JUNE 30, 2001
McLaren bosses back Hakkinen
MCLAREN team-boss Ron Dennis and Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug have backed Mika Hakkinen and claim that the he has not lost his competitive edge.
Hakkinen has failed to match his team-mate David Coulthard this year as Michael Schumacher has dominated the championship, but Dennis and Haug have refused to blame the former world champion.
The Finnish driver has just nine points this year, but the McLaren chiefs said that his shortcomings are not down to Hakkinen and insisted he can still secure victories.
Haug said: "He is still a very good racing driver and I think if he wins tomorrow (Sunday) then a lot of guys will say 'I knew it, I knew he could do it.'
"I remember when it took him whatever 96 races until he won for the first time. Before that time it was 'Oh my God he will never win' and 'You need to change'.
"But then he was a superstar and David was number two. Now these days David is the superstar, but at the end of the day these two guys are fantastic and they are doing a fantastic job for us.
"This doesn't mean that we cannot criticize them internally, but we have been together for six years. We have no reason to change and we feel that we want to continue."
Dennis admitted that problems with the McLaren Mercedes-Benz package have culminated in a lack of points for Hakkinen and he added that he feels the situation has had an effect on the driver.
"If the driver has total reliability in a highly competitive car, his mindset is going to be completely different to his mindset in an uncompetitive car with unreliability," Dennis said.
"A great racing driver is exactly that, a great racing driver. It happens in every sport. Look at golf, it is a classic example of seeing people go in and out of form. But it isn't an issue with any of our drivers, past or present."
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