There was no doubt that he had a severe head injury, by our definition, which is associated with a significant number of deaths and permanent brain injuries. To recover fully from that kind of trauma under normal circumstances is most unusual.

A doctor who helped Mika Häkkinen after he crashed in Adelaide, 1995
Name: Mika Pauli Häkkinen
Birth date: 28.9.1968
Place of birth: Helsinki, Finland
Nicknames: The Flying Finn

Mika Häkkinen was only 5 years old when his father took him to a go-kart track. On his very first lap in a go-kart, he crashed heavily. This affected him little, as the very next year, he persuaded his parents to buy him his own go-kart. While being apprehensive, his parents strongly supported their son's new hobby, regularly spending entire weekends at karting circuits, watching their son.

At the age of just 10, Häkkinen won his first championship title, the Keimola Regional Karting Championship. He followed this up by winning again the next year, launching his career. In 1981, he won the Finnish Karting Championship in the F-mini series. 2 years later, he became the Finnish karting champion in the FN series. In 1984, he moved up to the FA series, winning 3 titles in 3 years.

Now 19, Häkkinen moved up to the Formula Ford 1600 racing series, which is the first major step towards Formula 1. In his first year, he became Finnish, Swedish and Nordic champion. The next 3 years saw him move up through the Formula series, taking out the Opel-Lotus Euro series championship and winning his first Formula 3 crown in just his second season. This proved to be enough for him to move to the realm of Formula 1 racing.

His first season was forgettable, failing to finish in 7 of his 16 races, as well as failing to qualify at the French Grand Prix. He scored 2 points for the season, after finishing fifth at the San Marino GP (from starting position of twenty-fifth). His next season was only slightly better, managing 2 fourth places and eighth overall in the drivers championship.

After 2 years in a low team and an uncompetitive car, Mika found himself offers from 3 of the top racing teams, Williams, McLaren and Ligier. He had hoped that Ayton Senna would not be staying at McLaren, so he chose to go with them. To his dismay, Senna stayed on, and Häkkinen was relegated to test driver status. With 3 races left in the 1993 season, McLaren sacked its second main driver, Micheal Andretti, which gave Häkkinen his chance to show team management he was the real deal. In the third last race, Häkkinen qualified third, pushing Senna to fourth. He didn't manage to finish the race, however in the second last race, he again qualified ahead of Senna and came fourth overall in the race. He qualified fifth in the last race of the season but failed to finish. However, he had made his mark on the team and was rewarded by a full spot for the 1994 season.

1994 was marred with Häkkinen not finished in half of the 16 races. He did however manage a second place and 4 third placings, taking him to fourth overall in the drivers championship by season's end. 1995 was a similar disaster, not finishing in 9 of the 15 races, nearly balancing it out with 2 second places. The final race in Adelaide, however, will always be remembered, for all the wrong reasons.

On November 10, 1995, Mika Häkkinen lost control of his McLaren at 200 kph as he went to take a corner, due to a deflating tire. His car slid out of control, hitting the curbing backwards and launching his car a metre or so into the air. The car bounced 3 times, before slamming front first into a cement wall which had a thin layer of tyres for protection. The force was so much that it moved the wall back by about a foot, while Häkkinen's head hit the wheel so hard, he fractured his helmet and his skull as well as destroying the steering wheel. He was rushed to hospital, where he lay in a coma for over a day, with doctors fearing the worst. This crash led to new measures being introduced to keep drivers' heads steadier, to reduce the chance of serious head injuries in the future.

Amazingly, just 3 months later, Häkkinen returned to Formula 1 for the start of the 1996 season, which some thought was too early, considering his poor form in the first half of the season. However, he picked himself up in the second half, with 4 third places and a fourth out of the last 7 races. It wasn't until late 1997, in his 95th race, that he secured pole position for a race, then 2 races later he won his first ever race, taking the checkered flag in the European GP. This served as a warning for things to come

1998 proved to be Häkkinen's year. He secured pole position in 9 out of 16 races, finishing first 8 times throughout the season to take his first world drivers championship, a truly stunning achievement, considering how close to death he came just 3 years earlier. He also helped bring home the constructors championship for the McLaren team. 1999 was the same story, as he beat out rival Eddie Ervine by just 2 points for back to back world championships, sealed with a perfect race at the Japanese GP in Suzuka. In 2000 he came agonisingly close to winning a third straight title, however his 3 DNFs cost him dearly, missing out by 19 points.

2001 proved to be Häkkinen's final season, which was much worse than he would have hoped for his farewell, finishing fifth in the drivers championship, almost 100 points behind the winner, Michael Schumacher. He had previously announced that he wished to take a break at the end of the season. In 2002, he informed the McLaren team boss that he was going to completely retire from Formula 1 racing. This brought to an end, the career of the flying Finn.

"I would say that this is more about the time I want to spend with the family, to see Hugo growing. Spend time with my wife, and simply also I think I don't want to hurt myself. I've been so much through in my career in Formula One, particularly in 95, so I did receive so much, I thought it's not worth it anymore to push your luck further.

Since retirement, Häkkinen has spent some much needed time with his family, however the lure of racing didn't stay away for long. In December 2002, Häkkinen participated in test driving for preparation for the 2003 Arctic Lapland rally, which was raced in late January, 2003. Häkkinen placed 29th overall in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC2. It is not yet clear if he has decided to take up rallying, or weather he is making this a once off race. Either way, his fans were glad to see him back in the action.

Career Statistics

Races: 		  160 		Debut:      10 Mar 1991 
Wins: 		  20 (12.5%) 	Last Race:  14 Oct 2001 
Podiums:	 	  51 (31.9%) 	First Win:  26 Oct 1997 
Pole Positions:     26 (16.3%)  	Last Win:   30 Sep 2001 
Retirements:        63 (39.4%)  	First Pole: 28 Sep 1997 
Points Accumulated: 420.000 	Last Pole:  27 Aug 2000


Sources:
  • http://www.Hakkinen.net/
  • http://home.planet.nl/~nijdame/1993.htm
  • http://www.planet-f1.com/drivers/driver_detail.phtml/f1/ENG?driver=HAKKIN
  • http://www.f1world.be/Nederlandstalig/downloads.php - Page with video of the terrifying 1995 crash taken from the cockpit. Scroll to the link called "1995: een zware crash van Mika Häkkinen kost hem bijna het leven te Adelaide"

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