Hakkinen opens up on F1 title wins, time with Schumacher/Senna & more on podcast
The 35th episode of F1 Beyond The Grid podcast of 2019 has Mika Hakkinen talk about his world championships, career, McLaren, Michael Schumacher/Ayrton Senna and more.
As Hakkinen celebrates his 20th anniversary of winning his second F1 world title, it was fitting that the Finn make an appearance on Beyond The Grid podcast. They opened up the podcast talking about his memories of winning the second title.
Before getting into full detail, Hakkinen reminisces about the earlier stages of his career, including his move into F1, which he labelled it as 'incredible'. Coming from F3, his first experience in an F1 car, he recalled being disconcerting due to the surprising cockpit dimensions, grip levels, and responsiveness of the steering input.
The Flying Finn, though, did note the fact that this discomfort with the car continued through his career, even in 1999, when his car was tough to handle with oversteer, but had some very strong pace which ultimately led him to title number two.
From there, they discussed his rivalry with fellow F1 champion Schumacher and then more specifically, the final race of their fight, involving the controversy with the German and Eddie Irvine. The former McLaren driver cited Schumacher's consistency and technical ability as the reason for his relentless mettle, as well as his aggressive driving.
He also attempted to list some weaknesses, although Hakkinen was the first to admit that the list wasn't long at all, barring perhaps some self-conscious traits within the seven-time champion. He also denied any jealousy he was speculated to have of Schumacher.
Schumacher wasn't the only German F1 driver involved in Hakkinen's racing, however, as Keke Rosberg played a major roll in writing what is now the Finnish driver's history, which he said was a major reason for his success, given his ability to focus on driving, as Rosberg helped him with the politics and other elements.
Switching back to the Schumacher/Hakkinen F1 battle, the latter of two listed mentioned that he felt he was faster than the German, particularly through high-speed corners, while his counterpart was fastest in slower sectors.
He also touched upon was the duo's off-track relations which Hakkinen said was non-existent, despite repeated attempts to become friendlier. The infamous Spa 2000 F1 race was the next topic of discussion, where Hakkinen revealed minor details of the whole sequence.
The Finn admitted that he felt bad about speaking negatively of Schumacher, given the German's difficult few years, with him recovering from his major injury, so the topic then switched to that of his decision to move to McLaren over the dominant Williams team.
Hakkinen claimed it was an easy decision, even with teams like Williams and Ligier come knocking, primarily because of his confidence in Ron Dennis, and McLaren's history, which was rich, even then. The move was not advised by Rosberg, who was adamant that Williams' was the better of the two British teams.
His move, while the right choice with the benefit of hindsight, did have strings attached, as it meant he would drive alongside F1's golden boy of the time, Senna. The Finnish ex-driver denied any fear of being beaten by Senna, however, he was confident that he could beat his Brazilian counterpart, even after a year away from racing.
Knowing the Williams were unbeatable at that fateful race in Estoril, Hakkinen told that he set only one goal for himself, that of beating Senna, which he ultimately did, leaving the paddock awestruck in his wake, including the Brazilian.
Still, Hakkinen partially credited Dennis' commitment to him as a key factor of his success, as the team principle supported the Finn throughout his McLaren days, which were all difficult, as the team failed to deliver a winning car until their Mercedes deal.
The 51-year-old admitted that he lost faith in the team during this tough time, as he questioned their decisions in the later stages of his stay. But by 1996, he realised the long dark night was behind him, and his faith in the team was reinstated.
Hakkinen also confessed during recording that David Coulthard played a helping hand in his blossoming period post-1996, giving him a new challenge. He did note, though, that it wasn't all sunshine and roses in this period of his career, as Coulthard eventually hurt Hakkinen's 1999 F1 championship fight, crashing into him at the Austrian GP.
He spoke on the frustration this caused him, but still maintained that 'DC', as he is now known, was an excellent teammate, and just the pairing that McLaren needed. From there, they delved deeper into the topic, the horrifying crash in Adelaide 1995.
Hakkinen didn't recall much, but he did remember his 'oh shit' reaction of discovering his inability to move, just before he fell unconscious, due to the impact. He also revealed that, in that time of pain, he questioned his will to be a racing driver.
When he ultimately did return, Hakkinen said he had no fear, and was back being flat-out as soon as his tyres would allow, as his focus was solely on the team's progress, as well as his own. He also mentioned that he never felt the need to rally for safety, because of the natural risks a driver was accepting when they received their super-license.
Ironically, Hakkinen still feels that 1995 was the peak season of his career, because of his physical, and mental strength, even though the large part of his success was achieved in the later years, like 1998, when he won the F1 Monaco GP.
They went on discussing his retirement from F1 in 2001 and his potential return with Williams, which he says simply didn't work out in the end. Since then, though, Hakkine has stayed involved with F1, as part of Valterri Bottas' management team.
He talked about Bottas' situation in the fight against Lewis Hamilton. To round out the podcast, the duo discussed Kimi Raikkonen's longevity as he actually raced against Hakkinen and continues to compete, which is impressive.
The podcast can be found in the original story, here.
[Image courtesy: F1 Website] [Note: This story was also written by Duncan Leahy and edited by me on FormulaRapida.net]