From the outside looking in, it's easy to draw the conclusion that Nico Muller had a breakthrough season in 2019. But he rightly points out that this isn't the case. Muller finally clicked as a leading DTM driver during the '18 title run-in, only for his efforts to be obscured by Audi throwing everything behind an unlikely title tilt from Rene Rast that ultimately fell just short. Just looking at Muller's weekend at the Red Bull Ring, he showcased race-winning and dominant form, only to be asked to move aside for Rast.
But what 2019 did show was how Muller was able to refine his weaknesses and improve. The Audi driver struggled to nail one of the DTM's biggest skills, balancing the set-up between qualifying and the race, but progressively improved through 2019 in an area where Rast was drawing his biggest advantage.
Behind the scenes, Muller also managed to grow a strong relationship with his team of engineers, primarily gelling with race engineer Felix Fechner, who until last year had never fulfilled such a position in the DTM. He switched from his performance engineer role in the wider Audi DTM group at the beginning of 2018.
"I had a new race engineer last year - he's very young, he's the same age as me and he's never run a car before and he's never been a race engineer," Muller explains. "We really gelled over that last season and the winter. We're working together very well and we have a great crew of mechanics. [We're] just really enjoying work and I think that's what in the end can make the difference."
Those minor details meant Muller was able to end his three-year victory drought at Misano and went on to take another two wins during the season - pushing Rast close at times during the year.
Now the challenge for Muller is to make another step closer to Rast and make Audi's driver-favouring calls that much harder. Now he must also grapple with the same challenge as stablemate Robin Frijns, combining DTM with a Formula E drive.