News that former McLaren F1 racer Kevin Magnussen will this week be joining the annual rookie DTM test with Mercedes at Jerez prompted all sorts of leafing back through the archives to recall those drivers who sought post-F1 refuge in the German-based tin-top series and its mid-’90s International Touring Car Championship spin-off.
But how to chose our favourite five? The list was shortened by including only drivers who had scored at least one podium finish in a Grand Prix before going on to race in the DTM.
Magnussen nailed his only top-three F1 finish on his debut in the 2014 Australian GP in a Mercedes-powered McLaren MP4-29, so if he ends up racing one of the three-pointed star’s C63 DTM machines, he’ll join the impressive list. These are our favourite famous five – all of whom were winners in the DTM. In fact, all except Stück were GP winners, too.
5 Jean Alesi
The mercurial Frenchman contested 201 GPs for Tyrrell, Ferrari, Benetton, Sauber, Prost and Jordan between 1989 and 2001, winning just once – for Ferrari in Canada in 1995. He joined Mercedes for the DTM in 2002, finishing on the podium in the Hockenheim season opener and winning on the series’ visit to Donington. He finished fifth in the final reckoning, motivating him to stay for a further four years, during which he won three more races for Mercedes – at Donington and Hockenheim in 2003 and again at Hockenheim in ’05.
4 Mika Häkkinen
After 20 GP wins and two drivers’ world titles for McLaren between 1997 and 2001, the Finn eased into retirement for 2002, where he stayed for three years. Mercedes pulled off a PR coup by coaxing Häkkinen back into the cockpit for ’05. He obviously wasn’t in it to collect the cheque and shake off a bit of rust: he took pole and won on his third outing at the majestic Spa-Francorchamps where he had famously outfoxed Michael Schumacher to win the 2000 Belgian GP. There were no wins in 2006, but he bounced back in ’07, winning at Lausitzring and, from 15th on the grid, at Mugello, to take his DTM-career win tally to three.
3 Alessandro Nannini
That suave Italian Alessandro Nannini ever drove a racing car again after losing most of his right arm in a helicopter crash just days after finishing third for Benetton in the 1990 Spanish GP was staggering. That he won scores of races in the uber-competitive DTM for Alfa Romeo was miraculous and a sign of his huge ability and resolve. The shunt ended an F1 career that spanned 76 races over five seasons for Minardi and Benetton, and included victory for the latter in Japan in ’89. After spending 1991 and ’92 recovering, he joined Alfa’s works attack on the DTM with the 155 for ’93. He finished third on his debut weekend, in the second race at Zolder, and took four poles during the year. The breakthrough came at the season finale at Hockenheim, Nannini winning both races. Over the course of the next three seasons he would win 12 more races and secure third in the points in ’96 – his last in the DTM.
2 Hans-Joachim Stück
Lanky German Hans-Joachim Stück, son of pre-war factory race ace Hans Stück Sr, and purveyor of that fabulous dark-blue-with-white-stars helmet design, took part in 74 GPs with March, Brabham, Shadow and ATS machinery between 1974 and ’79, finishing on the podium for Brabham at Hockenheim and the Osterreichring in ’77. After his F1 stint petered out with minnows ATS, Stücky forged a hugely successful career in touring cars and sportscars. He did four races in the inaugural season of the DTM, in 1984, aboard a Brun Motorsport BMW 635 CSi, taking third at Wunstorf, before heading off to race for Porsche in the World Sportscar Championship. That association netted two Le Mans wins and the 1985 World Title, alongside Derek Bell. Rejoining the DTM with Audi and its monstrous V8 Quattro for 1990, he won seven races and sealed the title. More wins followed in 1991 and he continued to dovetail campaigns in all manner of roofed disciplines. Stück’s final DTM hurrah came with a Team Rosberg Opel Calibra on the streets of Helsinki in 1996, when he did the double to make it 13 career DTM wins.
1 Keke Rosberg
Everyone thought moustachioed, Swedish-born Finn Keijo Erik Rosberg was cool, right? Right. He came into F1 in 1978, jumping around among mediocre Theodore, ATS and Wolf machinery, before landing a full-time gig with Fittipaldi for 1980 and ’81. He repaid the team’s faith with a debut podium in Argentina and plenty of other stirring, but unrewarded drives. The golden ticket to ride at Williams for 1982 netted only one win – at Dijon – but five other podiums meant he landed a superb underdog title. Rosberg took four more wins over the next three seasons, with his F1 swansong coming at McLaren for 1986. When he landed in the DTM in ’92, after some Group C action with Peugeot, it was with Mercedes and he won a race – his only one, it would transpire – at Wunstorf, with eight other podiums helping him to fifth in the points. He joined Reinhold Joest’s Opel effort for 1993-’94, which wasn’t a success. That frustration led him to form his own team to run the Calibra V6, and he lured champion Klaus Ludwig away from Mercedes to help him try to do better for ’95. Rosberg’s star signing managed third in the title battle, but the great man himself languished down in 18th. And that was that for the coolest F1-DTM convert.
The following drivers deserve a mention.
They all scored F1 podium finishes, some of them winning GPs, before going on to race in the world’s fastest touring car series:
Michele Alboreto, David Coulthard, Giancarlo Fisichella, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Timo Glock, Jacques Laffite, JJ Lehto, Jochen Mass, Stefano Modena, Vitaly Petrov, Ralf Schumacher, Aguri Suzuki.
And, no, Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Schumacher and Alex Wurz don’t count as they both raced in the DTM/ITC before reaching F1! Neither does Nicola Larini as he didn’t stand on an F1 podium until his second stint (with Ferrari) – after winning the DTM title.