The drivers expected to fly the flag for Mercedes came away from the opening round of the 2007 DTM campaign at Hockenheim last weekend with little to show for their efforts, and just two points between them.
Of pre-season favourites Bernd Schneider, Bruno Spengler and Mika Hakkinen, the former was the only one to leave the German circuit with any points in the bag, but a lowly seventh place at the chequered flag after failing to make it through into the final shoot-out in qualifying was not what the reigning champion had anticipated heading into the meeting.
“My start was not good and I lost two positions,” the 42-year-old confessed. “After that all the drivers in the DTM are so close together that it was not possible for me to move up further than seventh. If you want to finish on the podium you need a better grid position than ninth.”
Double Formula 1 World Champion Hakkinen, meanwhile, was even further off the pace in his new 2007-spec C-Class, struggling to tenth position in the race despite having lined up seventh on the grid
“After the promising test and practice results it was a difficult start to the season,” the Finn acknowledged. “We will now focus on being well-prepared for the next race. I have already put the opening weekend behind me and am looking forward to Oschersleben.”
Perhaps the most disappointed of the three-pointed star's contingent at the end of the race, however, was Bruno Spengler, who had gone into 2007 seemingly in pole position for the title. After putting his C-Class at the top of the timesheets in qualifying, the Canadian was subsequently stripped of his third place finishing position and relegated back down to 14th when he was adjudged to have pushed Audi rival Timo Scheider off the circuit in their tussle over the final podium spot on the last tour.
“Apart from the accident on the opening lap it was a good race,” last year's runner-up remarked. “Following my first pit-stop, I got stuck behind several other cars and was not able to overtake them, which was crucial and cost me a possible win. Then during the last laps my power steering didn't work, but it was good to know the new C-Class is competitive right from the beginning.
“The time penalty which I received two hours after the race cost me six points. I am and always have been a fair driver and I am not known for pushing my rivals. With this background, it hurts twice as much to lose six points after a race accident – a very, very severe punishment. However, I will now fight even more – with fair means, like before.”