HELSINKI, Nov 17- Mika Hakkinen said on Wednesday his McLaren team mate David Coulthard was a potential world champion -- but the Briton should not count on landing the crown next season when the Finn bids for a title hat-trick. ``David is still young, and looking at how much progress he has made since 1996 when he joined the team, I believe he will grow to be champion,'' Hakkinen said. Hakkinen, who was accompanied to Finland by his team boss Ron Dennis, plans a six-week holiday at a secret location before starting a rigorous testing programme in Australia in January. ``I expect Mika to be in shape then,'' Dennis said. ``And I know he will be.'' Hakkinen added: ``The situation is very similar to 1998, when I had to ask myself how am I going to find the motivation to go flat out and to win the title again. Although it won't be easy, I know it will come as it came this season.'' The Finn starts his title defence at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 12.
Villeneuve vows to stay at BAR
The Canadian vowed to stay put despite failing to score a single point last season and despite the fact that the future of his close friend, manager and team chairman Craig Pollock at BAR is still uncertain. Villeneuve has repeatedly said that if his former school teacher Pollock goes, he will follow, and he has been widely tipped to return to Williams -- the team with which he won the title two years ago.
But in an interview with Autosport magazine published on Thursday the Canadian said: "I have said before that if Craig goes, I go, because then the team wouldn't mean much. "It would be another political business. It wouldn't be a team. It wouldn't be what I signed my years into. So I wouldn't be happy in that situation... I would go to the end of my term, though.'' Neither Villeneuve nor Brazilian team mate Ricardo Zonta managed to register BAR's first point in Formula One in a maiden season during which Villeneuve said his car's reliability was "pathetic.''
But from next year BAR's cars will be powered by Honda engines. "One thing this very hard year did was help the team gel to make us stronger,'' Villeneuve said.
"What we have now is a bunch of fighters with high spirits, and that will pay off massively in 2000. "We'll have Honda engines and a more reliable car, so we're looking good.'' Villeneuve did say, however, that if BAR failed to rectify the problems suffered in their first year he would have no choice but to move.
"If there was another season like this, I wouldn't have any option but to go somewhere else. But there won't be another season like this, because it cannot be any worse. "When you are so far down, you can only go up.''
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