Mercedes defends team orders call in DTM title decider

Mercedes has defended its decision to use team orders to assist Maximilian Gotz’s DTM title bid at the Norisring following widespread outcry from fans on social media.

Mercedes defends team orders call in DTM title decider

Gotz overcame a 22-point deficit to become the 2021 DTM champion last weekend, but only after Mercedes instructed long-time race leader Lucas Auer and Philip Ellis to let the German driver come through and win the race.

Auer had been running 12 seconds clear of HRT driver Gotz and was on course for a third victory in as many weekends, but spectacularly slowed down to allow the 35-year-old to move into the lead with just three laps to run.

This followed an opening lap collision between championship protagonists Liam Lawson and Kelvin van der Linde that left the former's Ferrari with suspension damage and out of the running for points.

While Sunday's race was poorly received by the fans, who felt Lawson had been cruelly robbed of a title he thoroughly deserved, Mercedes-AMG's customer racing boss Thomas Jager is convinced that the manufacturer was right to ask Winward duo Auer and Ellis to move aside to help Gotz secure the drivers' title.

Jager argued that all four Mercedes teams benefit from their combined knowledge and expertise and it was only logical to capitalise on the opportunity handed by Gotz's title rivals Lawson and van der Linde.

"From my point of view it's always a give and take [relationship]," said Jager. "The teams know, the drivers know because we have seven cars on the grid and everyone is benefitting from our system, so they get great support from us and then it's in their hands. 

"In the end we were in the position [to win the title]. Through this system we are sharing data, we are sharing set-ups, we are sharing videos, and all cars are pretty strong. That's why we've seen this high level of competition between our cars. 

"On Saturday we had five cars within one tenth. Other manufacturers were not able to do so for whatever reason. That's the first point, the strength of the support system from Mercedes-AMG. 

"Then as every driver during the season benefits from one or the other thing, they are of course willing to help the one-team approach in order to make such a great result happen, because we never know when we are back in a position to win a championship.

"That's why I think it was not necessary to convince someone because in the end it's a big family and drivers know what to do and it's great we are having this kind of team and these drivers because next time maybe someone else will be in a position to benefit from it and that's why I can say thank you to all of our teams."

Race winner and Champion Maximilian Götz, Haupt Racing Team

Race winner and Champion Maximilian Götz, Haupt Racing Team

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Gotz completed two uninspiring seasons with Mercedes in the previous era of the DTM between 2015-16, before returning to the series this year for its switch to GT3 regulations.

While the German driver had scored only one win prior to his double triumph at the Norisring, he was one of the most consistent drivers in the field and finished the season with eight podiums in 16 races.

Asked for his thoughts on Mercedes' tactics, the 35-year-old said that team orders are "part of the game" and felt the clash between Lawson and van der Linde only served to ease his run to the title.

"I think we saw that things were solved by themselves," he said. "In the end we were the third guy in the championship, having the lowest potential for winning the championship. 

"And these are the guys, like Kelvin and Liam, fighting a lot and giving a hard time to each other, and we were profiting from it. 

"So in the end we bring our position and then we also get help from the manufacturer and also the teammates to make the big thing happen. 

"Of course what happened before [with Lawson and van der Linde] isn't in our hands, it was pure racing - maybe a bit too much. 

"But in the end if we are in this position, and in swapping positions for getting the title, I think everybody would do it. In the end it's part of the game and in the end the others make our life a bit easier today."

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