Back in the day, before Formula One drivers started trying their hand at NASCAR and the World Rally Championship – we're looking at you, Kimi – there was really just one address for retired grand prix pilots: DTM. The German racing series is king of all touring car championships, and has drawn such notables as Mika Hakkinen, Jean Alesi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, JJ Lehto, David Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher to its ranks. While BMW is preparing to take on its arch-rivals in the series soon enough, it's Mercedes-Benz that draws the big talents. And this year looks to be no exception.
Both Ralf and DC will be back behind the wheel of the C-Class AMG– the most decorated car in the series' history – for this year's championship. And while Paul di Resta – Mercedes' reigning champion – has moved the other way up to F1 (driving for Force India this season), David and Ralf won't be the only talents hoisting the Silver Star in DTM this season.
They'll be joined by former DTM champ and perennial McLaren test driver Gary Paffett (who has more wins to his name than anyone else in the series), Canadian driver Bruno Spengler (runner-up in 2006 and 2007), emerging talents Jamie Green and Maro Engel, and newcomers Renger van der Zande and Christian Vietoris. Susie Stoddart returns as well for her sixth season in the series, joining a long line of female drivers in DTM that has included Vanina Ickx (daughter of grand prix and Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx) and England's Katherine Legge.
Last season, Mercedes managed to win nine out of eleven races and seize all three top slots in the standings by season's end to tower over the competition. Will they be able to continue the domination this year? Only time will tell, but for now you can follow the jump for the full press release, view the full roster in the gallery below, and look over the Paffett's latest DTM-spec C-Class in the pair of fresh galleries we've assembled for your viewing pleasure below.
Related GalleryGary Paffett's 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class AMG DTM
Related Gallery2011 Mercedes-Benz DTM driver lineup
The complete Mercedes-Benz DTM driver line-up for 2011
- Christian Vietoris and Renger van der Zande debut in the DTM with Mercedes-Benz
- Christian Vietoris and Renger van der Zande complete the driver line-up for Mercedes-Benz in the 2011 DTM season. Nine drivers from five different countries will be competing at the wheel of an AMG Mercedes C-Class.
- The two newcomers join Gary Paffett, Bruno Spengler, Ralf Schumacher, Jamie Green, Susie Stoddart, Maro Engel and David Coulthard in a formidable array of driving talent for Mercedes-Benz in the 2011 DTM series.
- In the 2010 season, Mercedes-Benz won nine out of eleven races and claimed the top three spots in the drivers' championship.
- In the five years since Audi and Mercedes-Benz have gone head to head in the DTM series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class drivers have recorded 33 victories to Audi's 19, which means that Mercedes have won 63 percent of all races contested since 2006.
- The AMG Mercedes C-Class is the most successful car in the history of DTM, having won 81 out of 148 races (1994/1995 and since 2004 in DTM as well as in the DTM successor ITC, International Touring Car Championship, in 1996).
During the 2010 season, 22-year-old Vietoris competed in GP2, the supporting series to Formula One. He had previously competed in the Formula 3 Euro Series for Mücke Motorsport in a Mercedes-Benz-powered Dallara car in 2008 and 2009, finishing as runner-up in his second season with four wins. 25-year-old van der Zande competed in the 2010 GP3 series (also a supporting race event on GP weekends), having contested before the German Formula 3 Championship, the Formula 3 Euro Series and the British Formula 3 Championship in MB-powered cars under the wing of the Mercedes-Benz young driver scheme between 2006 and 2009.
Lining up for the HWA team are: Gary Paffett (30, THOMAS SABO AMG Mercedes C-Class), DTM Champion in 2005, DTM runner-up in 2004, 2009 and 2010, test driver for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula One team; Ralf Schumacher (35, Salzgitter AMG Mercedes C-Class), the third-most successful German Formula One driver ever with six Grand Prix victories under his belt; Bruno Spengler (27, Mercedes-Benz Bank AMG C-Class), DTM runner-up in 2006 and 2007 as well as third-placed driver in 2010. Returning to the HWA team is Jamie Green (28, AMG Mercedes C-Class) from Leicester (England), Formula 3 Euro Series champion in 2004 and winner of the last three races at the Norisring in Nuremberg with the same car.
