Mercedes `not looking` for another Hakkinen.

Ralf Schumacher has dropped the biggest hint yet that he will be racing for Mercedes in the 2008 DTM Championship, though the Formula 1 refugee has been advised to make his debut in a year-old car.

The former Jordan, Williams and Toyota ace tested one of the three-pointed star's C-Class machines at Estoril last month, and quickly got down to some highly respectable lap times. This week he again took to the wheel around the Portugese circuit, and suggested that his second appearance was far from merely speculative.

“I wouldn't be driving here if the DTM car wasn't a great deal of fun for me,” Schumacher told German tabloid newspaper Bild. “It goes without saying, if I didn't enjoy it I wouldn't seriously consider racing in DTM.

“Now, I want to use every minute for getting to know the car. After all, I'm new to the DTM business and would have to get to know everything and used to racing the car.”

The 32-year-old was dropped by Toyota at the end of the 2007 grand prix campaign, bringing the curtain down on an F1 career that had begun back in 1997 and which brought him six victories and 27 podium finishes from 180 starts.

The DTM has made no secret of its desire to welcome another star into its midst, following the departure of such as Mika Hakkinen, Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen over the past couple of years, and Mercedes bosses in Stuttgart have said they are expecting a decision to be made by the end of the month.

Norbert Haug, however, warned against raising expectations too high for what would be the German's maiden tin-top campaign, even suggesting that the younger brother of seven-time F1 world champion and former Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher should make his series bow in a 2007-spec machine to aid his inevitable learning curve.

“I assume a decision will come in February,” the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President told German agency SID. “If Ralf is interested then we can certainly work together.

“I'd recommend Ralf has a C-class model from 2007, which is better for learning and takes away some of the pressure. Formula 1 and DTM are entirely different, as Mika found out.”

Double former world champion Hakkinen spent three years in Germany's leading touring car series, making a strong debut but thereafter producing mixed form as he struggled to adapt to the different driving style required. The Finn quit the series at the end of last season with three wins to his name.

“We aren't looking for a new Hakkinen,” Haug insisted, “and we aren't interested in signing Ralf just for the headlines.”

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Former F1 star Ralf Schumacher tries out a Mercedes C-Class DTM machine at Estoril for the second time [pic credit: DTM Media]
Former F1 star Ralf Schumacher tries out a Mercedes C-Class DTM machine at Estoril for the second time [pic credit: DTM Media]
Former F1 star Ralf Schumacher tries out a Mercedes C-Class DTM machine at Estoril for the second time [pic credit: DTM Media]
Nico Muller - Rosberg Audi RS 5 DTM [pic credit Audi Media]
Lucas Auer - Mercedes AMG C63 DTM [pic credit Mercedes Media]
Jamie Green - Rosberg Audi [pic credit Audi Media]
Dieter Gass, Audi Sport, DTM [Credit: Audi Sport]
DTM - Hockenheimring [pic credit DTM Media]
ART Grand Prix, DTM [Credit: Mercedes-Benz DTM]
Gotz at Mercedes
Esteban Ocon poses with the Mercedes DTM car at Jerez. Pic credit: Daimler
Charles Pic poses next to a Mercedes DTM car at Jerez. Pic credit: Daimler
AMG Mercedes C-Coupe [pic credit Mercedes]
AMG Mercedes C-Coupe [pic credit DTM Media]
Mattias Ekstrom - Abt Audi [pic credit DTM Media]
Mattias Ekstrom - Abt Audi [pic credit DTM Media]

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Iain Langmaid - Unregistered

February 07, 2008 6:28 PM

If I was Norbert Haug I would make sure that he got a year old Mercedes and give someone like Paffett or Di Resta the fourth 2008 Mercedes C Klasse as they are both more experienced in DTM in comparison to Schumacher, but he would still be competitive in a 2007 C Klasse though. Last season Paffett won in a 2006 Mercedes C Klasse and Di Resta was ultra competitive in a 2005 C Klasse.

OZF1Fan - Unregistered

February 07, 2008 7:54 PM

Hey, we all knew where Ralfie was headed when Toyota gave him the boot. Didn't we? That silly play he played, driving the Force India cars for a couple of days was ponitless, because he was never interested on getting the drive anyway. Ralfie will be driving where a german driver is supposed to: the DTM.

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