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Hakkinen to make McLaren return on Thursday 29 Nov 2006

Mika Hakkinen(FIN) McLaren MP4-14 race winner and World Champion for the second year running Japanese GP, Suzuka, 31 October 1999. World © Sutton

Double world champion Mika Hakkinen will get back in the cockpit of a Formula One car on Thursday when he conducts a one-off test with McLaren at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. It will be Hakkinen’s first outing with his former team since his retirement from Formula One racing following the 2001 Japanese Grand Prix.

Hakkinen, 38, asked for the opportunity to re-familiarise himself with a Formula One car, and the team intend to use the test to benefit from the Finn’s experience and obtain his feedback regarding changes in downforce, engine and tyres following the regulatory changes over the last five years.

"I'm really excited about driving a Team McLaren Mercedes Formula One car again and to be re-engaging with the team," said Hakkinen. "I have followed the Formula One world championship closely since my retirement at the end of the 2001 season, but it was when I was at this year's Brazilian Grand Prix as a guest of the team that I really felt I would like to get a chance to drive a Formula One car again.

“I have recently spent some time in Team McLaren Mercedes' simulator in Woking and to get the possibility to drive the MP4-21 is something I'm really looking forward to. This test is a chance for me to see how much Formula One 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."

Since retiring from Formula One racing, Hakkinen has remained an integral part of the McLaren Mercedes family by competing in the DTM touring car series in Germany as a works driver for Mercedes-Benz. Only last week the links were further strengthened when Hakkinen was announced as an ambassador for Johnnie Walker - a long-term commercial partner of the McLaren team.

"We are delighted to provide Mika with the opportunity to drive a Formula One car again," said McLaren team principal, Ron Dennis. "He is really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a current Formula One car. 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. However at this stage there are no plans for Mika to conduct further tests for the team."

"Mika has always been a very important part of the McLaren Mercedes family," added Norbert Haug, Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. "With his two Formula One world championship titles and 20 Grand Prix wins for the team he has contributed a lot to the success of the McLaren Mercedes Formula One team.

“Since 2005 he has been competing in the DTM Touring Car Championship and clearly shown that he has not lost any of his speed or commitment. Everybody in the team is happy to see him at the wheel of a Team McLaren Mercedes Formula One car again and we look forward to some interesting comments. However nobody should draw the conclusion that Mika will switch back to Formula One after this test."

McLaren have been testing in Barcelona since Tuesday with Lewis Hamilton and Pedro de la Rosa. Hakkinen will take over from De la Rosa on Thursday. McLaren have two further Spanish sessions planned before Christmas, both at Jerez.

For more on Mika Hakkinen's Formula One career, see our Hall of Fame section.