Despite his obvious affiliation to double world champion Mika Hakkinen, McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has admitted that he is looking forward to seeing how successful his 2002 partnership will be.

Speaking in an interview on McLaren's official website, Dennis revealed that he was excited by the potential held by veteran David Coulthard and new charge Kimi Raikkonen, who replaces Hakkinen as the older Finn takes a twelve month sabbatical.

Raikkonen was competing in Formula Renault just twelve months ago, but now finds himself recruited by one of the very top teams in Formula One. Despite the pressure this move entails, Dennis is convinced that the Raikkonen/Coulthard axis can be a successful one.

"It goes without saying that we are all very keen to see how our new recruit shapes up alongside David in the race tem next season," he said, "They should compliment each other ideally in a blend of youthful vigour and seasoned experience. The sheer range and diversity of the driving talent that we have at our disposal for 2002 and beyond means that the team will be in a position to maximise any opportunities and eventualities."

Dennis went on to praise test driver Alex Wurz, as well as pay compliments to Hakkinen, who may or may not join the Austrian on the test team after being requested to do so by former team-mate Coulthard.

"The valuable support given to the programme by Alex should ensure that there is a seamless transition into 2002 which we intend to be a significantly more successful season that the one just ended," he admitted.

"Inevitably, there has been much speculation about Mika's future, but I feel that it speaks volumes for the strength of our relationship with him that we've been able to reach an agreement whereby he can recharge his batteries and have a break from F1 for a season.

"There's an understandable twinge of nostalgia accompanying the fact that the thread of a six-year partnership between Mika and David is finally being broken, but we're obviously pleased that David will be remaining with us to continue contributing to the team's record of achievement."



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