Ron Dennis: Mika will Only Get Better

Mika Hakkinen's win in the Austrian Grand Prix may be in doubt pending investigation of an electronic box, but the Finn's dominant drive proves he is back in the title hunt after some disappointing races.

Ron Dennis: Mika will Only Get Better

Mika Hakkinen's win in the Austrian Grand Prix may be in doubt pending investigation of an electronic box, but the Finn's dominant drive proves he is back in the title hunt after some disappointing races.

An FIA spokeswoman said the missing mandatory seal would be investigated in London before the next Grand Prix. Meanwhile, however, Sunday's result lifted Hakkinen to within eight points of world championship leader Michael Schumacher and left him just two points behind his McLaren team mate David Coulthard, who is second.

But more worrying for his rivals than the dominance of his victory is the claim of McLaren team boss Ron Dennis that Hakkinen will only get better over the next few races.

He believes that the double world champion was transformed by a short holiday before the race and will benefit even more from another break before the German Grand Prix.

"The only difference from the last grand prix was the holiday," said Dennis, referring to Hakkinen's lacklustre performance in the French Grand Prix two weeks ago when he was outclassed by Coulthard.

"It has been a tough year for our drivers because we specifically built our car early so a lot of mileage could be completed before the season and the drivers had worked almost non-stop before the French Grand Prix.

"Hakkinen had also had to deal with the psychology at the end of last season, like in Malaysia where he had to handle having the world championship one minute, having it taken away the next, and winning it for good in Japan.

"Then he had two disappointing retirements at the start of this season in Australia and Brazil. It is not the first time we've done it but we decided to put him on a break after France.

"That is the single difference between the Mika Hakkinen today and the Mika Hakkinen we saw in France. And that is only the first stage of his improvement because we will see the next step in Germany after he has another break"

If true, it would be bad news to Ferrari. Their dominant start to the season, when Schumacher won the opening three races, are but distant memories.

The German had a huge 24-point lead over Hakkinen after winning the Australian, Brazilian and San Marino grands prix, while Ferrari have now lost the lead in the world constructors' championship to McLaren for the first time this season.

More worrying, the team are finding it hard to match the reliability of McLaren, who have got both cars to the finish in the last eight grands prix.

In that same period, Ferrari's Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello have retired four times in total.

Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt was clearly disappointed with the Austrian race after Schumacher retired at the first corner and Brazilian Barrichello scraped a distant third. But he was philosophical about the fight for the world championship.

"I have always said it would be a difficult season and this race has confirmed that," he said. "In the past, one of our strengths has been the ability to fight back and we will demonstrate that again in the next race."

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