Audi Sport Team Phoenix’s Mike Rockenfeller displayed impressive pace throughout the final DTM weekend of the season, but was in fine form on Sunday. The 2013 first set the fastest time in qualifying at Hockenheim, and despite a grid penalty for race incidents, was able to climb up to second and challenge Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Nico Müller for the lead.
Rockenfeller revealed post-race that he had started on the qualifying set in the hope that scrubbed Hankooks would give better performance, faster at the start than a new set. Then during the red flag interruption, Rockenfeller swapped to a new set and opted to go back on to the qualifying set when he pitted two laps after the restart.
“I decided to start on the quali set of tyres to make sure at the beginning we had enough grip,” explained the Audi driver, “When I was out there and we were doing some laps behind the safety car, I was thinking maybe that was a mistake.
“The others had a chance to get their tyre temps and bed them in.
“The red flag came and I decided to put new tyres on, and put those hot ones in the garage for an early stop to maybe gain something on the outlap.
“I think it worked out good, I was surprised I managed to stay P3 after the restart because with new tyres it’s not so easy to have only one lap and go.”
However, it emerged that the rather unusual tyre strategy would not give the 35-year-old the grip he needed in the final laps, leaving him unable to catch Müller.
“I was a bit disappointed,” the six-time race winner admitted, “You feel this little edge is missing, and then he [Müller] was pulling away lap on lap.
“At the very end I thought I could catch up slightly.”
Looking back at the 2019 season, Rockenfeller believes that a number of missed opportunities stopped him beating BMW Team RMG’s Marco Wittmann to third in the standings, but argues that without those non-scoring races he still wouldn’t have been able to challenge for the title.
“It was three times I didn’t finish a race,” he explained, “Somehow it didn’t run in my direction here and there.
“We lost 50 or 60 points which hurts in the end. Nevertheless, without those DNFs we didn’t have the pace throughout the year to challenge them [Rast and Müller].”
Rockenfeller finishes the year fourth in the championship with 182 points, 20 behind Wittmann and 25 ahead of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Robin Frijns.