INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2001 - Mika Hakkinen lists winning his first World Championship and the birth of his son, Hugo, as his most memorable experiences. On Sunday, Finnish driver Hakkinen added a third item to that table. Two days ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2001 - Mika Hakkinen lists winning his first World Championship and the birth of his son, Hugo, as his most memorable experiences.
On Sunday, Finnish driver Hakkinen added a third item to that table.
Two days after his 33rd birthday, Hakkinen overcame a morning penalty that moved him to fourth on the starting grid and an accident during the morning warm-up to win the second Formula One SAP United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was career victory No. 20 and one he'll recall fondly when he sits on the sidelines next season for a sabbatical that will last a year or longer.
"This Grand Prix is definitely one of my important victories," said Hakkinen, who drives for the West McLaren-Mercedes team. "Because I rate Monaco, Silverstone and Indianapolis, I think, these are the Grands Prix (that) a Grand Prix driver wants to win. It's something special. So definitely this is something I'm never going to forget."
Neither will Norbert Haug. He's the motorsports director for Mercedes-Benz. In 1994, Al Unser Jr. won the Indianapolis 500 using a Mercedes engine, and now the German motor-building giant has added a Grand Prix win at the Brickyard.
"He (Hakkinen) is a fantastic guy," Haug said. "I mean, he's very special. He's fully motivated. He wants to take a break next year. But this was one of his best drives ever.
"We had the best strategy (one pit stop), used the tires the best. Mika was the fastest car on the track. And David (teammate Coulthard) came from seventh to third.
"Mika was put back from second place to fourth after the warm-up, which is a position you can discuss. But anyways, it means even more to win from fourth position."
Michael Schumacher, who finished second to Hakkinen after winning last year, reiterated that he isn't ready to follow his longtime rival into retirement.
"I'm not retiring, that's pretty sure," he said.
Hakkinen quickly jumped in and told Schumacher jokingly: "Think about it. You're not young anymore, Michael."
While Hakkinen may not return to F1 after his year off, don't expect him to race in the Indianapolis 500.
"Me? No." he said.
Hakkinen averaged 123.055 mph and took the checkered flag 11.046 seconds in front of Schumacher. The large, sun-drenched crowd cheered and waved flags vigorously in salute to the latest winner at Indy. Haug saw the entire race day as a special tribute to America's resilience. "I have to say we all have to be mindful of the 11th of September," he said. "We came here under the impression of what happened there. I think to get a victory under these circumstances is a very special one. "I stress I think the spectators enjoyed it. It was one-and-a-half hours of entertainment, good sport, fair sport. And you know after what happened a fortnight ago, I think we contributed to make them happy for a while.
"I think that is what the President of the States is saying, that we should continue, and that is why this victory is very special, the 20th victory for Mika, a very special one."
Schumacher and Haug both think Formula One has found a special home in America at the Speedway.
"I think after seeing a great public last year and the number of people attending the race, everybody wasn't sure what was going to happen in the second year," four-time World Champion Schumacher said. "Seeing what has happened in the second year makes you obviously very happy that Formula One in America seems to have a lot of supporters. It's always great to feel to come back here all the time if people really accept us here."
Haug said that the crowd was remarkable considering the circumstances.
"They enjoy racing, and this is the capital of motor racing," he said. "I have to thank Tony George and all his people. They did a fantastic job and are professionals. It is calm, it is quiet, and it was good sport and, thanks to Tony, a great achievement, him and his group."