Dennis: Mika is back and here to stay

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis believes Mika Hakkinen may be on his way out of his 11-month rut after qualifying second on the front row of the grid for the first time in six races for Sunday's British Grand Prix

Dennis: Mika is back and here to stay

Hakkinen has had a terrible first half of 2001 after scoring just nine world championship points in ten races. But the Finn was almost a match for Schumacher's pace in Saturday's qualifying session, signalling a possible end to a lacklustre patch which has seen him without a victory since the Belgian Grand Prix nearly a year ago.

Although he has been dogged by misfortune, Hakkinen has fallen 69 points behind championship leader Schumacher and may face the call to follow team orders in favour of team mate David Coulthard in the 11th round of the championship this weekend.

Asked if he knew exactly what had spurred Hakkinen back into life Dennis said: "No. But he is very focused and motivated to win. He is doing a good job and he likes Silverstone. Both our drivers have done a good job throughout the year."

Dennis has also quashed recent speculation that Hakkinen could retire at the end of the year by saying that it is not a question of if the double world champion stays at the Woking-based, but for how long.

"Mika has made it very clear, firstly, that he is not going to retire and secondly, sent out a clear message that we had an option on him," said Dennis. "We are talking about the duration of the contract and the other drivers."

Coulthard is believed to have already signed his deal for next year - but Dennis is looking to hire an extra test driver.

"If Alex [Wurz] gets an offer of a competitive drive we don't want to stand in his way," he said. "He took a while to settle in with us and it was a little bit like a new boy wanting to impress. But he is doing a very good job now."

Dennis refused to say who might be called into the test team. "We want to lessen the load but intensify the effort," he said, confirming that the driver line-up is set to expand next year."

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