Four drivers, headed by BMW’s Marco Wittmann, stopped on the opening lap and caught up to the field during a safety car period before cycling towards the front as the early frontrunners pitted. But Audi’s Muller kept the quartet at bay for much of the race, leaving his own mandatory stop late. Muller’s Audi stablemate Mattias Ekstrom emerged from the pits 20 seconds behind the pack, but reeled them in and went on to finish second, 0.3s behind Mercedes’ race winner Maro Engel.
“Nico Muller was doing nothing but blocking and trying to be a – in bike racing, you say, Wassertrager [water carrier] – for the big boss,” BMW motorsport boss Jens Marquardt told Autosport. ” “What fans want to see are proper straight fights, head-to-head and not strategy and chess playing with cars. For me this is not what people want to see and what they paid money for – but that’s for somebody else to decide.”
His sentiments were echoed by Mercedes DTM boss Ulrich Fritz, who told Motorsport.com: “I mean, we have to ask the question if we want to play chess or if we want to go racing.
“In the end, what I saw from Mr. Muller was intentionally holding back the guys behind.
“Maro was lucky and could win the race but especially the guys at BMW [Wittmann and Tom Blomqvist] lost a lot of places by that – and the same thing could’ve happened to us. I don’t really get it, I have to say.”
Reigning champion Wittmann, who led the early-stopping drivers during the safety car, felt his race was “destroyed” by Muller – as he used up his allocated DRS activations while trying to pass, and was overtaken by Engel and eventually ended up only sixth.
“Audi left Muller staying out until nearly the end of the race and slowing us down, me, Maro and so on, quite massively,” Wittmann told Motorsport.com. “It was quite obvious what he did, slowing us down in the high-speed, medium-speed corners, he tried to make a gap just before the straight not to get passed and then slowing us down by two seconds per lap. For me, that has nothing to do with fair racing, to be honest. For me, it’s a bit unacceptable what they do. They should just go, race and maybe win the race if they are better or quicker but not destroying the race of other drivers. I am quite disappointed because today we maybe could’ve won and they actually destroyed my race.”