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AUGUST 21, 2001

McLaren rueful with Hakkinen still unsigned

MUCH to the amusement of Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo, McLaren was forced to capitulate the 2001 season after the drivers' and constructors' titles were both sealed in a 1-2 finish in Hungary.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis is aiming for a return to form next year, but as yet no driver announcement has been made. It is believed that David Coulthard has successfully renegotiated a strong position on the back of some fine performances in 2001, but Mika Hakkinen, whose motivation has been called into question for a second consecutive season, is understood to be railing against a performance-related pay package for 2002.

With Jaguar Racing believed to have been planning a major financial inducement for Hakkinen if he is indeed thinking of jumping ship, and both Kimi Raikkonen and Takuma Sato thought to have had exploratory conversations with McLaren over their future plans the situation is coming to the boil.

Dennis, however, concedes that his team, which has been plagued with mechanical problems that blunted both its drivers seasons must improve it is to retain their services.

"I think the drivers have done a pretty good job," Dennis said. "It's all too easy to question the performance of a driver at individual races but I think both David and Mika have reason to question our performance.

"But we have never been quitters and we are not going to start now. We'll be working flat out to win all the remaining races and intend to hit the ground running at the start of 2002."

For all that however, the Ferrari president was quick to pour scorn on the team and its principal. "I have seen recent declarations from Ron Dennis," said Montezemolo, after Dennis told an interviewer that he felt the FIA was biased towards his arch-rivals. "I have a friend who is a psychiatrist, one of my best friends, and I can recommend him to Ron Dennis to give him some help," he joked.