Hakkinen prepared for life away from F1 in 2002

Hakkinen bracing for new world away from track INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Jan. 14, 2002 - Mika Hakkinen, the two-time World Champion and winner of the 2001 SAP United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, isn't quite sure what his ...

Hakkinen bracing for new world away from track

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Jan. 14, 2002 - Mika Hakkinen, the two-time World Champion and winner of the 2001 SAP United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, isn't quite sure what his feelings will be when the 2002 Formula One season kicks off in Australia in March.

After an 11-year career in F1, including eight full seasons with McLaren, Hakkinen is going on sabbatical for the 2002 season.

"It is impossible to say what I am going to feel, impossible," Hakkinen said when asked what would be going through his mind when, for the first time since 1993, he won't be on the grid for the F1 season opener.

As for when he started to feel that he wanted to take a year off, Hakkinen referred back to an uncompetitive season with Team Lotus and quipped: "The first time that came to mind was in 1992! But I was too young to retire."

Hakkinen said his accident in the 2001 season opener in Melbourne, Australia, started his thought process about possibly taking a sabbatical, and he finally suggested the idea to West McLaren-Mercedes director Ron Dennis in May 2001.

"The first time I raised the subject was in Monaco with Ron (Dennis)," Hakkinen said. "At the start of the year, what happened in Melbourne in the first Grand Prix, did not help. That Grand Prix was going really well for us. We were catching (leader) Michael (Schumacher) and were very competitive, and the tactics were going good. And then I had a big shunt.

"So I think after that I started to think that I had to do something about this feeling, because it was not good for the team, and it was not good for myself. So I have to understand within myself what I want to do in the future. And to take one year off was the best possible idea."

The birth of his son, Hugo, has changed Hakkinen's outlook on life and racing.

"It certainly has affected the way I see racing," he said. "People always have priorities in their lives. Obviously, before the family, my life was dedicated a big way to F1. Everything was F1.

"Then when we had our son, things changed - you try to dedicate your life to both sides. I don't think that affected my speed on the racetrack, but certainly makes me think about other things than F1.

"As everybody knows, this is a dangerous sport. And once you have something in your life that is so special, that you don't want to lose, you start thinking about it - what do you really want to do with your life? When you get older, when you are crossing the street, you tend to look left and right twice. When you were younger you only looked left and right once. So things change."

Hakkinen is not sure how strong his urge to race will be this year.

"We will see what happens," he said. "Maybe I am going to stay at home three or four months and then feel that I want to race like crazy, and I will be at the races and tests saying I want to drive. It can happen.

"But it could be vice-versa. Maybe I won't want to race. But I will have all the doors open in 2003, so I feel confident and comfortable with the situation."

Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen will take Hakkinen's place on the West McLaren-Mercedes squad this year. "If you wanna win, get the Finn," Hakkinen told Dennis.

Team McLaren, Hakkinen said, provided him with all the support he needed in the early stages of his F1 career, and the team will do the same for Raikkonen.

"Kimi has the best possible chance to go with a team that gives him the opportunity to build the confidence and have the maximum support," Hakkinen said. "It is very important that he is with a team that will build his confidence. That way he can win."

Finally, when asked what image of himself he would want to leave for the fans, Hakkinen's dry sense of humor showed through as he quipped:

"Image? Handsome, intelligent and a fast racing driver, of course!"

-ims-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mika Hakkinen , Kimi Raikkonen
Teams Mercedes , Team Lotus , McLaren