Audi’s withdrawal from today’s DTM race at Barcelona was, in my opinion, a ridiculous over-exaggeration and a dismal display of poor sportsmanship.
Their withdrawal hinted at the suspicion that rival Mercedes’ drivers had been ordered to give no quarter to their competitors. But reviewing the collisions it’s hard to support Audi’s move which has served only to damage the sport and hurt the fans.
Mika Hakkinen was certainly at fault in his collision with Martyn Tomcyk. Tomcyk had given Hakkinen the bare minimum of room on the dirtiest part of the circuit, Hakkinen failed to brake in time, and hit Tomcyk as a result. It wass hard luck for Tomcyk, but that’s racing.
Audi perhaps had more cause to be angry with the clash that took out Mattias Ekstrom. Ekstrom’s move in pushing Daniel la Rosa onto the grass may have been unnecessary, but la Rosa’s subsequent trip across the grass into the side of Ekstrom was reckless.
The two following collisions – between Mathias Lauda and Timo Scheider, and Mike Rockenfeller and Bruno Spengler – were racing incidents, pure and simple.
It’s not hard to imagine how, in the heat of the moment, Audi’s team managers might have looked at the crashes and concluded that it was the work of some sinister conspiracy on the part of Mercedes.
One would like to think that the brightest minds at Audi were above such a crude assumption, but not only did they believe on it, their reaction to it was totally out of proportion.
Instead of waiting for the steward’s response (which, when it came, was to levy hefty fines on Hakkinen and la Rosa) they took matters into their own hands.
Withdrawing all of their cars sent two strong messages: one, we don’t care about the fans, and two, we have no confidence in the DTM stewards.
In practical terms it achieved absolutely nothing, except throwing a few championship points away, and making it abundantly clear to the seven Audi drivers that remained in the race (more than Mercedes had at that point) that the team bosses don’t really care about where they finish.
It’s yet another blow for the DTM in a poor year for the series. Audi have had a role in all of this year’s worst moments.
They were the victims of a safety car error at the Lausitzring badly, and after lobbying the sports’ governing body half-points were awarded to the top eight.
The Zandvoort race ended in a hail of boos from the crowd as a string of Audi drivers pulled over to let championship favourites Tomcyk and Ekstrom pass. The former was waved by twice by Alexandre Premat – once in sight of the chequered flag in a manner reminiscent of Ferrari’s acts in F1 in 2002.
The DTM can’t afford to lose Audi, as it has only two manufacturers left in the series. But on the strength of today’s disgraceful display from the team, I honestly wouldn’t be sorry to see them go.
Photo: DTM Media Service