The possibility that Mika Hakkinen might make a sensational comeback to Formula One was raised again today as it emerged that Gary Paffett will return to the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) in 2007.
Mercedes has already confirmed three of its four drivers for its top DTM team. The only driver yet to re-sign is Hakkinen.
But with 2005 DTM champion Paffett returning, surely Mercedes would want him in the top team.
So are Hakkinen and Paffett be about to do a straight swap, bringing Hakkinen back to F1 after six year away?
Speculation about a potential return to F1 for Hakkinen arose when he attended the final round of the season in Interlagos and it emerged that he had tried the McLaren F1 simulator. He retired from F1 in 2001.
He has remained close to team manager Ron Dennis and a place in the race or test team would surely not be out of the question. He spent the last two seasons in the DTM and is race fit.
Putting Hakkinen in the race seat would allow Dennis to place GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton as test driver, giving his protege valuable F1 experience before making a race debut.
Paffett won the DTM in 2005 and left to pursue an F1 career. Butin 2006 even to outsiders it was clear that Paffett was not getting as many testing opportunities as team mate Pedro de la Rosa. Tellingly, McLaren never made use of the opportunity to run him in a race as they had done with both test drivers in 2005.