Hakkinen to take a year off, Raikkonen to McLaren

MIKA HAKKINEN is to take a year out of Formula 1 to spend more time with his family. The 32-year-old Finn will be replaced at McLaren by his 21-year-old countryman Kimi Raikkonen. David Coulthard and Alexander Wurz will remain the team's other two drivers in 2002.

"The intensity of my career has become increasingly difficult for those around me," Hakkinen said. "I asked the team for a break which would be a good way to recharge my batteries and enjoy more time with my wife Erja and my son Hugo. It might have been easier to retire but just isn't a decision I feel ready to take. I know that I will have to work hard to return after my break but I know that I want to return with West McLaren Mercedes."

The signing of Raikkonen has been achieved thanks to a deal which has been struck with Kimi's current team Sauber. Ron Dennis said that McLaren has reached "a professional conclusion" which would seem to suggest that a large amount of money was involved. However, Dennis also indicated that the deal was struck partly as a result of Peter Sauber's relationship with Jurgen Hubbert of Mercedes-Benz and the hint is therefore that there may be an engine deal for Sauber in the longer term. If there was not some decent incentive Sauber would not have agreed the deal as he had Raikkonen under a long-term contract.

Sauber will be looking for a new driver and the suggestion is that this could be Heinz-Harald Frentzen, although it also possible that he will recruit Swiss youngster Marcel Fassler, who is a Mercedes-Benz driver in the German Touring Car Championship.

The fact that Wurz has been retained by the team is slightly surprising and Wurz himself says that he is disappointed not to have been promoted to the racing team.

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