Wittmann calls for “equal conditions” in BMW’s DTM camp after 2023 frustrations

Wittmann calls for “equal conditions” in BMW’s DTM camp after 2023 frustrations

Wittmann recorded his worst-ever campaign in his 11-year stint in the DTM, with the German driver ending up a distant 13th in the championship with just 91 points in his tally. Even during the COVID-affected 2020 season in which BMW was completely outshadowed by its sole manufacturer rival Audi, Wittmann had managed to finish inside the top 10 in the standings with a series of top-notch performances.

2023 also marked the first time he ended a season without a podium, with a pair of fourth-place finishes at Zandvoort and the Red Bull Ring the best he could manage all year.

BMW had placed Wittmann at the new Project 1 team in 2023, while its other factory drivers Sheldon van der Linde and Rene Rast competed for the better-funded Schubert team with which van der Linde won the 2022 title.

While most of the top teams, including Schubert, held a private test at every track that was on the calendar, with the exception of Norisring where the streets can only be closed for one race weekend a year, Project 1 undertook a very limited testing programme to the detriment of its performance.

The 34-year-old believes a lack of track time was the main reason why he rarely featured at the sharp end of the field in 2023.

“As there is no test ban in the DTM, many teams take advantage of this, which is also legitimate,” he explained. “And so you come to every race weekend with a backlog of experience. 

“You only have these two practice sessions and a single run on new tyres when the track is dry. It’s almost impossible to make up for that.

“We were testing in Zandvoort and that was our strongest weekend [despite a botched pitstop costing a podium].

“What’s more, Zandvoort is clearly my favorite track on the calendar. I’ve always been successful there. 

“The situation was similar in Spielberg: We had the pre-season test there and already had a few ideas and information that we could use. At all the other tracks, we had this lack of experience.”

He added: “If it’s up to me as a driver, I test 20 days a year. That would be the other extreme, but it would have been ideal if we had completed a test before every race like the other teams.”

Podium: Sheldon van der Linde, Schubert Motorsport, Rene Rast, Team ABT Sportsline

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Podium: Sheldon van der Linde, Schubert Motorsport, Rene Rast, Team ABT Sportsline

In contrast to Wittmann, van der Linde and Rast finished fourth and fifth in the championship this year after a season in which they regularly featured on the podium and bagged one victory each other.

With the difference in results quite clear to onlookers, Wittmann wants BMW to ensure he has access to the same level of resources as other factory drivers so he doesn’t feel he is at a disadvantage to them.

Asked if he would like to remain in the DTM next year, he said: “It would be my wish. I said to [BMW motorsport boss] Andreas [Roos]: ‘The most important thing for me is that I have a level playing field. I want to have the same conditions as the other two works drivers’.

“What comes out in the end and how he handles it is his decision.”

When Wittmann’s request for equal treatment was put to Roos, he told Motorsport.com’s sister site Motorsport-Total.com: “It’s not the case that we want to disadvantage or advantage a driver. Our task and our mission is to have three cars on the same level and also at the front. This support is definitely there.”

However, he made it clear that it is up to teams to decide how much resources they devote to testing, with BMW having no say in this matter.

“As a manufacturer, we have no influence on that,” he said. “It’s a team decision as to how much you can test and what you focus on. 

“Schubert tried to do a lot, but in the end everything has to fit together, including availability, the budget, etc.”

What next for Wittmann?

Marco Wittmann, Project 1 Motorsport

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Marco Wittmann, Project 1 Motorsport

With Project 1 expected to switch camps and join a possible McLaren assault on the DTM next year, as reported by Motorsport.com this month, BMW might need to find another home for Wittmann in the 2024 season.

Former Audi squad Rosberg is looking to make a comeback and could be one of BMW’s options, especially as Roos himself worked at the outfit in the past prior to taking a managerial role at Audi and then BMW.

However, a return to the DTM for Team Rosberg will depend upon its ability to raise sufficient budget, which remains a big question mark at the moment.

Alternatives to Team Rosberg are limited. WRT could be a candidate, but team boss Vincent Vosse has resisted the temptation to join the DTM in recent years. WRT will also be running a dual Hypercar and LMGT3 programme with BMW in the World Endurance Championship this year, which means it will not be able to devote the kind of focus a series like DTM requires.

RGM, which was part of BMW’s factory roster during the Class 1 days of DTM, is highly-rated but lacks the structure to operate as a customer team. Since the demise of Class 1, RGM has been involved in helping BMW develop its LMDh and GT3 cars, and most recently has been working on bringing an Evo version of the M4 for 2025.

But an RMG DTM effort would require BMW to fund the entire programme, something the Munich manufacturer would never agree to as it sees GT3 as a customer sport.

If Team Rosberg can’t find the necessary budget and BMW cannot find another team to replace outgoing Project 1, then, in theory, it could place Wittmann at an expanded three-car Schubert operation.

But again, BMW will have to justify such a move, as Torsten Schubert’s team suffers from high operational costs after considerable investments in the team in recent years. As such, Schubert will require extensive financial support from BMW to field three pro drivers in DTM next year.

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