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September 23, 2009

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Hakkinen: Show must go on

THE race-fixing controversy that has shamed Formula One is a bump on the road that the sport will quickly get past, according to former world champion Mika Hakkinen.

The Finn, who escaped from an horrific accident before he won the world title in 1998 and 1999, said motor racing's premier category would also survive the ugly scandal surrounding the Renault team.

"Show must go on," Hakkinen said. "People who have done wrong, they need a penalty ... And life has to go on."

The Renault controversy has cast an unsavory shadow over the sport and undermined Formula One's credibility at a time when it is looking to bolster support and shore up investment. But Hakkinen, who would have died at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix without the intervention of quick-thinking doctors who performed an emergency trackside tracheotomy, remains upbeat about the future.

"Forget it and concentrate on the future," he said.

Hakkinen, in Singapore ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix, said Sunday's nighttime spectacle was just the first step on the sport's road to recovery, as was the return next season of Lotus, the glamor-name that he started his career with.

"I think it's brilliant," he said. "I think it's absolutely brilliant. A new organization in Formula One, new team in Formula One, new people in Formula One. All of this is a positive thing."

Running his hand through his blond-streaked hair the 41-year-old issued one piece of advice.

"You have to have the right people running the operation. Obviously (there is) a lot of money involved, and you need professional people. So they, the people who are bringing the Lotus back, and run the Formula One team, I hope they have a good plan to get the right people."

Leading Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes will be the Lotus team principal. The 45-year-old set up Asian budget airline Air Asia, which currently is sponsoring the Williams team.


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