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  Sunday, 15 July, 2001, 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK
Hakkinen shows his class
Mika Hakkinen qualified second on the grid for the British Grand Prix
Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen focuses on the task ahead
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Benson at Silverstone

If there were doubts about whether Mika Hakkinen is the driver he once was, then he blew them away at the British Grand Prix.

The Finn, a two-time world champion, arrived at Silverstone on the back of an enormously disappointing season, and besieged by speculation that he would retire at the end of the year.

The talk in the paddock has been that Hakkinen has lost his motivation.

But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, he has proved that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

"Mika has come here and said: 'They're saying I'm going to retire. Stuff it, I'll show them,'" said McLaren's managing director Martin Whitmarsh.


It just feels like we have got things right
Mika Hakkinen
"He said on Friday that he was not retiring, but words are not always Mika's strong point. So he's showing people on the track."

Hakkinen suggested that the main reason for his better form was an improvement in the McLaren car, which was helped by some new Bridgestone tyres.

"Motivation is always related to how you do on the race track," he said.

"Has it been different here? No. At the last Grand Prix, I was at the maximum motivation to perform. It just feels like we have got things right.

Hakkinen has certainly benefited from some new aerodynamic parts that McLaren have fitted to their car.

"Now I feel I can attack the corners more. The car gives me enjoyment - every time the car has been working this year, I have been there," he said.


The car wasn't right at the beginning of the season and we've let Mika down a couple of times
Martin Whitmarsh
McLaren MD
He admits that what he calls the "burning process of rumours" has affected him.

But the real reason for his strangely anonymous presence until Silverstone has been McLaren's disappointing form.

"Mika came into the season with the expectation of winning the championship, as did David [Coulthard]," said Whitmarsh.

"But when you get off to a bad start, you have to build your motivation again and ask why you are not achieving.

"The car wasn't right at the beginning of the season and we've let Mika down a couple of times. That creates an environment where you are on the back foot."

Mika Hakkinen
Hakkinen returns to glory at Silverstone
To describe what has happened to Hakkinen this year as "a bad start" is to understate events somewhat.

The 32-year-old was battling for the lead at the first race of the season in Australia only to have a huge, 150mph accident when his suspension failed.

It was a massive impact. The car smashed into the tyre barrier, bits of which broke off and landed on him.

Having spent the winter with his new-born son, Hugo, that must have given him pause for thought.

He went from that to Malaysia, where McLaren were uncompetitive, and then he narrowly avoided being involved in another huge accident in Brazil, where he stalled on the grid and was narrowly missed by Olivier Panis' BAR.

A couple of races after that, he lost victory in the Spanish Grand Prix when his clutch failed on the last lap.

As a McLaren insider said: "He's only human. You can't blame him if he was thinking: 'Why do I need this?'"

Tearful return

It was a chain of events that would get to anyone, but if it did, Hakkinen seems to have got over it, and at Silverstone he made the most of racing at a circuit he likes.

He was, as Whitmarsh said, "really on it this weekend". His whole person oozed confidence, and he and the car looked superb out on the track.

It was as dominant a victory as there has been this year - and every bit as good as some of his best in his two championship years.

On the rostrum, it became clear just how much winning meant to him after an 11-month drought.

He was looking down at his wife Erja and the McLaren mechanics, he said, and he realised he was about to burst into tears.

So he looked up to the sky to try to distract himself, only to see the Finnish flag flying and feel himself welling up again.

That is not the sign of a man who has lost the will to win.

Play it down though he might, the real Mika Hakkinen is back. And he means business.

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See also:

09 Jul 01 | Formula One
10 Jul 01 | Formula One
13 Jul 01 | Formula One
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