Vietoris and van der Zande will not be the only drivers racing a 2008-spec C-Class: they will be joined by Susie Stoddart (28, TV Spielfilm AMG Mercedes C-Class), Maro Engel (25, GQ AMG Mercedes C-Class) and David Coulthard (40, Deutsche Post AMG Mercedes C-Class).
The 2009 AMG Mercedes C-Class that will be raced by the four HWA drivers starts the forthcoming season with real pedigree, having scored eight victories in the eleven races of the 2010 season. Reigning DTM champion Paul Di Resta and runner-up Gary Paffett claimed three victories each. Third-placed Bruno Spengler contributed two more wins for Mercedes-Benz, with the ninth coming from Jamie Green driving for the Persson team in a 2008 AMG Mercedes C-Class at the Norisring – this marked the car's third consecutive victory at the track.
The Mercedes-Benz DTM driver line-up for 2011
Gary Paffett (30, England):
With 17 victories to his credit, Paffett has won more DTM races than any other driver currently contesting the series.
The former DTM champion (2005) and runner-up (2004, 2009 and 2010) was honoured with the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award in 1999 and also won the German Formula 3 Championship in 2002.
Since the start of the 2005 season, Paffett has been test driver for the McLaren-Mercedes Formula One team.
Gary Paffett: "The DTM season 2011 brings new challenges, especially those that come with the change of tyre supplier to Hankook. Our tests with the new tyres have been very promising, and I am fully motivated about the upcoming season with our new sponsorship partner THOMAS SABO. My objective this time round is to improve on last year's result by one position."
Bruno Spengler (27, Canada):
In 2011, Bruno Spengler will be racing for his seventh DTM season in an AMG Mercedes C-Class. He finished as runner-up in 2006 and 2007, and came third overall in 2010.
Since 2003, the Canadian has been a regular member of the Mercedes-Benz squad, first in Formula 3, then in DTM.
Spengler notched up his first DTM victory at the Norisring in 2006 at the age of 22 years and 334 days, making him one of the youngest winners in DTM history.
Bruno Spengler: "I'm really looking forward to my seventh DTM season with Mercedes-Benz. Over the winter, I spent almost a month at home in Canada recharging my batteries and getting ready for the new season. There is no guarantee of success, especially in such a fiercely competitive championship as DTM, but I will do my best again this year and make an aggressive contribution to the campaign."
Ralf Schumacher (35, Germany):
Ralf Schumacher is about to embark on his fourth season in DTM and his third as a member of the HWA team. His best DTM result was a P5 finish in Dijon (2009). In the 2010 race in Nuremberg, he secured his first ever DTM pole position.
Between 1997 and 2007, Schumacher competed in 180 Formula One races, recording six wins and six pole positions. In the 2001 and 2002 F1 seasons, he finished fourth in the championship.
With a total of six GP wins, Ralf Schumacher is the third-most successful German Formula One driver of all time behind his brother, MERCEDES GP PETRONAS driver Michael Schumacher, and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Ralf Schumacher: "After three years in DTM and two seasons as a member of the HWA team, I feel comfortable driving the AMG Mercedes C-Class and am aiming to move up a gear in my fourth DTM season. I'm aiming for a marked improvement in performance this year, and maybe even a few podiums."
Jamie Green (28, England):
Jamie's connections with Mercedes-Benz go back 14 years. In 1997 he was already a member of the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz junior talent scheme.
Green took the 2004 Formula 3 Euro Series title driving a Dallara Mercedes for the ASM team, winning seven out of the 20 races that season.
Jamie has won the DTM race at the Norisring in Nuremberg in each of the last three seasons – each time with the same Young Stars AMG Mercedes C-Class.
