DTM: Esmee Hawkey equals best series result in Zolder race 2
Esmee Hawkey completes a positive third DTM round with another P13 – equalling her best finish in the series. Sophia Floersch continues a streak of bad luck and retires with braking issues.
23-year-old Esmee Hawkey proved yesterday that the old-style Zolder track had potential to bring her a breakthrough result, at only her third race weekend in the world-class DTM series. On Saturday, Hawkey finished P13 and claimed her best result to date, topping the 14th place scored at the season opener at Monza – despite a spin at the first corner on the opening lap.
Hawkey, who had already raced at the Belgian track albeit in single-seaters in the inaugural W Series season in 2019, had another very positive day on Sunday, when she secured her best qualifying result – breaking for the first time into the top-10 – and equalling her best result in the race.
After a weekend marked by technical difficulties at Lausitzring, Sophia Floersch had another challenging round at Zolder: she was P15 in race 1, having struggled for pace in the first part of the second stint.
In the second qualifying, Arjun Maini was ruled out of the weekend due to the damages that his GetSpeed Mercedes sustained in the Race 1 accident and Daniel Juncadella received a 10-place grid drop for having caused the crash.
The weather finally allowed a timid sun onto the circuit and, when the drivers pitted for their new set of tyres, Esmee Hawkey put the #26 T3 Motorsport Lamborghini in a remarkable ninth position. She would further improve one lap later and advanced to seventh despite traffic in the final sector.
Marco Wittmann went on top and edged Lucas Auer – but when more drivers were completing their first lap on the fresh rubber, a red flag halted the action with 2 minutes to go: Timo Glock had stopped on track with a driveshaft failure and the session wasn'r resumed. This left Esmee Hawkey in P11 (then promoted to P10 after Juncadella's penalty) and Sophia Floersch in P17 – as the young German couldn't complete a single timed lap on the new tyre.
"Yesterday was a good confidence boost which gave me an extra edge in qualifying this morning." – explained Hawkey. "I was determined to improve on yesterday’s starting position so P11 on the timesheets and P10 on the final grid was a real positive."
Wittmann thus lined up on the front row alongside Auer, with Rockenfeller and Muller just behind. Championship contender Liam Lawson was seventh, one position ahead of series newcomer and former F1 driver Christian Klien.
At the race start, Vincent Abril was spun around by Philip Ellis at Turn 1 and Sheldon van der Linde, Timo Glock and Sophia Floersch had to take evasive action. Further ahead, Hawkey battled with Alex Albon; the driver of the AF Corse Ferrari initially moved ahead of Hawkey, but the British lady fought back during the first lap. Abril initially rejoined, but then parked his HRT Mercedes at Turn 2, triggering a Safety Car phase.
The race resumed on lap 5 and Muller went through the gravel at turn 1 but rejoined, as Lawson overtook race 1 winner Kelvin van der Linde for third place. Albon attacked Klien and the ex-F1 racers made contact, with Klien having to jump the chicane.
Hawkey dropped to 12th place when her T3 Motorsport teammate Esteban Muth completed a double move at the chicane, but then jumped back ahead of Juncadella for P11.
Christian Klien was the first driver to start the round of pit stops and dived into the pitlane on lap 7. One lap later, it would be the turn of Sophia Floersch (P18), Timo Glock and Daniel Juncadella.
Potential race contender Lucas Auer received a 5 second time penalty for a pit stop infringement, while Ellis was handed a drive through for the Turn 1 incident.
On lap 12, Marco Wittmann pitted from the lead, followed by Lawson and Esmee Hawkey.
The driver of the Walkenhorst BMW rejoined ahead of Auer, with Lawson slotting in fourth place behind Maximilian Gotz.
Having opted to stay out, Albon, Muller and Sheldon van der Linde moved into the lead of the race, approximately 20 seconds clear of the group of virtual leaders. From the midfield, Muth emerged and the home hero started to pull off incredible passes: the Lamborghini driver overtook Juncadella at Turn 1 on lap 16, then chased and passed Buhk and Rockenfeller. Once closed the gap with the ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS of Kelvin van der Linde, though, the South African responded back and the two started a race-long battle for position.
On lap 27, Sophia Floersch pitted a second time and retired from the race, reporting a long brake pedal.
Meanwhile, Nico Muller pitted from third, followed by Sheldon van der Linde one lap later: taking advantage from the battle between Kelvin van der Linde and Esteban Muth, they both managed to rejoin ahead of that group of cars. Just ahead of his brother, Sheldon defended and kept the position on cold tyres.
Once Albon had also completed his mandatory pitstop, the Ferrari 488 GT3 of the Thai driver was in seventh place, approximately six seconds behind Nico Muller, but nine seconds clear of the train composed by the van der Lindes, Muth, Rockenfeller, Buhk, Juncadella and Hawkey.
With two minutes left on the clock, Philip Ellis pitted for his new tyres – despite having already served his drive through penalty - which dropped him to 16th. In the closing laps, Timo Glock - who was another nightmare of a weekend - was spun around by Dev Gore and finished last.
After 39 laps around the 4.010 km-long track, Marco Wittmann took his first win in over two years and secured the first DTM victory for team Walkenhorst. The BMW racer preceded Maximilian Gotz – who inherited second after Lucas Auer's penalty was applied – and Liam Lawson. The Red Bull driver returned to the podium after Saturday's retirement and preceded Muller in fourth and Auer in fifth. Alex Albon was sixth across the line.
Esmee Hawkey spent the whole race right behind Daniel Juncadella's Mercedes AMG GT3, but couldn't find a way around the Spaniard. With another P13, she equalled her best result so far in DTM, completing a really positive weekend at Zolder.
Hawkey's pace was thoroughly competitive and the British driver is getting closer to grab her first points in the uber-competitive championship.
“Overall, I’m very pleased with how the weekend has gone." – said Esmee after the race. "I’ve felt really good in the car all weekend and have been finding performance in every session."
"My race pace was quite good and we were able to stay with the cars ahead of us quite comfortably, especially after the pit stop." – she recalled. "I gave it my all to try and get past Daniel [Juncadella] but it wasn’t easy as we all know how difficult it can be to overtake at this track."
"Once again I’d like to say a huge thank you to the team for giving me a brilliant car, I can’t wait to get to the Nürburgring in a couple of weeks time!”
On the other hand, it was another really unfortunate round for Sophia Floersch, halted by a technical issue. Floersch will now miss the next DTM round at Nurburgring in three week's time, as she will enter the 24H of Le Mans with the all-female team Richard Mille Racing.
She will get behind the wheel of the Schaeffler Audi R8 in DTM on 4-5 September at Red Bull Ring, one of her favourite tracks.