Motor Racing: McLaren look like having right formula

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The Independent Online
They were reluctant to talk about the world championship - and given that they last won it seven years ago, you can understand their apprehension about being drawn into predictions they might regret. But everyone else seems to feel that McLaren-Mercedes are going to be back in the serious business of Formula One this coming season, and the team's principal, Ron Dennis, is openly relishing the prospect of a domestic duel for supremacy.

The man who has presided over such duos as Nikki Lauda and Alain Prost, and Prost and Ayrton Senna, and all the confrontational baggage that latter pairing carried with it, has patently not enjoyed the years of relatively serene mediocrity.

Now, perhaps, a re-run of those hyper-charged, good old days beckons. Although the 1998 car, unveiled at McLaren's Woking factory yesterday in neutral amber livery, has yet to turn a wheel in anger, computer figures have generated optimism and Dennis believes he has, in David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen, the drivers to finish the job on the circuit.

Dennis said: "We feel we have all the ingredients in place and a couple of guys who aren't young but certainly not old but definitely have experience and I believe are coming into their prime.

"I think it's great if we can have them both competing for the championship. I've had that situation twice before, with two drivers fighting for it and we've got enough experience here to be able to handle it. If it gets to a situation where one driver mathematically can't win it, the other one will help."

Britain's Coulthard, who won two races last season, thinks he is better prepared, physically and mentally, for this season. He said: "What I'm now looking for is the consistency that is sometimes the key to a championship."