After a podium finish at the first DTM race of the season, Mattias Ekström endured a tougher weekend at the Lausitzring, qualifying eighth and finishing fifth...
After taking pole position and finishing on the podium at Hockenheim, going to the Lausitzring a week later was always going to be interesting. As it turned out, there were a lot of surprises.
Surprise number one was that we didn’t have the qualifying run pace that we’d had at Hockenheim. Surprise number two was that we were struggling throughout practice and the warm up for race pace as well.
We never really sorted that out, but I felt we had it better for the race itself on Sunday. It was hard work moving up from eighth but it’s always nice to get stuck into a really good fight with the cars around you. At then end of the race we were 20 seconds behind the winner. That’s not good, there’s a lot to be done – but at least we scored some valuable points.
What makes me happy at the moment is that I think myself and the team around me have been squeezing the maximum out of the performance that we do have. We’ve had two very good race weekends where we’ve worked well. At the Lausitzring our strategy was full attack. We tried to go quick and take risks but in the first stint it was obviously we didn’t have the pace. After that it was about getting the best result that we could.
I wasn’t surprised to see BMW win at Lausitz, not after their performance at Hockenheim. That first race maybe their performance was surprising but a car that goes good there is probably going to go well everywhere. Obviously Bruno Spengler knows how to win as well, so put those two things together and no, it’s not surprising that they won. I still think Mercedes with Gary Paffett and Jamie Green are the strongest at the moment, and BMW are impressive too – which means we have to fight back and catch up.
The teams, the drivers and the whole organisation at Audi Sport know we have a big job in front of us. It’s not what we’d want – I’d rather have won the first two races and be sitting with my feet up looking at the trophies right now – but as a situation it’s actually quite healthy because it pushes everyone to the limit. When your back’s to the wall that can feel pretty good.
We have to find some more performance. Nothing else matters. For me, motorsport is very simple. If you have the pace you can think about strategy and lots of other things. If you don’t have the pace, you don’t have anything else to worry about apart from finding it. So our task is simple: improve our pace, develop the car, do it quickly.
I think the direction the championship is going will be decided by mid-season. I think we have to win one of the next three. If we don’t, I don’t think we’re Championship material. It’s a hard thing to say, but that’s the way it goes with only ten races in the season.
Next week we’re at Brands Hatch. Going to race in England is special and I’ve got a lot of good memories from racing at Brands. I haven’t won them all but I’ve always enjoyed the driving. After that we go to the Red Bull Ring. I think the minimum we need to do from these two races is finish both races in the top five and take at least one podium. Obviously a win would be nice but we need to stay in the fight and make sure that we’re spot on by the time we get to the Norisring.