Toyota's Mika Salo answers 100 questions on subjects from his schooling to his favourites television programme. Part 1 of 2 1. What are your parents called? My father Seppo and my mother Tarja. Both of them are now half-retired, but they both...
Toyota's Mika Salo answers 100 questions on subjects from his schooling to his favourites television programme.
Part 1 of 2
1. What are your parents called?
My father Seppo and my mother Tarja. Both of them are now half-retired, but they both still work for a Finnish telecom company.
2. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A little brother, Tomi. He's nine years younger than me. No sisters.
3. Have you ever had a nickname?
No, everybody has always called me by my Christian name or surname. Always.
4. Were you good at school?
5. What was your best subject?
6. Why do you think you were good at English?
I don't know. In Finland you are made to study Finnish and Swedish, then in the third grade - about 10 years old - you can choose whether you continue with Swedish or whether you take up English. I dropped Swedish and took up English as my second language - which I think was quite unusual.
7. What was your worst subject?
History and sports. Well, not really the activity of sport, but I didn't really get along with my sports' teacher. He didn't like me, so I didn't get into any teams.
8. How long did you stay at school?
We stay until the ninth grade in Finland, which is about 15-years-old. After that you either go to high school or you study for a specific profession. I did not want to go to a high school. I liked cars, so I tried to get involved in something to do with cars. I also worked for a brief time at an electricity firm.
9. How long did you work for the electricity company?
Two years, doing things like house electronics.
10. Did you have an idol as a kid?
11. What age were you when you started karting?
I drove my first race when I was six, but my first drive in a go kart was when I was five. I was karting throughout my schooling, but I wasn't even thinking about it becoming my profession.
12. How did you first come to drive a kart?
We lived quite close to a circuit called Keimola and my father likes racing a lot, so he took me there a couple of times to see what was going on. Then, one day, his company had a corporate karting day and I went along too. That's when I first got behind the wheel.
13. Did you watch F1 as a kid on the television?
It wasn't broadcast in Finland until Keke [Rosberg] won the championship in 1982. Anyway, I was too busy with my own racing at the time, so I didn't have time to follow it closely.
14. When and where did you win your first race?
I won my first race when I was six, but I was the only driver in the race! Because I was so young, I raced with guys who were much older than me - about eight - and I won my own category in their race.
15. Why did you become a professional racing driver?
It just sort of happened for me. Even when I was racing in Formula 3 in England I had a sponsor who was paying for my drive and it wasn't so serious. It was just a hobby for me. That was until I had a call from Japan and when I started to get paid for driving I thought I'd better start acting like a professional as well.
16. What's your best memory in Formula 1?
Finishing third at Monza in '99 for Ferrari. When I was standing on the podium, the fans were quite unbelievable. They went mad! But that wasn't one of my best drives; most of them were in the Tyrrell in '95. We had no power and finished sixth, seventh and eighth the whole time, but I drove some great races. Being now with Panasonic Toyota Racing I have the feeling that maybe even better times could come for me as I am sure that in the long term the team is definitely on a very successful road.
17. What has been the most memorable race of your career so far?
The entire European Formula Ford season in 1988 was good because I won all the races and beat Michael [Schumacher] at the Österreich-Ring. Formula 1 is great, but you always think that your best race is just around the corner. That's why I look further back for my best memories.
18. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
19. With which current F1 driver do you get along best?
I don't have problems with anyone, to be honest. Jacques [Villeneuve] is a good friend because we got to know each other when we were racing together in Japan. We talk almost all the time.
20. Is it difficult to be a real friend of a rival?
Not really. We have the same holidays, after all, so it's easy for us to go out together.
21. Describe your relationship with Panasonic Toyota Racing team-mate Allan
We get along well; there are no problems. We have a lot of the same interests outside of racing, which helps. We talk a lot, but we don't really go out together.
22. Name the best team-mate that you've had in F1?
As a driver, it has to be Jos [Verstappen]. He was bloody quick. As a person, I've got along with most of my team-mates. Ukyo [Katayama] and I had a lot of fun together. Then there was Pedro [Diniz]. The first year that we were together at Sauber was not so good, but during the second year we became much closer. Eddie [Irvine] is Eddie and, with Allan, it's going well.
23. Who is the best driver in F1?
It's pretty obvious that, at the moment, it's Michael.
24. Could any driver on the grid win a race in this year's Ferrari?
Probably not. Michael has so many years of experience that he can get everything out of the team and the car. Someone else might only be able to use half of that potential.
