Ralf Schumacher has admitted that while he may not go down in history as the best driver motor racing has ever known, he at least wants to be remembered as one who liked to have fun and give it his all.
With six victories and 329 points from 180 grands prix between 1997 and 2007, Schumacher made his mark as the second most successful German driver of all time in the top flight, behind only his record-breaking brother Michael. Having now switched across to tin-tops by signing for Mercedes in the DTM – where he will campaign a year-old C-Class run by Trilux in 2008 – he says he is aiming to rediscover enjoyment in his racing over the coming months.
“Of course I know that neither the media nor the spectators consider me the greatest race driver of all times,” the 32-year-old candidly acknowledged, “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 [Haug – Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President] mentioned in our conversation that shortly before this time I had managed to win two grands prix within only eight days.
“However, I am still the same Ralf as at those times, the same racer who has fun in motorsport and who wants to compete with the best.”
Schumacher will evidently be keen to dispel the belief that F1 refugees struggle to adapt to driving with a roof above their heads, after Mika Hakkinen, Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all won races in the DTM but failed to find the necessary consistency in order to string together a championship bid.
“I like the series, I like the environment and I like the enthusiastic and positive spectators,” he underlined. “I like Mercedes too – with them I got my first chance to test a Formula 1 car in 1996.
“Who knows how my Formula 1 career might have 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.”
In describing his new signing as a perfect fit for both the championship and Mercedes' title ambitions, Haug is clearly confident Schumacher has all the necessary attributes to shine and become a firm favourite amongst the DTM's fervent supporters.