Ralf heads for return in DTM

Ousted Toyota Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher has signed a deal with Mercedes to join a long line of ex-Grand Prix stars who have raced in the DTM. The 32-year-old will follow Hans Stuck, Keke Rosberg, Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Mika Häkkinen by continuing his career in the German touring car series.

Six-time Grand Prix winner Schumacher will drive a year-old Mercedes C-Class in this year’s DTM, which begins at Hockenheim in April. His deal followed the completion of his second test with Mercedes at Estoril in Portugal in early February.

Mercedes motor sport boss Norbert Haug insisted that Schumacher needed “every single kilometre to make up for his lack of DTM experience”. Schumacher explained that driving a silhouette DTM racer required being “incredibly precise” and “fully focused”.

Schumacher will be hoping that he does a Häkkinen rather than a Frentzen. Finnish double Formula 1 World Champion Häkkinen claimed a trio of wins in the series, whereas Frentzen never won during a three-year stint racing the DTM cars.

The most successful ex-F1 star in the DTM is Stuck. The veteran of 74 Grand Prix starts between 1974 and ’79 won the German title with Audi in 1990. Bernd Schneider, meanwhile, put a disappointing F1 career that stretched to just nine starts behind him with five DTM titles and championship success in the short-lived International Touring Car series.