third place over Arjun Maini. Lawson pitted on lap 9, one lap later than his race rival Gotz: the New Zealander held the lead, but a great stop by the Winward Mercedes helped Gotz to close in on the race leader. Esmee Hawkey, who had meanwhile passed Dev Gore, pitted on lap 9 as well. After a beautiful lap-long battle, Vincent Abril (Team HRT Mercedes) lost two positions to Marco Wittmann and Lucas Auer, with also Sheldon van der Linde and Maximilian Buhk joining the trio. ROWE Racing's van der Linde dived on the inside of Turn 2 and went through despite making contact; the light collision would then reveal terminal for his BMW, forced to park at the following corner. Nico Muller, Esteban Muth and Sophia Floersch opted to stay out the longer and led the pack. The former duo fought for on-track position, and Muth would eventually move into the lead. Floersch's pace deteriorated and she started to drop behind some of the stoppers. ABT Sportsline, though, kept the 20-year old German out until the final laps of the race. Starting from eighth on the grid, Kelvin van der Linde attempted a recovery and passed Maini on lap 20. Albon tried to go through one lap later, but the Indian defended well and held on, also allowing Marco Wittmann to close in again. Floersch went wide at Turn 2 on lap 24 and rejoined in P11 - Albon made a similar mistake as he attacked Maini but, onae lap later he finally made the move stick at Turn 4. Esteban muth pitted from the lead on lap 32, leaving Lawson and Gotz back in first and second place. Muller pitted and retired his Team Rosberg's Audi, leaving Floersch as the last driver still having to pit. She came in for new tyres on lap 36 and rejoined in 17th position. In the final laps, Kelvin van der Linde started to put pressure on Philip Ellis for third - but to take advantage from this would be Alex Albon: the former F1 driver dived in and moved into fourth place. Liam Lawson won from pole position, ahead of Gotz and Ellis, who eventually held on from the last lap attack of Albon. Van der Linde was fifth, preceding Arjun Maini in a personal best sixth place. Esmee Hawkey fought with a damaged car from the first lap contact to finish P16, one position ahead of Sophia Floersch.
Race 2 Sunday's race pole sitter Marco Wittmann (Walkenhorst Motorsport's BMW) led Lawson and Sheldon van der Linde into Turn 2 - but the latter picked up a puncture soon after and limped back before retiring his ROWE Racing BMW. Esmee Hawkey had qualified in 18th place earlier in the morning, but was demoted to 20th after having to replace a damaged tyre - a rule introduced due to the limited tyres' set in DTM. Floersch, who was 19th fastest, thus moved up to 18th on the grid of the second race of the weekend, ahead of Dev Gore. Most of the drivers pitted as soon as the window opened on lap 5 - with race leader Wittmann among them. Lawson would stop one lap later, but, with a flawless stop by the AF Corse crew, he emerged into the lead, 2.5 seconds ahead of the BMW of Marco Wittmann. In a rather uneventful second race, Wittmann tried to catch up again with the Red-Bull sponsored Ferrari and was often within striking distance, but he could never find a clear opportunity to launch an attack and get back into the lead. Saturday's runner up Gotz was a distant third, while Philip Ellis and Lucas Auer followed. The latter battled for fifth with Vincent Abril and Daniel Juncadella, but they would both receive penalties for track limits, promoting van der Linde and Arjun Maini in another remarkable performance by the GetSpeed Mercedes. Championship leader Kelvin van der Linde struggled to make up positions after another difficult qualifying in seventh; he was the only Audi driver to finish in the points. Similarly, the Lamborghini drivers also struggled: Maximilian Paul, Esteban Muth and Esmee Hawkey finished all outside the points. Hawkey had a challenging race and picked up a 5 second penalty in the latter stages to finish in 16th place, one position behind Sophia Floersch. ABT Sportsline's Floersch had a better race: she pitted on lap 8 from sixth position and was then able to maintain P15 throughout the end of the race, finishing less than 5 seconds behind Nico Muller - the second best placed Audi. Battling for the final point with Timo Glock, Alex Albon made contact and had to pit with a front-left puncture one lap after his mandatory stop. The incident put him in 17th place, over 30 seconds from the rest of the pack. “It’s been a tough weekend managing the various issues we’ve had but I’m very pleased with how hard we fought." - explained Hawkey. "Thanks to the team for their efforts as we knuckled down in the races and pushed as hard as we could." "There’s always opportunities to continue learning and I think we’ve maximised those this weekend and I’m certain that will put us in good stead for the rest of the season. Bring on Assen in two weeks time!” The sixth round of the DTM will in fact be contested at the famous Dutch venue of Assen, on 18-19 September.