DC holds the key to Hakkinen's title hopes

Mika Hakkinen will be looking to team mate David Coulthard to keep his hopes of a third consecutive world title alive in the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.

DC holds the key to Hakkinen's title hopes

The Finn is looking to score maximum points in the last two races of the season, but with Ferrari's Michael Schumacher only requiring two second places to clinch third championship, who comes second at Suzuka is almost as important as who comes first. And McLaren believes it has in David Coulthard the ideal wing man to bring home a one-two victory in Japan.

"Coming second is still difficult for Michael [Schumacher] as David is in a strong frame of mind as well," said McLaren's managing director Martin Whitmarsh in Autosport's sister publication Motoring News. "All David can do is to come second and the car is capable of doing that."

Should Coulthard deliver his side of the bargain, then Whitmarsh is confident that Hakkinen will deliver his too, and have no problems in securing his third Japanese GP win on the trot: "We have the quicker car and we've got two drivers who are fired up," he said. "Mika is stronger and more focused than ever and realises that, if we give him a car that can finish, he's going to win in Japan."

The McLaren MD is also sure that there will be no repeat of the Mercedes engine failure that cost Hakkinen a finish in Indianapolis. With engines running at continuous full throttle for around 20 seconds of each lap at Indy, the blow-up is believed to have been caused by the failure of a single component.

"We've understood the engine problem," said Whitmarsh. "We know why it happened and we are confident that Mercedes and Ilmor will give us engines that work in Japan and Malaysia."

But although Coulthard lists Suzuka as one of his favourite circuits, the Scot knows that keeping himself between Schumacher and Hakkinen will be no easy task, and that set-up is key.

"The abrasive nature of the circuit means that it's often heavy on tyres because of the high level of degradation," said the Scot. "The track is a challenge not just for the drivers, but for the team as well, as it can be tricky to find the right balance."

If McLaren was to score a one-two in Japan, the title fight would then be decided at the season-closing Malaysian Grand Prix on October 20 - a scenario McLaren boss Ron Dennis is relishing.

"Our commitment to winning the world championship is undiminished," he said. "and we are as focused and determined as ever to make sure that this year's championships will not be decided until the last race in Malaysia."

shares
comments
Ask Gordon

Previous article

Ask Gordon

Next article

Donington Hit with Grand Prix Blow

Donington Hit with Grand Prix Blow
Load comments
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Plus

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Plus

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Plus

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Plus

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

Formula 1
Jul 28, 2021
How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021