F1 Legend

Mika Hakkinen


  • Vantaa, Uusimaa, Finland Place of Birth
  • 28 September 1968 Date of Birth
  • 1991 United States Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • McLaren Current/Last Team

Five years after Mika Pauli Häkkinen was born on September 28, 1968, his parents rented a go-kart for him to try at a track near their home outside Helsinki. On his first lap, little Mika had a big accident, though he fortunately remained uninjured. His first racing memory, however, was not of his own fear but the look of fear on his father’s face. Unfazed by his shaky start, Mika pestered his parents—Harri and Aila—until they bought him a kart of his own. As Mika became an increasingly fast kart racer, the whole family—including his sister Nina—went racing for fun, forming their own little team and driving to races in a minibus. By 1986, he was a five-time karting champion and had become a protégé of fellow Finn Keke Rosberg, the 1982 World Champion. Rosberg became his manager, arranging sponsorship that helped Mika fly through the junior categories of single-seater racing.

BornMika Pauli Häkkinen
28 September 1968
Vantaa, Uusimaa, Finland

The new Flying Finn won three Scandinavian Formula Ford championships, the Opel Lotus Euroseries championship, and the 1990 British Formula Three championship, after which he was promoted to Formula 1 by Team Lotus. Although Lotus was then in decline, Mika’s obvious talent made him a driver in demand. In 1993, McLaren boss Ron Dennis signed him for testing duties and to serve as an understudy to Ayrton Senna and Michael Andretti. When Andretti left Formula One with three races of the season remaining, Mika became Senna’s teammate, famously out-qualifying him on his debut in Portugal. Senna’s move to Williams in 1994 made Mika number one at McLaren, but he still had imperfections. At Hockenheim, he was found guilty of triggering a ten-car crash on the first lap and received a one-race ban.

The worst accident of his career was not his fault but had nearly fatal consequences. Mika’s promising 1995 season, in which he had seven podium finishes, ended disastrously in Adelaide. During practice, some debris punctured a tyre and pitched his McLaren into a wall. Rescue crews rushed to his aid and found Mika critically injured, bleeding profusely from the mouth and turning blue from lack of oxygen. Doctors, led by FIA medical legend Professor Sid Watkins, performed an emergency tracheotomy, making an incision in his throat and inserting a tube so he could breathe before transporting him to the hospital where his life hung in the balance for some time. As he slowly regained consciousness, Mika began to recognise the concerned faces surrounding his bed, among them his girlfriend Erja, who helped nurse him through the difficult period that followed.

Back at his flat in Monaco, unsure if he could resume his racing career, he stated, “You can only get over your fears if you attack them head-on.” Early in 1996, in a private test arranged by McLaren, he was immediately as quick as ever.

Despite still being fast, the Flying Finn had yet to translate his speed into a Formula 1 win. When it came, in the last race of 1997 at Jerez, it was inconclusive as both his McLaren teammate David Coulthard and Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve (en route to becoming champion) moved out of his way to let Mika win. His second victory, in the 1998 season-opener in Melbourne, also came courtesy of the loyal Coulthard, who honoured their pre-race agreement to let him take the checkered flag first. From then on, there was no stopping Mika, though Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher did his best in what became a season-long championship battle. Ultimately, Mika won half the season’s 16 races (Schumacher won six) and became the 1998 World Champion.

In 1999, the reigning champion’s task of defending his title was made easier by Schumacher’s absence (who missed several races with a broken leg), and Mika ultimately defeated Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine to secure his second successive drivers’ title. However, his season was blemished by a rare mistake at Monza, where he threw away a seemingly sure win by selecting the wrong gear and spun out.

Before long, thoughts of retirement began to enter Mika’s mind. He kept on winning, four times in 2000 and twice in 2001, by which time he and Erja (now married) had become the proud parents of Hugo Häkkinen. Fatherhood made Mika more conscious of his sport’s dangers, and he grew weary of the constant effort to maintain the speed for which he was acclaimed. At the end of 2001, his ninth year with McLaren, he announced he was going to take a year’s sabbatical to spend more time with his family. In fact, he never returned to Formula One, where the likeable man who drove flat-out was sorely missed.

Consistent and quick, he scored points in over half his races and took to the top of the podium 20 times. In their 11 years as rivals, only Michael Schumacher achieved more, and Schumacher himself said that the opponent he most respected was Mika Häkkinen.

Mika Hakkinen Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1991–2001
TeamsLotus, McLaren
EnginesJudd, Ford, Peugeot, Mercedes
Entries165 (161 starts)
Championships2 (1998, 1999)
Career points420
Pole positions26
Fastest laps25
First entry1991 United States Grand Prix
First win1997 European Grand Prix
Last win2001 United States Grand Prix
Last entry2001 Japanese Grand Prix


Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
British Jaguar 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix Retired
Brazilian Williams 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
British Jordan Grand Prix 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix Retired
British McLaren 1980 Austrian Grand Prix F1 Legend
British Red Bull Racing 1994 Spanish Grand Prix Retired


Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Team Lotus British 1958 Historic
McLaren British 1966 Current