Mercedes-Benz has expressed its frustration and disappointment with DTM officials after Robert Wickens was black flagged whilst leading at the Red Bull Ring, claiming he was the victim of mistaken identity in a row over a penalty for an unsafe release.
Having started on pole position, Wickens led throughout the opening stint of the race when he pitted – along with five drivers directly behind him – on lap 21.
However, having been released into the path of the close-following Timo Glock, Wickens was handed a drive-through for an 'unsafe release', a penalty Mercedes-Benz bosses proceeded to contest due to a belief it was in fact meant for team-mate Pascal Wehrlein.
Indeed, Wehrlein, who pitted on the same lap, had also been released into the path of another driver – this time Marco Wittmann -, but while Wickens and Glock didn't make contact, Wehrlein and Wittmann did. The impact, though low speed, was enough for Wehrlein to retire shortly afterwards.
With this in mind, Mercedes were convinced the penalty should have been for Wehrlein and not for Wickens, but the latter's penalty would continue to stand as they argued their case. As such, when Wickens – who had now retaken the lead from Augusto Farfus during the furore off the track – completed more than three laps to serve his penalty, he was promptly black flagged.
It was a decision, Mercedes Head of Motorsport Marketing and Communications Wolfgang Schattling was dismayed with.
“We had a very disappointing race today after a very positive qualifying. Robert secured a fantastic pole position on Saturday and was leading the race. His tussle with Augusto Farfus was world class. Unfortunately, the race stewards then took what was for us a surprising and incomprehensible decision.
“In our view, there was no unsafe release after Robert's pit stop. We tried to speak to the stewards during the race, because we thought that they had possibly mixed up the incident of Pascal Wehrlein leaving the pit lane with that of Wickens.
“That's why Robert stayed out so long, but there's nothing you can do about the stewards' decision, particularly when a black flag is involved. For that reason, we then called Robert in. His fantastic race was totally wrecked by this decision.”
Wickens, meanwhile, was upset with the ruling and was certain it cost him the chance to complete a second win of an otherwise difficult 2014 season.
“That was a really disappointing afternoon for me. After taking pole position on Saturday, I thought I was in with a good chance for Sunday's race. My car was running exceptionally well on the prime tyres after the pit stop. As the rules stand and in my own personal view, it was clearly not an unsafe release. The penalty ruined my race and cost me a potential win.”