Feature: Mika Häkkinen "The Flying Finn"

Today is a very special day for F1 Lights Out, and to me, Marco Gimeno, as the author and creator of this blog. We received a video this morning, from a very special person, the legendary two-time world champion Mika Häkkinen. He sent us a message congratulating us on starting this F1 blog and encouraging us to continue. As a thank you, here we are dedicating a feature article to one of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula 1.



Who is Mika Hakkinen?


Häkkinen, like most Formula 1 drivers, started his career out in karting at just 5 years of age. He became successful quickly, winning regional and national kart championships every weekend. He progressed into car racing years later into Formula Ford and Formula Three series in Italy and the United Kingdom.


Mika Häkkinen's F1 Career


1991-1997


After proving to the world that he had what it takes to be the best of the best, he finally joined F1 in 1991, racing for Lotus and staying there until 1992. The following year, he was promoted from test driver to racing driver at McLaren after Michael Andretti left the team. After four years of minimal success in F1, Häkkinen finally struck the jackpot, winning his ever F1 victory in 1997 at the European Grand Prix.


1998


The next season, he went on to win eight races, winning the World Championship at the season finale race in Japan, as well as carrying McLaren to a constructors championship that same year. Häkkinen was partnered by David Coulthard and went into the season confident about fighting for the championship. He went on to win the first two races of the season, followed by a second-place finish in Argentina, and a DNF (did not finish) at the San Marino Grand Prix.


Things were looking good for "The Flying Finn" as he managed two more consecutive victories and another gearbox failure, causing him to retire his car again. Despite the trouble from the gearbox and two DNF's out of 6 races so far, Häkkinen pushed to the limit, taking two podiums in the next two rounds, and another two victories in the following two rounds. Häkkinen gained confidence that he would win the championship, and he kept his consistency. He finished 6th in Hungary, and shortly after, it was announced that both Häkkinen and Coulthard would be retained for the 1999 season. He took 4th position in the next race, and another two victories in the last two rounds of the season, assuring him the world championship, finishing 100 points ahead of his nearest rival Michael Schumacher.


With the championship title came fame and glory, and with that Häkkinen was awarded the Autosport International Racing Driver Award for 1998, as well as named the Finnish Sports Personality of the Year, and the Finnish Post Office issued stamps to commemorate Häkkinen's World Championship in January 1999. Häkkinen had become a national hero as well as a sporting legend.



1999


Häkkinen repeated another successful year in 1999, winning another 5 races that season, even though McLaren originally had a rough start to the season with issues in pre-season testing, leading to a lack of preparation for the upcoming season. Häkkinen started out the year in Australia with bad luck as he was forced to retire the car due to throttle issue. Despite the bumpy start, he found his first victory of the season shortly after, in Brazil. Häkkinen was forced to retire once again in San Marino after having hit a barrier and followed up with a third-place podium in Monaco, as well as two consecutive victories in Spain and Canada in the next rounds. He continued his season, feeling fairly confident in being a championship contender, as he took 2nd in the French Grand Prix, even though he was forced to retire once more in Britain as a result of wheel failure.


For one of his best performances of the season, Mika Häkkinen started the Austrian Grand Prix with pole position, when not far into the race, his teammate Coulthard hit his rear, giving Häkkinen no choice but to rejoin in last place and work his way back up, yet managing to finish an impressive third place. The German GP caused him to retire yet again after his rear tyre exploded at high speed. It was announced that same weekend that McLaren would be keeping him for another year, in hopes of fighting for one more championship. Managing his fourth victory of the year, Häkkinen won in Hungary and followed up in Belgium with a second-place finish, yet having to retire in Italy once again.


The championship was getting more intense each race as the season finale got closer, but he Häkkinen finished 5th at the European GP and 3rd in Singapore, putting him one step closer to being a two-time world champion. The season finale in Japan arrived, and Häkkinen raced his McLaren to the limit, winning the GP and taking home a second world title. He finished 76 points ahead of nearest rival Eddie Irvine that year, making it a well-deserved title.



2000-2001


Mika Häkkinen was looking to be three-time world champion in 2000 but came close as he finished as runner-up in second place behind Michael Schumacher. That season was one of the closest championships of his career, as he had a rough start to the season having to retire the car multiple times, yet later on, gaining various podiums and a couple of victories. He eventually surpassed Schumacher in the driver's championship, keeping the lead for the rest of the season until the second to last race of the season, when Schumacher came back and took it from him.


In 2001, Häkkinen had a rough season that year following multiple retirements and worse results, putting him 5th in the championship by the end of the year with 2 wins and 3 podiums. That result would be phenomenal for many drivers, but Häkkinen wasn't fighting for podiums, he was fighting to be the best of the best. He took a sabbatical in 2002, which eventually turned into full-time retirement from F1 halfway into the year, and the F1 world said goodbye to an absolute legend of a driver, Mika Häkkinen "The Flying Finn".


Special Regards


We wish Mika the best and we hope that he reads this and enjoys. Thank you again for the message. Take care.


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