A very special weekend is about to begin. At the race track in Hockenheim from Friday through Sunday, we’ll be celebrating not only the grand finale of the 2018 season but also our departure from this racing series 30 years after our debut.
A unique atmosphere will affect everyone there — the drivers, the teams, the spectators, and me. After all, I owe a lot the DTM, in professional as well as private terms.
Before the Formula 1 season goes into its decisive phase, the DTM will stand in the spotlight for one last time. I’m really looking forward to spending the weekend with kindred spirits. Of course I also hope we’ll win the driver’s title to add to the manufacturer’s and team championships that we’ve already secured. Once again, it will be thrilling.
For me, the hustle and bustle at the Hockenheimring will mark a very special moment. That’s because it will be our last DTM race with Mercedes, and thus also the last DTM racing weekend when I can be part of this wonderful team on the race track. Although it will be a very happy occasion, there will also be a touch of sadness. I’m sure that DTM and Mercedes will part on friendly and dignified terms.
DTM means a lot to me. I can still remember vividly the very first DTM race I went to. Back then I was still an up-and-coming driver. That was back in 1994 in Zolder (Belgium), and I was absolutely fascinated by the whole scene right away. We drove in the Formula Ford as part of the DTM supporting program. For us young race car drivers, Formula 1 seemed unattainable — but the DTM was the goal I dreamed of.
Subsequently I developed my personal relationships with Hans Werner Aufrecht, as well as HWA and AMG, through the DTM. For many years, my participation in HWA AG was very close to my heart. I also got to know Norbert Haug, a colleague and cooperation partner on the other side, and through him I was able to gather an incredible amount of experience.
On the private level as well, the DTM has had a crucial influence on my life: This is where I met my wife, who at that time was competing as a race car driver herself. For that reason alone, I’m endlessly grateful that in the course of my life my path and that of DTM have crossed so often.
But that’s enough enthusing — romance isn’t really typical of the DTM. The people who work here are professionals — racers through and through. I’ve always loved the mood at the racetrack whenever I’ve been there myself over the past 30 years. Together with AMG and Mercedes, we’ve participated in top-level works motorsports at the DTM for 30 years. Now we’re boldly striking out in a new direction and competing in the Formula E series.
Of course it wasn’t easy to decide to part from the DTM. But I think the decision was future-oriented and therefore justified. Through our participation in Formula 1, we’ve presented our hybrid technology all over the world. And in the Formula E series we will now be competing in all-electric cars.
Electrification is a key component of Mercedes’ strategy — and that’s why Formula E is an attractive new field from a contemporary perspective. I like to compare this approach to an up-and-coming startup. We’re going to take a look at everything, we want to understand all of it, and then hopefully also celebrate sporting success.
But right now we’re concentrating on Hockenheim. For the last time, we’ll be experiencing pure DTM atmosphere and excitement down to the very last round. What I’ll miss most is the people who make DTM what it is. Together with them, I’ve gone through ups and downs for all these years. We competed with one another on the race track, but we were always able to have fun together in the evening.
For the final round in Hockenheim, I wish for full stands, lots of Mercedes flags, and tons of support for our drivers. And of course I wish DTM every success in the future!