McLaren 'jobs for life' for Mika and DC

McLaren-Mercedes will retain its line-up of two-times world champion Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard for 2001, with team boss Ron Dennis hinting that both men could see out their Formula 1 careers with the team

McLaren 'jobs for life' for Mika and DC

Coulthard's 'job for life' was announced in Magny-Cours on Friday and comes in the wake of the Scot's most competitive Formula 1 campaign yet. It allows him to concentrate fully on his pursuit of runaway points-leader Michael Schumacher.

"We are taking an unprecedented, very early decision to retain David's services for next year and possibly beyond," said Dennis, who normally announces his line-up at the German Grand Prix in August. "In fact I think they are both probably going to retire at McLaren.

"We looked at our other driver options very seriously before making our decision. We have the best drivers signed - the best drivers there are."

The decision means Coulthard will start his sixth season with the team in 2001, with Hakkinen, who has an existing two-year deal, starting season number nine. The partnership will break the record for longevity in F1.

Dennis added: "We have consolidated our driver line-up early because thay have both done a particularly impressive job in the beginning of the season.

"I can see no reason why they shouldn't retire in the car. They both have contracts, but whatever it says on paper, I expect them to carry on driving for us beyond that point."

Should both men continue with the team until retirement, Dennis hinted that he hoped the decision to quit would come from the drivers themselves.

"It is important for a driver to know when he is losing the pace," said Dennis. "Hopefully retirement is a long way off, because they are both still young."

"Continuity is a huge advantage in this highly-competitive field," said Coulthard, "and to be moving into my sixth season with the team is, I believe, extremely beneficial for my future.

"To know and understand the people you are working with means that you can focus on the fundamental task of winning races."

The deal also quashes rumours that a 'de-motivated' Mika Hakkinen is contemplating retirement at the end of 2001.

"It is great news that David is staying with the team," said Hakkinen. "We are both highly-competitive drivers with one common goal - we both want to win."

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