"Whole paddock" surprised DTM finale qualifying wasn't restarted – Motorsport.com

The pole-shootout was brought to a halt with two minutes 25 seconds left on the clock when Red Bull driver Felipe Fraga crashed his Ferrari at Turn 1 moments after setting the quickest time of the session.
Because of the damage to the barriers and scheduling constraints, the race control decided not to restart qualifying and declared the results based on the order before the red flag.
Most of the drivers were yet to set their final flying laps on fresh tyres when the session was halted, leading to a jumbled up grid for the title decider.
While Rene Rast was promoted to pole position after Fraga’s laptime was deleted for causing the red flag, eventual champion Sheldon van der Linde could only qualify sixth (which became fifth on the grid after a penalty for Nico Muller) and Lucas Auer finished even further back in 11th.
Factory Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti was perhaps the worst-hit from the red flag as he had just set a purple sector and was on a lap that he believes was good enough for provisional pole when the red flag was shown.
It left him 17th out of 19 drivers on a depleted grid and put him out of the title race, having needed at least two bonus points in qualifying to have any chances of overhauling van der Linde in the standings.
The Italian was clear that it was possible to restart qualifying and give all drivers a chance one final shot at pole position, feeling the final starting grid wasn’t representative of the true pecking order.
“I was en route to a pole lap but there was a red flag,” the Grasser Racing driver told Motorsport.com. 
“I think the whole paddock has no idea why they didn’t restart and the explanation for not restarting didn’t really make sense because the next series was taking place according to time.
“They said the barrier was broken but the BMW M2 Cup [support race] took place at the right time. If it was so heavily broken, either they did a miracle in repairing it or maybe it wasn’t that damaged.
“For sure everybody would have gotten the time to do an extra lap because there were two minutes and 25 seconds on the clock, there’s time for the entire field to do an out lap and a push lap and that would have been a quali for everyone. 
“And now it was just a quali for part of the field. For me it was not even a qualifying.”
Mirko Bortolotti, Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan EVO GT3
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
The early end to qualifying also hurt the championship aspirations of Auer as he needed to finish ahead of van der Linde in the race to clinch his maiden title in the DTM.
Although 25kg of success ballast and a separate 5kg increase under Balance of Performance meant he lacked the race pace to fight at the front, finishing a disappointing seventh, he agreed with Bortolotti that qualifying should have been restarted.
“There was a red flag, there was still time on the clock but I guess because of the timetable or something they had to stop it which was crazy, but anyway that is also motorsport,” the Austrian told reporters including Motorsport.com.
“Everybody would have got one lap [and] you have heated tyres. So absolutely it does make sense to restart because the outlap and then the timed lap.
“For sure they have the reasons why they didn’t do it. At the end of the day, okay Rene got it banked on but most of the field did not. So I wasn’t the only one who didn’t get the lap in with new tyres. But I don’t want to cry around because this is motorsport.”
Pole-sitter Rast offered a different opinion on the situation, suggesting the entire field may not have got the chance to set a flying lap had qualifying been restarted.
“Everybody could have queued [in the pitlane] and half of the field could have done a lap, but probably the other half couldn’t,” said the Abt Audi driver, who eventually finished second behind race winner Marco Wittmann
“So it is probably also not fair if you give half of the field the chance to do a lap and not the other half. I don’t know what the reason was – maybe the barrier. 
“In the end it was good for me because I was the only one doing a lap on the new tyre. I don’t know what the reason was. In terms of fairness it was the right decision.”
Walkenhorst BMW’s Wittmann was able to qualify fourth based on his time from the opening run on scrubbed tyres, laying the foundation for his first and only victory of the season.
Wittmann admitted that the stoppage compromised several drivers including him, but felt there is always a risk associated with not switching to fresh tyres until the very end of qualifying.
“I understood that there was too much damage at the barrier and too much to repair, that was the reason why they didn’t restart it,” he said.
“Obviously there were a lot of guys that didn’t have a proper lap time set in the end. On my side I was pretty lucky that I had a decent lap on the first tyre set. But that was not a new tyre set but a used one. 
“I was just about to go out on a new tyre set, did an outlap, was on the push lap and then the red flag came out. 
“It sacrificed all of us but that is sometimes the gamble. If you go out late into a qualifying there is always the risk of a red flag. 
“I think there were some guys who even did the new tyre run on the first one. Or were able to do it the lap before the red flag. So they just went out earlier for the run. That is sometimes the risk you need to go for quali.”
In a statement issued to the media, DTM race director Scot Elkins explained why qualifying was truncated following Fraga’s incident.
“The red flag was necessitated by the #74 crash in Turn 1,” he said. “As it is a high-speed section of the track, we could not risk recovering the car without a red flag. And due to the extensive repair work on the crash barriers, we did not resume the session.”
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