TACH FORMULA ONE REPORT: Hakkinen To Stay With McLarenBy David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
July 13, 2001
The rumors of Mika Hakkinen's retirement from the world of Formula 1 were a bit premature. Since the beginning of the season the speculation of his retirement had become an almost weekly drumbeat. Stoking the fires of the rampant retirement speculation was the lackluster year that Hakkinen has endured in 2001. Currently Hakkinen has scored only nine points in ten races. In fact, Hakkinen has not visited the top spot on the victory podium since the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix.
Reportedly Team McLaren has offered the two-time world champion a one-year extension on his current contract which expires at the end of the season. Hakkinen, countering the offer, is asking for a two-year extension. The contract negotiations between Hakkinen and Team McLaren should be finalized later this month. An announcement is expected at the German Grand Prix.
The rumor mill had been speculating that Olivier Panis would take over Hakkinen's seat in 2002. Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director, had dismissed the entire hubbub at the Canadian Grand Prix as "pure fancy by some creative writers."
So what does this mean to the other drivers involved in their current negotiations. For starters, it means that Jacques Villeneuve will be staying put at BAR. The one person who may be looking for employment might very well be Olivier Panis. The talented Frenchman has let it be known that he is distressed by not being able to latch on to a top-rung team.
One announcement that may be forthcoming as early as this weekend is Tom Walkinshaw's quest to become a Cosworth customer. The Arrows' boss reportedly informed AsiaTech that their engine services would not be needed for the 2002 season. With the backdrop of the British Grand Prix, it would make sense that a deal, if finalized, would be announced at Silverstone.