After more than five years Formula 1 legend Mika Häkkinen celebrates his comeback in a racing car. The Finn starts on Sunday in McLaren at the 10-hour race in Suzuka (Japan).
The F1 World Champion of 1998 and 1999 will contest the official GT race in Japan together with Katsuaki Kubota and Hiroaki Ishiura in a McLaren 720S GT3 (500 hp).
“The car looks amazing,” wrote the 50-year-old at Instagram. With Markus Winkelhock and Kamui Kobayashi, two other ex-Formula 1 pilots will also be on board. Häkkinen most recently competed in a GT race in November 2013.
It’s no real surprise to see the original ‘flying Finn’ drive a McLaren, as the Woking based squad were the ones that Championed Hakkinen throughout most of his Formula 1 career.
It’s also a return to a very special place: In Suzuka he clinched his first WRC title at the end of the 90s and defended it the following year.
During his Formula 1 time, Häkkinen fought a big duel with record world champion Michael Schumacher. First he relegated the Ferrari man to second place in 1998, then in 2000 Schumi grabbed the Formula 1 crown again in front of the Finn.
OPINION: 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.