Thursday November 1st, 2001
Finnish World Champion Mika Hakkinen has said that he decided to take a year out from Formula One to try and reawaken his appetite for racing.
In the fullest explanation yet of his decision to sit out the 2002 season, the twice World Champion said he was also looking forward to spending more time with his wife Erja and baby son Hugo.
"Right now I do not feel hungry enough to race, the only way to solve that is to get some distance away from my work and have a break," Hakkinen said in an interview in Thursday's Autosport magazine. "To stop racing after this season was the right thing to do and I think it was a well considered decision for this time of my racing career.
"I have achieved what I wanted and have a family back home, and I want to spend some time with them."
World Champion with McLaren in 1998 and 1999, he had disappointing start to the 2001 season taking just four points from the first seven races, but bounced back to win the British and U.S. Grands Prix. But the 33-year-old said he plans to enjoy his year out and is looking forward to a change in lifestyle.
"Each weekend has meant the turmoil of travelling, packing and unpacking, moving from one hotel to another," said Hakkinen. "I confess that it started to affect me physically and it also started to affect my racing. I see this as a time to invest in my family life. For so long my life was just racing and then for a long time just Formula One.
"But when I got a family, I was trying to commit myself as much to my work and my private life."
The decision to take some time out has also ended the longest partnership in the history of the sport between Hakkinen and Briton David Coulthard, teammates for six years at McLaren. The Finn will be replaced by compatriot Kimi Raikkonen which has pleased Hakkinen.
"Knowing that the team have a good replacement next year made it easier to decide to have a sabbatical," he said. "To have Kimi Raikkonen in the team was my dream come true. Since I made my decision to have a break, I hoped that Kimi would join the team."
Hakkinen revealed he will miss team boss and confidante Ron Dennis.
"Ron is my close friend, inside and outside work. During the season Ron is a combination of a father, a fellow worker and a boss for me," said Hakkinen. "Inside the team I have a feeling that we are all in the same boat. Whatever happens."
As for whether the year out will end in a permanent departure from Formula One, Hakkinen said he had not decided.
"It is very likely that I will be racing a Formula One car again, but it is impossible to say when," he said. "I know that if I want to test again, everything is possible. Ron Dennis understands me very well in this kind of a situation.
"If my fingers are going to itch too much during next year, I believe that McLaren will be able to find one extra car for me to test."
Although looking forward to his time off, the Finn did admit that he would miss the excitement.
"I know I am going to miss Formula One, winning the races, getting the pole positions, the excitement which Grand Prix racing offers, working with the engineers and all the work to motivate the team. Most of all I will miss the feeling I got when I saw a smile in everybody's face after getting a good result."
Published at 18:06:31 GMT