Mika Hakkinen will make his return to racing in 2005 with Mercedes in the German Touring Car (DTM) series, it was confirmed on November 6th. Hakkinen, who retired from Formula One three years ago, tested for Mercedes at Lausitz in October. The former double F1 champion will race an AMG Mercedes C-Class for the manufacturer next year.
"After the end of my Formula One career in 2001, I soon realised that I'm not ready to retire for good," said Hakkinen ."It was just the right moment that Mercedes-Benz offered me to test a DTM car. I saw immediately that I still enjoy racing very much and during the test three weeks ago, my lap times were at the same level as those of the touring car specialists."
"I know, of course, that I first have to get used to a DTM car to be able to fight with the front runners. The AMG-Mercedes C-Class, however, is a great car and with it I want to be consistently competitive soon."
"I look forward to an interesting season with exciting battles -- against my former Formula One colleagues as well as against the young DTM drivers -- and to see again my fans. I'm especially happy about returning to the Mercedes family -- I'm back, but I've never been really gone."
The Williams F1 team was interested in Hakkinen for its vacant race seat next season but it was always thought that he was an outside chance. Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug, who knows Mika well from McLaren, is pleased to have the Finn back in action.
"We are very happy about Mika's decision to race in the DTM. Our engagement and the Championship will gain a lot from his commitment. Since Mika was driving for us, he was always interested in DTM and we talked a lot about it," said Haug.
"Watching the 2004 season on TV Mika has become a real DTM fan, as he told us. During his test he proved that he didn't lose his speed. We look forward to exciting battles next year."
Mercedes usually fields four new cars in the HWA squad in the DTM. This year it was Bernd Schneider, Christijan Albers, Jean Alesi and Gary Paffett who raced the C-Class but it's yet to be seen which, if any, of them will have to make way for Hakkinen.
Through ten years in F1, Hakkinen won 20 Grands Prix, achieved 26 pole positions, 25 fastest race laps and 420 championship points. He was world champion with McLaren in 1998 and 1999.