Paul di Resta leads Mercedes 1-2 at Brands Hatch
Paul di Resta was dominant in DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) practice and qualifying yesterday, and he followed that up with a clear-cut victory today at Brands Hatch with a 7.443-second victory over his Mercedes teammate Bruno Spengler.
It was di Resta's first victory in 2010, but the sixth in seven races for Mercedes, as the Stuttgart marque appears to have thoroughly conquered their competition, Audi, for this season.
"I was able to control the race from the beginning and our team did a great job; thank you for that to everybody," the Scot said after the race. "We have now found a good rhythm and this is how we want to continue in the upcoming races."
The Mercedes pilot held the lead with ease at the start, converting his pole position into a comfortable edge into the first corner. And that was only the beginning: di Resta, who already won at Brands in 2009, simply cruised away from Spengler, who has admitted to not enjoying the tight Brands Hatch circuit.
The gap was over 9 seconds by lap 21, and more than a dozen seconds at the halfway point of the 98-lap race. Di Resta eased off in the second half to ensure the victory, and took the flag a still-comfortable seven seconds in front of Spengler.
"I am very satisfied," Spengler admitted again, "Brands Hatch doesn't suit me, but we worked really hard throughout the weekend and our team gave me a perfect car."
For Spengler, the eight points for second place were the key. The Canadian has been on the DTM podium after every race bar last month's visit to Zandvoort, and the points allowed him to strengthened his grip on the 2010 title.
It was another race of disappointment for Audi; the defending 2009 and 2010 champion, Timo Scheider, simply did not have the pace to challenge the two leading Mercedes, and finished 10.258 seconds behind di Resta.
"In the beginning Bruno wasn't that quick, so Paul was able to move away at the front," Scheider recalled. "But on used tires Bruno was very fast in the end."
The one bright point for the Ingolstadt team was the strong performance of their promising young rookie, Spaniard Miguel Molina, behind Scheider. Starting from ninth place in a 2008-spec Audi A4, Molina moved through the field, setting a new track record in the process.
Molina finally took fifth, moving past Gary Paffett in the late stages by extending his second stint to pass Paffett during the second round of stops. The young Spaniard finished fourth, then, 0.461 seconds behind Scheider, and Paffett sixth.
"My start was the best part of my race," Paffett admitted. "I was just not fast enough to challenge Timo Scheider in front of me and after my second pit stop, I dropped behind Miguel Molina."
The biggest blow to Audi's already-faint title hopes came at the start, when Mattias Ekstrom, the leading Audi driver coming into the race, was hit by Ralf Schumacher. Ekstrom had started quickly and slipped by Schumacher, but the two cars made contact, and Ekstrom suffered damage to his car.
Seven laps into the race, the already-stricken Ekstrom slowed down in front of Susie Stoddart, and that put paid to both drivers' hopes of finishing the race.
Schumacher soldiered on, but ran off the track after his first pit stop, his agricultural expedition damaging his C-Class's steering and forcing his retirement.
With just four races remaining in the 2010 season, Spengler's title chase lead is now extended to nine points: he has 52 to di Resta's 43, while Paffett's sixth-place finish drops him to 13 points behind the Canadian.
Scheider, Ekstrom and Paul Green are still mathematically in the game at 29, 28 and 26 points, respectively, but clearly the championship is now Spengler's to lose.