Free practice: Merc raises the stakes

If anyone wasn't wise to the fact that Mercedes-Benz wanted the DTM crown back from the Abt Sportsline Audi team, the wake-up call was issued by AMG's lead driver Bernd Schneider this morning (Saturday)

Free practice: Merc raises the stakes

The multiple DTM champ was the only driver to dip below the 1m36s barrier as the gloves finally came off at Hockenheim in the final practice session before this afternoon's new qualifying format. Schneider headed an AMG 1-2-3, a quarter of a second quicker than Jean Alesi, who was a similar amount ahead of Marcel Fassler.

The top non-Merc was Audi's young one-lap specialist Martin Tomczyk in fourth, who was three-tenths up on his team-mate, and last year's champion, Laurent Aiello. Alain Menu was the top Opel in sixth, just ahead of colleague Timo Scheider.

Mattias Ekstrom (Audi) was ninth quickest, but suffered a left rear puncture early in the one-hour session. Rookie Abt team-mate Peter Terting received the driver warning flag for over ambitious use of the run-off at the Nordkurve, and blotted his copybook further by spinning twice in the Mercedes Arena section.

Smokin' Jo Winkelhock lived up to his reputation with a tyre-wrecking spin at the Spitzkehre hairpin, while Opel colleague Menu had a more serene rotation at Turn 2. Scheider, meanwhile, chose the highly public final corner for his spin, right in front of the Opel legion of fans who spent last night drinking beer and playing loud rock music in the campsite behind the grandstand. Scotland's Peter Dumbreck was 10th fastest ahead of his Opel debut.

Qualifying features a top-10 shoot-out for pole at 13.20 (12.20 BST).

Bernd Schneider Mercedes 1m35.954s
Jean Alesi Mercedes 1m36.211s
Marcel Fassler Mercedes 1m36.472s
Martin Tomczyk Audi 1m36.488s
Laurent Aiello Audi 1m36.817s
Alain Menu Opel 1m36.835s
Timo Scheider Opel 1m36.944s
Christijan Albers Mercedes 1m36.978s
Mattias Ekstrom Audi 1m36.980s
Peter Dumbreck Opel 1m36.999s

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Qualifying: Schneider seals pole

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