Mercedes orders, van der Linde have ‘damaged’ DTM

Date published: October 17 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

DTM boss Gerhard Berger on the Assen grid. Netherlands, September 2021.

DTM boss Gerhard Berger admits that Mercedes and Kelvin van der Linde tarnished the series with their actions at the season finale.

Red Bull junior driver Liam Lawson was in line to win the DTM title, leading Mercedes’ Maximilian Götz by 18 points heading into the final race of the season.

His hopes were wrecked though by controversial early contact with van der Linde, not for the first time this season, and Mercedes’ actions from there further soured the race.

With Lawson out of the picture, Mercedes ordered both Lucas Auer and Philip Ellis to back off and allow Götz into the lead with a few laps to go, which they obligingly did, crowning Götz champion.

Lawson has no interest in returning to DTM after what transpired, and instead will return his full focus to Formula 2 in 2022.

But the actions of van der Linde and Mercedes will have a lasting impact on DTM, one which Berger is far from happy with.

Liam Lawson DTM. Germany October 2021

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“Honestly, I slept really badly the last few nights,” Berger told BILD.

“I’ve been a motorsport fan through and through for 40 years and my sportsman’s heart can’t cope with such artificial changes of position.

“Both topics, the Mercedes team order and van der Linde’s manoeuvre, have not only triggered discussions, but have done damage to the DTM.

“I am incredibly sorry for all those involved who have contributed to the attractiveness of the DTM this season and who have done everything to ensure that the DTM stands for hard, fair racing up to the last race, where the best wins.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to do that in the finale and it is a huge blow for us in the eyes of the fans.”

Team orders in DTM were permitted again as of the 2021 campaign, but while Berger did not state that they would be outlawed once more, he did confirm that there will be an investigation into those final-race antics.

 

“If a driver makes a decision on his own initiative in the interest of the team, that’s fine. But that is also the limit,” he said.

“What is absolutely unacceptable, however, is when teams or drivers are ordered to give up their position in order to shift the advantage somewhere else.

“Of course, the issue is not new in sport.

“In Formula 1 in particular, there are many examples that are unacceptable from a sporting point of view, both from the fans’ and the other teams’ point of view.

“I only have to remind you of the wave of outrage Ferrari was confronted with from the fans when Rubens Barrichello gave up victory for Michael Schumacher [in Austria in 2002]

“In our case, however, we are talking about a cross-team arrangement [between Winward and HRT].

“That is a completely different quality again, which I cannot accept either sportingly or personally on our platform.

“That means the issue is still on the table and I will personally fight for a solution. We’ll take a close look at the facts and then hopefully draw the right conclusions based on what we find out.

“It’s up to the fans to decide whether they see anything positive in such a move. As a sportsman, I certainly can’t, because there has been a dilution of the drivers’ title.”