McLaren top brass defend Mika

McLaren-Mercedes bosses Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug have mounted a passionate defence of off-form double champion Mika Hakkinen

McLaren top brass defend Mika

Mercedes sports boss Haug denied the Finn's current performance slump amounted to a crisis.

Haug was speaking at the French Grand Prix as the Finn looks to end a losing streak which has now stretched to 13 races - one of the longest of his career.

He has not been on pole since then either - while team mate David Coulthard has started from pole twice this year and won two races. The Scot has also run off a string of results which have seen him amass 44 points and challenge for the world title.

In contrast, Hakkinen, world champion in 1998 and 1999, has scored just nine points in the first nine races - a drought of considerable proportions in storied career which has seen 18 wins, 26 pole positions and 23 fastest laps.

"I do not see a Mika Hakkinen crisis at all and I didn't see a David Coulthard crisis before," said Haug. "If he wins in France, then a lot of guys will say 'I knew it'."

Many of Hakkinen's results can be explained by car problems - most notably his clutch exploding five corners from victory in Spain and the suspension breaking in Melbourne - but not all of them. He has also stalled twice at the start through his own mistakes.

But Haug noted the Finn had come in for criticism earlier in his career as he took 96 races to win his first Grand Prix

"Then he won and he was a superstar and David was number two. Now David is the superstar. But at the end of the day, these two guys are just fantastic and they are doing a fantastic job for us.

"This does not mean that we are not criticising ourselves internally but we've been together for six years. We have no reason to change and if we find all the solutions we want to find we are going to continue."

Team boss Ron Dennis also defended Hakkinen, explaining a driver's motivation came from success, while a team's came from failure.

"There are still some details to solve, but we are behind our drivers - that's why we are so strong as a team and I think that is very important," said Dennis.

"If the driver has total reliability in a highly-competitive car, his mindset is going to be completely different to his mindset in an uncompetitive car with unreliability," he said.

"A great racing driver is exactly that, a great racing driver. It happens in every sport. Look at golf, it is a classic example of seeing people go in and out of form. But it isn't an issue with any of our drivers, past or present."

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