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Coulthard and Raikkonen confirmed, Hakkinen retires!

As expected, the West McLaren Mercedes outfit confirmed their 2003 driver line-up here at the Hockenheim circuit today revealing that David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen would continue the teams charge next year with test driver Alexander Wurz alongside the duo. Recent speculation suggested that Wurz would be back in active competition next season, however this announcement puts paid to any change of team for the Austrian.

David is very pleased to be continuing with the Woking squad for his eight season in succession, however at the same time the team announced the expected retirement of Mika Hakkinen, the Flying Finn opting to extend his year long sabbatical for the long term. David has wished him well and now looks ahead to next year's battle.

“In the competitive environment of Formula One, I think it is an important factor for the team and the drivers to have continuity. Kimi and myself have been developing a good relationship during the 2002 season, and I look forward to the continuation of this next year,” he said. “The value the team places on stability is clear as my partnership with Mika was the longest driver pairing in Formula One, and I would like to wish my old team mate a happy retirement with his family.'

'At the Monaco Grand Prix in 2001 I informed Ron that I wanted to stop, but he wanted to make sure that I made the right decision and gave me the opportunity to take a sabbatical. Once I had spoken with Ron a huge weight came off my shoulders, I really enjoyed the rest of the season and was able to win at Silverstone and Indianapolis. At this year's Monaco Grand Prix I wasn't sure how I was going to feel but the visit made it clear to me that I had made the right decision and I told Ron that I was going to retire,” Mika explained. “I have been through so much in my Formula One career and achieved a lot and I just didn't think it was worth it to push things any further. I want to spend time with my family and see Hugo growing up. I have met a lot people over the years and there are so many I want to thank personally which I will do at a later time. All I can say now is a big heartfelt thank you to everybody. I appreciate the support and friendship you have showed me over the years, thank you.'

Kimi's continuation with the team was fully expected after he signed a long term deal with the squad last season. However some believed he may have been given a back seat to allow his countryman back into active competition.

'I'm pleased to be staying with Team McLaren Mercedes as I have really enjoyed my first season with the team. I have learnt a lot in these past couple of months, am very excited about the future, and believe David, the team and myself will be able to challenge for the World Championship next year,” he said. “As a fellow Finn, I'm sure Mika will keep an eye on me and also the team's progress next year from home.'

'I'm pleased that we are able to announce our 2003 driver line up at Hockenheim, one of Mercedes-Benz's home races. David, Kimi and Alex have done a fantastic job this year and like the team they want to challenge for the 2003 Championship and the continuity can only be beneficial for all involved,” Ron Dennis added. “Mika is also taking this opportunity to announce his retirement from Formula One and I want to thank him for everything he has done and achieved for the team during his nine-year career with McLaren. I know it's not been an easy decision for him to make, and the team and myself want to wish him and his family all the best for the future.'

'We are glad to have David, Kimi and Alexander in our team in 2003. They work well together and have contributed to the progress we have made between Melbourne and Magny Cours, ” added Norbert Haug. “All three are focused, committed and hard working and together they are not only good ambassadors for Mercedes-Benz, but also they form the ideal line up for our 2003 championship challenge. Now is also the time to say thank you to Mika who has achieved 20 wins and two World Championships for Team McLaren Mercedes. He has been and will continue to be an important member of the Mercedes-Benz family.'

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