Onboard: Mika Hakkinen makes the McLaren F1 GTR scream around Laguna Seca
Last week we celebrated Michael Schumacher's 50th birthday. I spent a good portion of my day watching video after video of the great German's exploits both on and off track. Schumacher was the most successful driver of all time and there was only one man who really put him in his place on a level playing field. Mika Hakkinen.
Hakkinen was in his prime when I was most engrossed in Formula One. For some reason, I'm programmed not to support whoever keeps winning as I get a bigger thrill when the underdog wins. Hakkinen and Schumacher both kept winning in this era, so by default, I hated them both. This has nothing to do with their personality or even their driving styles, it was purely for their inability to lose.
Reminding myself of that era, I completely forgot how good the Finn really was. He may have 'only' won two Formula One Championships, but he really could have won much more if it wasn't for incredible competition.
Hakkinen had a very calm and emotionless demeanour off track and not in the hilarious Kimi way, but the general seriousness of a strict teacher.
In recent years, I've watched more and more clips of the man and he is fast becoming one of my favourite human beings. Since retiring from Formula One, the cracks have started to show in the steely stern face and you can see him smile and even chuckle which fills me with endless amounts of glee. It's like watching your strictest childhood teacher give you a knowing wink, letting you know that it was all an act.
As he gets older, he gets cooler. He doesn't shy away from a good press day and when he had the chance to take the 1995 McLaren F1 GTR around Laguna Seca, he didn't hold back. It's fair to say he more than tickled the throttle of this rather expensive classic and had the 6.1-litre naturally aspirated V12 absolutely singing.
Watch the flying Finn do what he does best in the video below: