Mercedes has revealed that Ralf Schumacher has extended his contract to continue in the DTM for the coming season, with the former F1 racer moving up to a 2009-spec Mercedes C-Class for his second year in the series.
Having seen his Formula One career come to an end, the 33-year-old followed in the footsteps of drivers like Jean Alesi, Mika Hakkinen and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in switching to the touring car series but he endured a difficult year in a 2007-spec car – taking a best finish of seventh and finishing down in 14th place in the standings.
However, with his learning year now behind him, Schumacher will be armed with the new 2009 Trilux AMG Mercedes C-Class for the new campaign and he said he was now keen to repay the faith shown in him by the manufacturer for the his second year of competition.
“After only one year with a year old car I now change to the up-to-date Mercedes-Benz C-Class,” he said. “A great chance for me.
“It was clear for all of us that 2008 would be a learning year for me, therefore I am satisfied with my achievements. The 2009 C-Class is a big chance for me and I want to justify the trust Mercedes-Benz put in me with good results.
“In my opinion, the DTM is the best touring car series in the world. Here we fight hard for every metre and every tenth of a second. As I know from many encounters in the paddock, the fans like this as much as me. From my point of view, the spectators don't get more value for their money in any other top racing series.”
Mercedes-Benz motorsport chief Norbert Haug welcomed the chance to give Schumacher the latest model of car for the season ahead and said he was confident the driver would show what he is capable of during the year ahead.
“During the last season, Ralf Schumacher demonstrated that he was racing in the DTM with all his heart and that, after his Formula 1 career, he does not consider touring car racing a challenge which he has yet finished,” he said. “His learning year was good for him and for the DTM. The racing series again showed that even a world class driver with Formula 1 victories to his credit cannot come straight in and compete against the front runners.
“Nevertheless, Ralf became one of the most popular drivers already in his debut year and was in the focus of the interest from the beginning to the end.”
“Our latest tests in Mugello showed that Ralf can drive a DTM touring car at top level. After his 'learning year', he will get the chance in our new 2009 C-Class: Now everything is up to him and to us and I am sure Ralf will show what he can do.”