Hakkinen signs DTM deal

Former Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen is set to return to racing next year after signing a deal with Mercedes to compete in Germany's DTM touring car championship. Mercedes made the announcement on Saturday at its traditional Stars & Cars Day at the DaimlerChrysler Stuttgart-Untertürkheim plant

Hakkinen signs DTM deal

The Finn has not raced competitively in a full-time seat since he retired from F1 at the end of the 2001 season. He raced in the DTM in a one-off race for Mercedes at the end of that season before leaving the motorsport arena to spend more time with his wife and son.

Last month Mercedes offered the ace another run in its DTM machine where he set competitive times and proved to himself that he was ready to return to track action.

"After the end of my Formula One career in 2001, I soon realised that I'm not ready to retire for good," Hakkinen said. "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'm especially happy about returning to the Mercedes family - I'm back, but I've never been really gone."

Mercedes-Benz Motorsport's vice-president Norbert Haug, added: "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. 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."

Hakkinen joins his former F1 rivals Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the series. The Finn's decision puts to rest any speculation that he was considering a Formula 1 comeback with Williams in 2005.

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