25. Who is the best driver ever?
That's difficult for me to say because I only follow the current drivers, so I'd say Michael.
26. Why do you think there have been so many successful Finnish racing
I don't know. I don't think we're anything special, it's just a case of everyone else not being better.
27. Excluding yourself, name three current drivers that you would have in
your fantasy F1 team?
Michael would be in one car, so long as he was a bit cheaper! I would have Kimi [Raikkonen] in the other car, and I would have [Juan Pablo] Montoya as a test driver.
28. Which is your favourite circuit?
I like all the old fashioned circuits, like Spa, Monza and Monaco. They all have a challenge. I don't really like stadium circuits, like the A1-Ring for example. Although I have to say that we had a good race there earlier this year. Finishing 8th and 9th Allan, the team and me were happy that we passed chequered flag together for the second time.
29. Which is your least favourite circuit?
There are only a few of them: Nürburgring, A1-Ring and the Hungaroring are the circuits I do not like the most.
30. Would you like to see a Finnish Grand Prix?
After I stop, yes. I have too many friends who would want passes if there was one now. But one day, yes, I'd like to see a Finnish GP.
31. What is the secret behind your success at Monaco?
Not to hit anything all weekend. As a driver, I don't make many mistakes and, at Monaco, I am able drive at the same level as I do at other tracks. Some drivers have to back off a bit in Monaco because if they make a mistake there, it's game over.
32. What was the best F1 car that you drove in the past?
In terms of performance it was the '99 Ferrari, but I think the best car was the '96 Tyrrell. It had a great balance and you could always set it up very quickly. The only downside was that it had no power, so we were always 20kph slower than the other cars in a straight line.
33. What is the best thing about the Panasonic Toyota Racing team?
Panasonic Toyota Racing is a completely new team, building both engine and chassis from zero. This is a unique challenge and I am happy to have the chance to play a key role in this.
34. What's your target for the remainder of this season?
To score a lot more points than we have at the moment.
35. Will you finish your career with Panasonic Toyota Racing?
Most likely. Obviously there is a time when every driver has to stop. And I would not mind if the last team in my career is one that will win the championship one day. Hopefully with me in the cockpit.
36. Describe your relationship with Panasonic Toyota Racing President Ove
It's pretty good. I didn't know Ove at all before I came here and we seem to get along really well. He's a guy who can take a lot of criticism and he likes you to tell him how things are, even if it's not always positive.
37. Describe your relationship with the mechanics on your TF102.
It's early days. I know everyone's name, and we talk a bit, but I don't know them outside work. Nevertheless I already experienced that these guys are pretty quick. I was more than impressed when they changed the whole rear end in ten minutes during Friday's free practice session at the Spanish Grand Prix. That was unbelievable. I have never seen that done before.
38. Would you know how to change a gearbox?
Probably not. As long ago as F3 I learnt not to touch the cars. I'll never forget how I helped my mechanics to put a wheel back on the car and two minutes later one of them came over to check my work and pointed out that I'd forgotten to put the brake pads in! That was it; I don't touch the cars anymore.
39. As a racing driver, what is your ultimate goal?
To win races. There is no point in going racing if that isn't your ultimate goal.
40. What is the best thing about being a racing driver?
That I am doing something I am good at, and something that I enjoy a lot. It doesn't feel like work at all.
41. What's the worst thing about being a racing driver?
All the travel. You never have enough time at home.
42. Is fear a natural mate of F1?
Yes, it has to be, and it's a good thing because if you don't have fear, you do stupid things. If you do stupid things, you hurt yourself and the most important thing in life is to be healthy.
43. How many hours do you work out a day?
It varies, but I try to average two to three hours a day.
44. What will you do when you retire from driving?
To be honest, I have no idea.
45. If you weren't a driver, what other job would you like in F1?
I really do not know. I've always wanted to be a racing driver and that is what I am now. For me it is absolutely the best job in the F1 business.
46. What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Max - and I'm not talking about Mosley! I mean my baby Max.
47. Will you encourage baby Max to be a racing driver?
If he wants to, then yes.
48. How has your life changed since Max was born?
Not much, although I'm in more of a hurry to go home at the end of a test or race than I was before. Before Max was born I'd be quite happy to stay at the track after the race and have a party in the evening.
49. Has Max's presence affected your performance on the track?
50. What values would you like to pass on to Max?
That he has to be honest and polite to everybody.
Mika Salo part II