Saturday, 21 January 2012

Guest Article by Wasif Anowar: The story of Mika Hakkinen

A brilliant guest article on the career of Finnish driver and two time world champion Mika Hakkinen, written by Wasif Anowar.

Hakkinen is an F1 legend
Michael Schumacher isn't a man who gives praise lightly, so when he says a rival is good, he really is great. Hakkinen never spoke much & let his driving do the talking for him. Born on 28th September 1968, his parents hired him a go-kart when he was six years old. But on the first lap he had an huge accident, but survived with no injury. By 1986 he had won five karting championship and fellow Finn Keke Rosberg became his manager and helped him in the junior categories.

He won three Formula Ford Championships, Lotus Euroseries then the 1990 British Formula 3 Championship. Hakkinen also took part in the Macau Grand Prix but retired after a crash. His big break came when he was then promoted to Team Lotus in Formula 1, where he made his debut with the team in the 1991 USA GP. He qualified 13th on his race debut but an engine failure preventing him from finishing the race. In 1992 with the same team he finished the season by scoring six times as many points as he did in 1991.

Hakkinen's horrific Australia crash, 1995
In 1993 he joined McLaren and in his first outing with the team in Estoril, he out qualified his team mate Aryton Senna, which was not easy at all. He scored his first podium in Suzuka later that year. In 1994 he finished 4th with 26 points under his belt. In 1995 something happened which arguably made his relationship with McLaren very special. In the Australian GP in Adelaide he suffered heavy injuries, a puncture caused his car to crash heavily into the wall. He was saved by Professor Sid Watkins performing an emergency tracheotomy. Thankfully he recovered fully and just missed one race that season. Famously he quoted when he came back that "one can only get over his fears if he attack it head on."

Hakkinen is Champion, 1998
The 1997 season saw McLaren back on track but it was David Coulthard who finished higher than Mika, but he came close many times that year to the win. In 1998 when Adrian Newey joined the squad Hakkinen found himself in the fastest car. Though he had a good lead over arch rival Schumacher, a series of mechanical failures, bad luck and some great driving by Schumacher saw him nearly losing the championship. But he was cool and calm and clinched the championship in Japan when Schumacher retired the from the race due to a puncture. Mika Hakkinen had won his first title. 1999 was tougher as McLaren were fast but fragile, however as Schumacher was absent from racing for a while due to an accident in Silverstone which broke his leg, the only person challenging Mika was Ferrari's Eddie Irvine. Mika made several mistakes in Imola & Monza. In Monza when he made a driving error and retired from the race the whole world saw Mika take off his helmet and cried in front of the camera. But it was again in Japan where he secured a victory leading almost the entire race ahead of the title rival Irvine and by doing so he clinched his second title of his career.

That overtake from Hakkinen
In 2000 he was eager to score a hat-trick of crowns but after a season long battle he finished 19 points behind the World Champion Michael Schumacher. In the Belgian GP in Spa he took a memorable win by overtaking both Schumacher & Ricardo Zonta at once going down the Kemmel Straight, which many consider the greatest overtake in F1 history.

McLaren weren't competitive in 2001 and Mika had a series of non-finishes. He suffered a heavy crash in Melbourne and due to a clutch failure he was forced to retire at the last lap of the Spanish GP while leading the race. Though later he was given a ride back to the pit sitting on the sidepod of Coulthard's car. In USA he drove a fantastic race and took his last race victory. At the end of the season he took a year sabbatical but he never returned to the F1 paddock. The Quiet Winner was sorely missed by everyone.

Hakkinen with Alonso and Hamilton, in a 2007 advert
In 2004 he was planning to make a comeback in F1 in 2005 with the Williams teams but it never happened. He raced in the German DTM in 2005 & 2006 with little success. There were further rumours that he may join Mclaren-Mercedes in 2007 when Raikkonen moved to Ferrari. This would've seen Hakkinen team up with Fernando Alonso at McLaren. But McLaren said that that Alonso would be partnered by Lewis Hamilton in 2007. He once tested the MP4-21, the 2006 McLaren, in Catalunya but his fastest lap out of his 79 was three seconds off the pace than a regular driver.

Nowadays he is a brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker & occasionally shows up in a race weekend. On 4th November 2007 he officially announced his retirement, before in 2008 he started his new career in driving management.

In their 11 years as rivals the only driver who achieved more was Michael Schumacher, who said the opponent he most feared the most is Mika Hakkinen.

World Championships 2
Race 165
Wins 20
Poles 26
Podium 51
Career points 420
Fastest Laps 25

By Wasif Anowar

I interviewed Wasif in December

Do you want to write a guest article? I'm always looking for them and its great Wasif has written such a great one here. Email me at or tweet me @daykind19.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been a fan of Hakkinen. His move on Zonta and Schumi at Spa 00 was heroic and one of the best moves I've ever seen. In my opinion he was one of a few to clearly outclass Michael Schumacher.

    Good article as well!