Jamie Green: "It's a great feeling to know that Mercedes-Benz have decided to reward my efforts in recent years – including those three victories in Nuremberg and my performance as best driver in a year-old car in 2009 and 2010 – by giving me a current AMG Mercedes C-Class. I'm aiming to repay the confidence they have shown in me by turning in some good results this year."
Susie Stoddart (28, Scotland):
Susie Stoddart is about to start her sixth DTM season with Mercedes-Benz. In her very first race back in 2006, she finished a respectable tenth.
Susie scored her first DTM points with a P7 finish at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in the 2010 season. She repeated the feat at Hockenheim.
Susie Stoddart: "My first DTM points last season were long overdue. When you're driving last year's model, it's by no means easy to finish among the points, but once again, I'll be giving it everything I've got."
Christian Vietoris (22, Germany):
Christian Vietoris drove cars powered by Mercedes-Benz Formula 3 engines in the 2008 and 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series. He won five races, took twelve pole positions and finished his second season as runner-up.
In 2010, Vietoris embarked on his debut season in the F1-linked GP2 series, winning one race and finishing tenth overall.
Christian Vietoris: "DTM is one of the most prestigious racing series in the world. The switch from a single seater to a touring car is a huge challenge, but I feel I have adjusted quickly to the C-Class and settled in well with the team during the tests. I would like to continue along this learning curve and be successful in my debut season."
Maro Engel (25, Germany):
Maro Engel scored his first DTM points in the season opener at Hockenheim in 2009. His best race result to date is a sixth-place finish.
Before moving up to DTM, Engel was runner-up in the 2007 British Formula 3 Championship, driving a car powered by the Mercedes-Benz Formula 3 engine.
Maro Engel: "Unfortunately, we didn't meet our target last season. I'm determined to change that this time and get back to where I was in 2009. In that season, I showed that it was possible to achieve decent results, even with last year's model."
David Coulthard (40, Scotland):
Coulthard made his DTM debut in 2010, driving a Mercedes-Benz. In the final race in Shanghai, he scored his first championship point and set the fastest race lap.
The Scot competed in 150 Formula One races for McLaren Mercedes. It was during this period that he posted twelve of his 13 Grand Prix wins, including a first victory for McLaren-Mercedes in Australia (1997).
Together with team-mate Mika Häkkinen (Formula One world champion in 1998 and 1999, Mercedes-Benz DTM driver 2005-2007), Coulthard won the 1998 Formula One Constructors' Championship. In 2001, he was runner-up in the drivers' standings.
David Coulthard: "My first DTM season was a learning year. My year of apprenticeship is over - now I'm looking to make some real progress. After scoring my first DTM point in the grand finale in Shanghai in 2010, I'm hoping to please my fans this season with more point-scoring finishes."
Renger van der Zande (25, Netherlands):
Renger van der Zande was part of the Mercedes-Benz young driver scheme, contesting not only the Formula 3 Euro Series but also the German and British Formula 3 championships.
While driving in these junior classes, van der Zande worked closely with the Radboud University and applied himself assiduously to the Mercedes-Benz sports medicine programme, building up his physical fitness in spectacular fashion.
Renger van der Zande: "Obtaining a DTM cockpit with Mercedes-Benz is a dream come true. I know that I face a big challenge, but I will be doing my very best to acclimatise myself to DTM racing and to master the stern AMG Mercedes C-Class in the fastest possible time."
Norbert Haug, Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"The 2010 DTM season was a highly successful one for our brand as well as for our teams. Securing nine wins in eleven races, the team championship and the top three positions in the drivers' championship, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was quite literally in a class of its own. Current title holder Paul Di Resta has built on this success to make the step up to Formula One where he will still be driving a Mercedes engine for his new team, Force India."
"The new season brings a new tyre partner for the DTM series by the name of Hankook, so I'm sure that the cards will be well and truly reshuffled as a result. From our perspective, we certainly don't have any divine right to victory and, as ever, we will have to work hard to earn every good result. Everyone in our teams is full of enthusiasm for the challenge ahead."