by Russell Atkins
DTM front-runner Jamie Green remains adamant Mercedes is capable of withstanding Audi's seemingly relentless march to steal its crown in the pan-European tin-top series, whilst at the same time stressing his own campaign has not been as bad as it may look on paper.
The Leicestershire ace last year registered a trio of podium finishes, a stunning four pole positions from ten races and was comfortably the championship's most accomplished one-lap ace. In 2007, by stark contrast, he has struggled to make a similar impression, when many pre-season had tipped him to be a title contender.
With just two top five qualifying runs – when in 2006 he only once failed to make the leading two rows of the grid – and a best race finish of fifth place last time out at the Nürburgring, the season so far has fallen somewhat short of expectations, a fact the 25-year-old is quick to acknowledge.
“It's been a hard year,” he admitted to Crash.net Radio
. “I think the main thing really has been that with this year's car and tyre package, I've found it difficult to really get the maximum performance out of the car, especially in qualifying which is completely the opposite to last year. That's been putting me down the grid a bit more and it obviously makes the races a lot harder too.
“In terms of the races themselves, I think I've probably performed better than last year – I've been more consistent over long runs and had better average pace – but there have been a few times I've not finished and therefore not scored points. There was one race where I probably should have been on the podium but I got a drive-through penalty, so it has been difficult.”
Indeed, while the rostrum continues to elude the Mercedes star in 2007, he has at least been impressively consistent, finishing five races out of eight inside the top six. He is equally well aware, however, that with such a level playing field, half the battle is played out in gaining a good grid position – his current Achilles' heel.
“We've seen nearly the whole grid within just a second sometimes,” he underlined. “It's extremely close all the way down the field.
“The pit-stops do give you an opportunity to move forward, but on the track they're all very experienced drivers. The Audis are quite strong this year too, as are the older cars because they've got a healthy 30kg weight advantage, and there are some very good drivers in the '05 and '06 cars like Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta and Alex Prémat in the Audi. In previous years we've had an advantage and the older cars have been a bit slower.
“The '07 package is still pretty good, though. If you look at the results it's had five pole positions and five wins – which is more than Audi – so if you look at it that way we're pretty strong. The thing is it's been different Mercedes drivers on different occasions that have scored those pole positions and wins, which is why it's not a Mercedes driver leading the championship. It hasn't been one single driver who has consistently collected all the points.”