McLaren have confirmed that former F1 driver Mika Hakkinen will be testing for them in Barcelona on Thursday.
Retiring from the sport after the Japanese GP in 2001, this will be the first time the Finn will return to the cockpit of an F1. In the last few weeks, speculation was mounting that the 38 year-old would back be in the frame of an F1 car.
“I’m really excited about driving a Team McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 car again and to be re-engaging with the team,” said Hakkinen. “I have followed F1 closely since my retirement at the end of the 2001 season, but it was when I was at this year’s Brazilian GP as a guest of the team that I really felt I would like to get a chance to drive a Formula 1 car again.”
It has been reported that Hakkinen requested a test after using the Woking based team’s simulator for a number of hours since the end of the 06 season. Although it is not yet known that Hakkinen will continue testing for McLaren, the Woking based team will be given the chance to get important data from tyres, downforce and engine that have been changed from the era of Hakkinen’s racing days.
“I have recently spent some time in the simulator in Woking and to get the possibility to drive the MP4-21 is something I’m really looking forward to,” added Hakkinen. “I would like to thank Ron (Dennis) and Norbert (Haug) for making this happen. This test is a chance for me to see how much F1 cars have advanced and experience first hand what they are like to drive today as well as providing the team with some feedback on various aspects of the car’s performance.”
Hakkinen will succeed Pedro de le Rosa for the test and work alongside McLaren’s new signing Lewis Hamilton. “We are delighted to provide Mika with the opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car again,” said McLaren team principal Ron Dennis. “A driver of Mika’s calibre and experience can only bring added value to our testing programme and his feedback after Thursday’s running will be valuable to the team in our preparations for the 2007 season.”
Mika will be driving in the DTM under McLaren-Mercedes so Hakkinen might be able to do both.
Vice President of McLaren-Mercedes Motorsport Norbert Haug has put a question mark on the future of Hakkinen’s role with McLaren.
“Everybody in the team is happy to see him at the wheel of our Formula 1 car again and we look forward to some interesting comments,” he said. “However nobody should draw the conclusion that Mika will switch back to Formula 1 after this test.”