Thursday October 5th, 2000
Mercedes-Benz chief Norbert Haug apologised to defending world champion Mika Hakkinen on Thursday for the engine failure which forced him to retire his McLaren from last month's United States Grand Prix.
Haug spoke at a news conferece ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix which could see German Michael Schumacher clinching this year's title if he wins the race.
"It was a problem in the pneumatic valve system," said Haug. "That led to the complete engine failure. Sorry, Mika."
Haug said no engine supplier could ever guarantee 100 per cent reliability and said the problem came from a part which was one of a batch of faulty items used on the power unit.
"But we have been testing a lot at Mugello and at Magny-Cours and everything should be okay now," he said. "But it is the same for everybody. We have done a lot of mileage."
Hakkinen said his engine failure at Indianapolis was a "traumatic" experience. "Any retirment is traumatic," he said. "But it is even worse at this time of the year. Points are so important. One point or 10 points. They are all important."
The engine failure came when he was in a strong second position behind Schumacher in the American race.