The rumors have been swirling around the F1 paddock regarding the possible retirement of two-time World Champion, Mika Hakkinen, after the end of this season. The Finn has had a disastrous 2001 season at McLaren; after finishing second in the...
The rumors have been swirling around the F1 paddock regarding the possible retirement of two-time World Champion, Mika Hakkinen, after the end of this season.
The Finn has had a disastrous 2001 season at McLaren; after finishing second in the 2000 Championship to archrival Michael Schumacher, he has suffered from a combination of reliability problems and an outright lack of speed.
As a result, Hakkinen is languishing in 6th place in this season's points stadings, far below what he has become used to in the last five years or so.
While his long-term teammate, David Coulthard, hasn't had a banner year, either, he has had fewer mechanical problems, and has, more often than not, outqualified and outraced the Finn, accumulating 47 points to Hakkinen's 9, but well back from Schumacher's total of 78.
So the speculation has been rife about Hakkinen hanging up his driving gloves and retiring after this season, opening the door for either former F1 and CART champion Jacques Villeneuve, or former McLaren test driver Olivier Panis, to join the team for 2002.
The German magazine Auto Bild also suggested that Hakkinen was retiring, and was about to be replaced by Panis.
However, this morning Hakkinen's manager and 1982 World Champion, Keke Rosberg, threw cold water on these rumors, indicating that the two-time Champion is not yet ready to give up the fight.
"Mika has contract with McLaren for 2002," Rosberg stated unequivocally, also indicating that Panis -- whom Rosberg also manages -- will likely stay at British American Racing for another year.
Panis also added weight to Rosberg's comments, saying the it is "95 per cent certain" that he will stay with BAR-Honda for 2002.
What is now remaining is team owner Ron Dennis official announcement about his 2002 drivers, likely confirming that he will retain Formula One's longest-running driver pairing ever for yet another year.
Dennis typically makes such announcements in July or August; this will then trigger the F1 game of musical chairs into full swing.