Hakkinen to retire after this season

updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya in his Williams-BMW edged out Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello by 0.31 seconds in the Italian Grand Prix formula one qualifiers clinching pole position. World Champion Michael Schumacher came in third while play was suspended for an hour when Mika Hakkinen's McLaren crashed at high speed. But the Finnish driver escaped unhurt. Hakkinen has announced he will not compete next year leading to speculation that the 32-year-old is about to retire. McLaren's announcement, that David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen and Alexander Wurz will form their line up in 2002, has now put an end to all speculation about Mika Hakkinen's sabbatical. The Flying Finn's decision to take a break in order to spend more time with his family did not come as a surprise as rumours about him taking a break have been in the news lately. Hakkinen took two back-to-back world championship titles in 1998 and 1999 with McLaren. But that form has deserted him in the recent past. Due to some mechanical problems, his car has not seen him finish quite a few races this year. And it has led to questions about his motivation especially after the birth of his first child, Hugo, last December. The 21-year-old upcoming star and Hakkinen's compatriot Raikkonen is expected to replace the 32-year- old which will also see the end of the longest-running partnership in the history of the sport - a six- year pairing with David Coulthard. Team boss Ron Dennis who has had a close relationship with Hakkinen, especially after his potentially life-threatening accident in the 1995 Australian Grand Prix, says the Finn will not be paid for this sabbatical year though he may feature in some public relations ventures for McLaren. This sabbatical year is being seen by many as the first step by the Finnish great, who has been nine years in Formula One with 159 races, 26 pole positions and 19 race wins, towards retirement. But Hakkinen insists he will be back and hopes to sign off later in style.