Dennis denies favouritism

Ron Dennis has denied that he favours Mika Hakkinen over David Coulthard after the public spat at the Spanish Grand Prix and in a personal appeal in Austria, the McLaren team boss has promised both drivers an equal shot at the title this year

Dennis denies favouritism

Coulthard is the Woking team's best title hope as he trails points leader Michael Schumacher by just eight points while Hakkinen is 32 points adrift and even his own manager, Keke Rosberg, has ruled out his chances.

In Spain Dennis accused Coulthard of "brain fade" after his car stalled on the formation lap at the Circuit de Catalunya two weeks ago. He apologised when it became apparent that the problem was down to the car's electronics.

"There is a perception that I have a closer relationship with Mika than with David," said Dennis, referring to Hakkinen's near-fatal crash in Australia in 1995. "There is that emotional value in that, but you've got to understand where it comes from. Walking into that Adelaide hospital I got sucked into the trauma of the whole thing. I got involved mentally in the milestones of his recovery to the point where he was up and running again.

"You're not human if that doesn't effect you, but it doesn't mean diddly-squat when I have to take decisions about the outcome of a Grand Prix and who's going to win. This doesn't mean I favour Mika over David at all. We are a team that is focused on winning and that is what matters. Both drivers will have our full and equal support and that means David will have all the backing we can give him to win the world championship."

Dennis' words will come as some comfort to Coulthard, although according to the Scot there was no rift between him and Dennis and he believes the whole incident was blown out of proportion by the press.

Although team orders are out of the question at this stage, Coulthard will be hoping he gets support from Hakkinen when the time comes. The Finn's chances of coming back to fight for a third title this year are slim, but Mercedes-Benz motorsport director Norbert Haug believes Hakkinen will recover from his slow start to the season and have a shout in the championship shake-up at the end of the campaign.

"Sure it's difficult with a gap of 32 points but with 12 races to go nothing is impossible," said Haug. "If Mika can win three times and Michael not score a lot then he's there. For sure mathematically David's chances are better, but things are changing and in theory Mika can win 120 points and that just shows you how much 32 points are worth."

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