On the final lap of Sunday’s DTM race, Timo Scheider was racing with the two Mercedes of Pascal Wehrlein and Robert Wickens. Wehrlein was leading the championship at the time so worked together with Wickens to move ahead of Scheider’s Audi into 6th place. It was fairly standard racecraft but Audi’s response was not a sporting one. As Wehrlein got ahead they instructed Scheider to “push him off” (in German) and Timo duly obliged by punting both Mercedes drivers into the gravel at the very next corner. Amazing. It was a sly move that’s quite unusual at such a high professional level.
Audi’s boss, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, initially denied giving the instruction but later admitted it was a comment he made in the heat of the moment that wasn’t supposed to reach the driver. Scheider was disqualified from the race and Audi will face a separate hearing to determine if there should be any further sanctions. It was a serious professional foul.
There is plenty of bad blood between Audi and Mercedes so this controversy could rumble on for a while. In 2007 Audi withdrew all of their cars partway through a DTM race after their two championship contenders were taken out by Mercedes drivers. At the time, Audi’s bosses said “we had to get the impression that the Mercedes drivers used every opportunity to eliminate our cars. This is not the style in which we want to conduct motorsport” but now the boot is on the other foot and the Mercedes camp has made its displeasure well known. Pascal Wehrlein himself said that Audi “started a big war today” so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
The 2015 DTM championship fight has now become a little bitter and Sunday’s race might define the rest of the season.