Mercedes-AMG’s Gary Paffett described finishing fourth in race one of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters at Hockenheim as a “disappointing result” despite taking the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
The 2005 champion started the race from the front row behind polesitter Lucas Auer, who let him by on the opening lap into the Mercedes turn.
Title rival René Rast then closed in and pitted earlier, forcing Paffett to cover off the undercut.
He managed to emerge ahead of Rast’s Audi RS 5 DTM, but a tremendous battle ensued in which the pair switched places numerous times.
“The result was disappointing. We had great pace in the race and a margin on René in the first stint,” said Paffett.
“He gained a lot on us in the pit stop and overtook me shortly after that with DRS. Then we had a bit of a battle, and I actually stopped using DRS.
“I was quite comfortable just sitting behind him, because I thought we had the pace to challenge him later in the race. I was in P2 without any threat from behind.”
The safety car was then deployed as Augusto Farfus’ door came off his BMW M4 DTM and needed to be removed from the racing line.
Once the race resumed, Rast got the jump on Paffett in the Indy-style restart and pulled away, before Paffett slipped back two positions to fourth in the closing stages.
“Then the safety car came out for debris on the track, and after that it was very hard to wake my old tyres up,” explained Paffett.
“Then, on the restart, someone went off and the whole track was covered in dust.
“I nearly went off something like ten times because it was impossible to get any temperature back in the tyres.”
The result gives the 27-year-old a six point advantage in the standings over erstwhile leader Paul Di Resta, with Rast 21 points behind.
The finale of the 2018 season is set to get underway tomorrow [14 October] at 13:00.