Mercedes-Benz announces Ralf's switch to DTM
After 11 years in the Formula 1 World Championship, Ralf Schumacher (32) will race this year with the Trilux AMG Mercedes C-Class in the DTM, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport announced today. Ralf Schumacher’s DTM debut will take place at the season opener in Hockenheim on 13th April 2008.
Ralf Schumacher tested the AMG Mercedes C-Class during four and a half test days in Estoril, Portugal for about 490 laps; which was more than 2,000 kilometres or approximately 12 DTM race distances. It was his first outing with an AMG Mercedes since 20th July 1997 when he was a guest driver in a race of the FIA GT Championship in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium with an AMG Mercedes CLK-GTR. This was also Schumacher’s last opportunity to drive a race car with a roof.
At the age of three, Ralf Schumacher drove a kart for the first time. At the age of 16, he won his first title clinching the German Kart Junior Championship in 1991. One year later, he participated in his first ever car race – in the ADAC Formula Junior at Nuremberg’s Norisring. In 1995, he entered Formula 3 becoming runner-up in the German Championship and winning the Formula 3 Grand Prix in Macau. The following year, he won the Japanese Formula Nippon and was invited to his first Formula 1 test in Silverstone by McLaren Mercedes. In 1997, he made his Formula 1 debut with Jordan Peugeot.
From 1997 until 2007, Ralf participated in 180 Grands Prix, won six out of them and also started six times from pole position. He scored a total of 329 World Championship points. In 2001 and 2002, he finished the Drivers’ Championship with Williams BMW in fourth place respectively. At the Brazilian Grand Prix on 21st October 2007, he finished his Formula 1 career with Toyota. Behind his brother Michael, Ralf is the most successful German Formula 1 driver in the history of the championship since 1950.
"Of course I know that neither the media nor the spectators consider me the greatest race driver of all times and this is not what I’m aiming for.”
“During my last three years in Formula 1, I didn’t have much success and it almost sounded strange to me when Norbert mentioned in our conversation, that short before this time I had managed to win two Formula 1 Grands Prix within only eight days.”
“However, I am still the same Ralf as at those times, the same racer who has fun in motor sports and who wants to compete with the best.”
“Now I am able to do so in the DTM which I know very well since the mid-nineties when I was a young up-coming driver racing in Formula Junior and Formula 3 which had been staged as a supporting programme of the DTM. Then I dreamed of racing in the main event sometime.”
“I like the series, I like the environment, I like the enthusiastic and positive spectators. And I like Mercedes – with them I got my first chance to test a Formula 1 car in 1996 and who knows how my Formula 1 career had turned out if I had accepted the McLaren Mercedes offer to become their test driver for 1997.“
“But then I wanted to drive races, and that’s what I still want today, more than ten years later. I will learn in the DTM, I will work hard and I will put it behind me if people will criticize me if I should have problems during the first couple of races.”
“It was decisive for our engagement of Ralf that he showed enthusiasm for the DTM and his willingness to commit himself to a learning period with the for him unknown race touring cars and with the enormous competitiveness of the entire field.”
“Needless to describe Ralf’s driving skills, until today he is the most successful German Formula 1 driver behind his brother Michael and this is not because these successes were a present.”
“It is clear that in the DTM Ralf has at first to get used to starting positions with two-digit numbers and that during his learning year he probably will start rather from the last third of the field than from the second third.”
“Ralf is ready to go this way of learning and our technical team will support him entirely.” With the attitude Ralf showed during the tests and in our conversations I am convinced that the DTM will experience a new driver who will start with skills and concentration and who has everything to inspire both the crowd and his team. Ralf will soon have a new image and I think that in his first year in the DTM this will not be based on his results but on his commitment to fight sportsmanlike, hard and fair with an extremely tough competition and thus to learn to improve to the top step by step. Neither did Ralf not ask us for a Formula 1 bonus in his salary nor did he require a special status within the team – compliments for this attitude: This is the only correct and therefore best pre-condition for his new career." Formula 1 complete