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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 07:55 GMT
Hakkinen and son hope for boost
From left to right: David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen and Alexander Wurz
Hakkinen poses with team-mates at the unveiling of the new McLaren
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Benson in Valencia

Former Formula One world champion Mika Hakkinen has dismissed claims that he will be lacking focus and motivation this season because he has become a father for the first time over the winter.

The 32-year-old Finn has pledged to win back the Formula One world championship from his rival Michael Schumacher and he says the birth of his son, Hugo, in December, will help him rather than hinder him.

"People think that I am going to lose motivation because I have a son now, but it has the opposite effect," he said at the launch of the new McLaren F1 car in Valencia.

"It gives you a new meaning for life."

The relationship is so strong between us
  Hakkinen on McLaren technical director Adrian Newey

Hakkinen went through a mid-season slump in 2000. Because this coincided with him finding out that his wife, Erja, was pregnant, many observers suggested he had lost his stomach for the sometimes tough and bitter fight with his arch-rival Michael Schumacher.

Many claimed that Hakkinen would retire at the end of the 2001 season to spend more time with his family, but he says that he is more motivated than he has ever been before a Grand Prix season.

Hakkinen was thwarted in his attempt to win three consecutive world titles by Ferrari driver Schumacher last year, and he has only recently got over the pain that caused him.

"Even at the end of December, I still felt the bitterness of losing the title," he said. But spending Christmas with his new family has revitalised him.

Hakkinen's belief

And he refutes suggestions that Schumacher and Ferrari will be stronger now that they have finally won their first world drivers' title in 21 years.

Schumacher described the relief of winning last year as "like weight off my shoulders".

But Hakkinen said: "Nothing has changed in our battle on the track. If you win the championship, you don't get any quicker. You can only drive at your limit."

Hakkinen is convinced that McLaren, which unveils its new MP4-16 car on Wednesday in Valencia, Spain, will yet again have the fastest equipment on the grid.

"I believe 100% in the work of (McLaren technical director) Adrian Newey - and that works both ways. The relationship is so strong between us."

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