Mika Hakkinen was not that good

Brought to you by TJ13 contributor: The Grumpy Jackal

Being allowed a platform to spout forth my ramblings, I thought I would put some perspective back. I’m going to consign Mika Hakkinen back to his rightful place rather than the misguided belief that has been seemingly set in stone over the last quarter of a century.

What the hell is the Jackal suggesting ask the voices inside my head? Essentially, Mika was nothing of note, he won titles in an Adrian Newey designed car which every other such driver has had to thank the balding genius for. I’d imagine some people are quizzing my thoughts as I type, but bear with me.

1992, Nigel Mansell won the title in a NEWEY Williams. In 1993, Prost cantered to the title with ridiculous ease, again in a NEWEY Williams. 1996 and 1997, it was Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve respectively and if we fast forward to 2010 through to 2013 – Sebestian Vettel was blessed with the skill to drive, once again you guessed it, a NEWEY design. The respective RBs.

But in 1998 and 1999, Murray Walker continuously preached about how magnificent this Flying Finn was and how he warded off the evil Italian empire to secure the titles. The icing on this particular myopic cake – get this – he beat Ayrton Senna in qualifying!! Once. No really, he vanquished the Brazilian legend in qualifying… ONCE. It’s not like De Angelis never beat the mercurial Brazilian. Fairly certain Prost and Berger did too…

If, like me, you have read contemporary reports, or any books since his death, you will know that he had lost his fight in 1993. At the start of the season he was negotiating a race by race contract due to being saddled with a Ford HB powered Mclaren against the tidal wave of Williams-Renault goodness.

He cut a disappointing figure because he couldn’t fight the overwhelming superiority of Frank’s team. He’d offered to drive for Williams in 1993 for FREE and when it was proved hat Prost’s contract had a stipulation that Senna could not join the team, Senna did not hesitate to call him out as a ‘coward’. Even so, his driving over the first few races was spell-binding.

Mika, on the other hand had been testing extensively all season as the reserve driver and was drafted in for Portugal after Michael Andretti had been released. In Portugal, Mika out-qualified Senna by the massive margin of 0.048 of a second. FORTY EIGHTH HUNDREDS!! Probably equals 3cm around a lap.

So with our ‘hero’ ahead of Ayrton, he disappeared, finishing miles ahead, right? Nope. Senna got passed Hakkinen on the first lap and remained ahead till his engine blew. Hakkinen crashed into the wall on lap 33.

The next race was Japan and by now the Brazilian was no doubt dialling himself up to speed and he qualified 0.032 ahead of the Finn. Ayrton went on to win the race finishing 26 seconds ahead of his team-mate. Or over a 53 lap race he was half a second a lap slower.

The final race of the season was the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide, and it is here that you see the difference between genius and merely fast. Senna in a Mclaren-Ford qualified on pole ahead of the erstwhile dominant Williams – nearly half a second quicker. Mika languished in fifth a full seven tenths slower than his team-mate. The race was no contest.

Twenty-five years later it sadly remains as Senna’s 41st and final victory – man overcoming the machine in quite spectacular fashion and maybe, just maybe, I should thank Mika for the impetus.

 

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13 responses to “Mika Hakkinen was not that good

  1. I think you missed the point, Hakkinen out qualified Senna in his first race for Mclaren, which is quite an achievement. Everyone knows Senna was better than Mika. No one is saying he was better. But what he did was very impressive.

    As for 48 hundreths, at 175mph (a guess at finish line speed) half a tenth would be 391cm which is over 100 times more than the distance you “probably” guessed.

    Also like to add to this that arguably the best driver of all time said this “his toughest rival in his first career was Mika Hakkinen”

    And some guy who shares a number with Pastor Maldonado says “MIKA HAKKINEN WAS NOT THAT GOOD”

    Yeah alright.

    • May I be so bold as to suggest you may have missed the point? I don’t write for these to be considered for any thesis. They are written from a personal point of view. The few bits of fact like timings, I’ll confirm from F1 stats sites otherwise it is just the way I see things. Thanks for the comment either way

    • My friend, I’m a Roman and my slaves are under strict instruction never to supply me with grapes that are anything but sweet and succulent 😋

  2. “when it was proved hat Prost’s contract had a stipulation that Senna could not join the team, Senna did not hesitate to call him out as a ‘coward’.”

    And I remember Senna at Lotus vetoing Derek Warwick joining the team and likely Eddie Cheever as well………….

    • As the genie said in Disney’s Akkadian, ‘Baaaadddd boy!’

      You well know the circumstances were different. Senna wasn’t in the slightest concerned by either Warwick or Cheever’s ability. He knew that Lotus couldn’t run two front running cars; therefore his would be adversely affected.

      He’d already joined s team with Prost in which proved he wasn’t fazed by any rivals ability.

      • Circumstances are always different when Senna is involved………. Lotus were running 2 cars regardless of who drove them.

  3. I’ve always thought a lot of the Hakkinen hype was because of what Schumacher said about him, which I always felt was Schumacher trying to belittle Damon Hill, rather than actually fearing Hakkinen.

  4. Mika had been testing exclusively all season …that’s correct. Did Macca not do a lot of their testing at Estoril, hence why Hakkinen made such an impact in much the same way Damon did with the Brabham at Silverstone. No substitute for seat time at a circuit when you get an opportunity to make a mark!

  5. Mika Häkkinen was good. Very good. Better than Damon Hill or Jacques Villeneuve I think. Not as good as Schumacher or Senna. But very good nevertheless.
    To which I like to ad, as some kind of disclaimer
    (Cut / Paste)
    ” I don’t write for these to be considered for any thesis. They are written from a personal point of view. The few bits of fact like timings, I’ll confirm from F1 stats sites otherwise it is just the way I see things. “

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