DTM » 17 April 2005
Hockenheim 2005: Alesi leads Mercedes sweep.
Alesi finally pitted for the first time on lap 15, but the advantage he had built up in the early stages was good enough for him to slot back in only a couple of places adrift of the new leader - Schneider.... A second stop on lap 21, immediately after the German had made his second call, reinstated the Frenchman at the head of the field and, with both his required stops now banked, he was able to cruise to the chequered flag.
Behind the AMG-branded Mercedes, however, things were far from settled. With Schneider having made a second pit-stop, Hakkinen appeared to be the best placed two-stopper until Alesi rejoined at the front of the field, but the Finn was also to make a third stop, a startline penalty having caught many observers unaware.
With the former F1 champion out of the reckoning, it was Paffett - still with his door flapping despite the best attempts of his crew to tape it in place at his second stop - who took up the pursuit of Alesi. The Briton still had Ekstrom for company with ten laps to run, but the Audi driver appeared to drop off the pace as the final stint unwound, eventually losing the final podium spot to Schneider, whose own performance suggested potential victory had it not been for his indiscretion at the start.
Ekstrom's afternoon wasn't over there, however, as Green and the surprising Christian Abt, running a 2004-spec Audi, closed in rapidly, the Briton looking particularly racy as he sensed a Mercedes 1-2-3-4. Sadly, the rookie's enthusiasm got the better of him on lap 30, having already out-braked himself at the hairpin immediately after his final pit-stop, and, after banging doors with the champion, he eventually ran wide coming into the stadium. The error allowed both chasing Audis through, but it was Abt that came out ahead, eventually pulling out enough of a gap to be the best-placed A4 at the flag!
Further back, Stefan Mucke overcame a brush with Pierre Kaffer's Audi to be running in seventh, ahead of Hakkinen, while Fassler was left to rue his own misfortune after a brush with Mercedes junior Bruno Spengler saw the last remaining Opel - Heinz-Harald Frentzen having retired following contact with Alex Margaritis early on - spin down the order. The Swiss driver eventually finished ninth, one spot out of the points and immediately ahead of the '04 Audi of Frank Stippler.
With darkening skies accompanying the cars to the finish, there was caution in the air over the closing laps, with Schneider not really opting to launch an assault on second place. Paffett thus led the former champion to the flag, but neither had anything to offer Alesi, who had passed the chequer some six seconds earlier.
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