For the 1994 F1 season, McLaren gave their new number one driver, Hakkinen, this Peugeot-powered MP4/9, shown during the Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril. The French engines were underpowered and unreliable. but Mika nevertheless managed to score a pair of 2nds and nine podium finishes.
Photo: Rich Craner
Dad was a part-time taxi driver and Mom a secretary, and five-year-old Mika plagued the life out of them to let him race a kart. They hired one for him, but he crashed it on the first lap of his first race, so kart racing was a no-no in the Häkkinen family for a while. But Mika kept chipping away at his parents so that Dad eventually bought him a second-hand kart.
And so started Mika Häkkinen’s incredible race to the top. By the time he was 17 he had won no fewer than five Scandinavian kart championships. That made 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg sit up and take notice. He negotiated a sponsorship deal that took the youngster from Vantaa, Finland, into open-wheel racing, and the lad won three Scandinavian series before progressing to the 1988 European GM-Lotus Championship: he won that, too. Next step F3 and, sure enough, Mika won the 1990 British Formula 3 Championship in a Ralt-Mugen Honda, but the year’s Macau Grand Prix just slipped from his grasp in a dramatic last-lap accident. Michael Schumacher was leading, but as Mika tried to overtake him the German did a “brake test,” and Mika crashed into the back of Michael’s Reynard 903-Volkswagen/Spiess and out of the race. Schumi’s car stayed together long enough for him to win the Asian classic. It was the first of many more Schumacher-Häkkinen clashes to come.
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