Mercedes-AMG looked set to have a lone run for the drivers’ title, with di Resta and Paffett alternating at the top of the standings throughout the season, but Audi and Rast have pushed forward in the second half of the season to become a serious threat to the team from Stuttgart.
Each of the contenders already knows what it feels like to become DTM champion, with Paffett winning his only crown back in 2005 and di Resta doing so in 2010. Rast is the defending champion, claiming last year’s title in his first full season in the series.
Di Resta leads the standings with 229 points, four ahead of Paffett, with both drivers counting three race victories each. But Rast, who seemed unable to defend his crown at the beginning of the year, has scored five victories, four back-to-back in as many recent races, and sits just 30 points behind the Scot in the championship, with 56 in play at the season finale.
The reigning champion would be out of contention for the title if, on Saturday, he scores one or no points, if he finishes behind di Resta or if Paffett collects five more points than him, all unlikely scenarios if the last few races are taken into account. Should Rast win the first race of the weekend, the fight for the championship will go down to the wire.
“I’m an outsider and it’s extremely unlikely that we’ll take the title,” says Rast, “but really, anything can happen in the DTM, especially at the final round. We’ve already achieved our aim for the season and we’ve got nothing to lose. The pressure is definitely on Paul and Gary.”
Di Resta is optimistic about his chances: “We have a great chance of winning this,” said the championship leader. “We have to keep up the good work. We need to stay focused and try to get this across the line.”
“I’m firmly in the fight for the championship with Paul and also René,” added Paffett. “There is nothing to separate me and Paul, and based on recent performances, I think it is going to be a close fight between us. The most important thing going into the weekend is that we try and get the championship for Mercedes.”
Mercedes-AMG has already claimed the manufacturers’ and teams’ crowns, and the final victory in the drivers’ championship would be the icing on the cake in their farewell season after 30 years in the series.
“René Rast has become a real threat to Gary and Paul in the last few races, so that we can expect a battle royal for the drivers’ title at Hockenheim. Having seen how focused our team have been in their preparations for the final race, I am firmly convinced that we can also bring home the third title,” said Team HWA boss Ulrich Fritz.
The Stuttgart-based squad may have settled the manufacturers’ title with 865 points ahead of the season finale, but Audi’s charge could still take them to second place as they have 483 points in their account, just 80 behind BMW Motorsport in second place.
“After our difficult start to the season we didn’t expect to be fighting for the championship at the end,” said Audi Motorsport boss Dieter Gass. “It’s thanks to René and especially to our team that we’re still in the running. Our motto for the finale can only be: all in! If René’s winning streak continues, anything is possible. Many forget that he was on the first grid row at the opening round in Hockenheim. And at that time we were not optimally positioned after the rule changes.”
The season finale will also mark and end to Mercedes-AMG’s 30-year commitment to the series, which will make the last round of the season an emotional one for everybody involved.
“It’s amazing how fast the last few months have gone by, and suddenly here we are, facing our last DTM race weekend,” said Fritz.
“It’s kind of sad to think that this is our last race weekend as a team, but all these stories come to an end. It has been great to be a member of the family and to go into this last round of the title fight leading the championship,” added di Resta.
“I obviously have mixed feelings, as it’s the last race weekend of the season, which is always a strange feeling, but mostly because it’s the last race weekend for Mercedes in the DTM, which also ends my 15 years with Mercedes in the series. It’s a massive weekend for everybody, and it will be very emotional come Sunday when the chequered flag falls,” concluded Paffett.
As a farewell gesture to their rivals from Stuttgart, all six Audi RS 5 DTMs will have the words “SEE YOU!”, with the letter “O” as a star, on their bodywork.
“Mercedes-Benz was always an extremely strong rival that pulled out all stops,” added Gass. “It’s a pity that the Mercedes star is now extinguished in the DTM, because we think the racing series has a great history and a lot of future potential.
BMW Motorsport boss Jens Marquardt also had words of acknowledgement for his rivals: “The Hockenheimring will be the last time that we take on our rivals at Mercedes in the DTM. This farewell makes the coming weekend all the more special.”