Friday November 23rd, 2001
The following text is a transcript of Mika Hakkinen's press conference yesterday in Prague, Czech Republic.
Q: Mika, the season finished in the middle of October, how have you spent the time since the last race?
Hakkinen: It has been definitely an extremely good time, I would say. Simply because we had informed the media that I will take a sabbatical year the next season, so finishing the season this year was fantastic knowing that I will not have to spend winter preparing myself physically and psychologically for the 2002 season. So it's been a really good time. I spent time with my family, with young son Hugo, seeing friends without serious concentration for the future. And also the events like here in Prague are great as there is no pressure on me.
Q: How and where are you going to spend Christmas and the New Year? Have you managed to buy the presents already?
Hakkinen: Definitely we are planning to spend Christmas and the New Year in Finland which we alwas tried to do in the past. Christmas presents? I am going to do some shopping today. Last time when a came over here I did a very similar appearence with West and my wife went shopping but it was Sunday and most of the shops were closed. But to your question. I started very early this year organizing and buying presents in order not to do it in the last days before Christmas.
Q: How would you characterize Kimi Raikkonen. Would you compare his driving style with yours? What are his chances in the next season?
Hakkinen: First of all, I will tell you something else.When the contract with the team and Kimi was signed and publicised to the media and the whole world, I thought that it is fantastic because I always told Ron Dennis and other people: If you wanna win, get the Finn . He is talented and considering his experience in car racing, his result has been fantastic, he has got a very small level of mistakes. On a scale from 1 to 5 I would give him extremely high 4. I think his chances for the next year will be high because of the team. He is in the best possible team to race, because the team will give him maximum support and can motivate him to win. I know that from my experience because when I joined the team I was some 22 or 23 years old and I got a great support from the team, from the management, from the mechanics, from the partners and I think that is why I am sitting here today and that is why I was able to win the championship twice. Kimi has the whole world open for him.
Q: There are speculation that Mika is going to test for the West McLaren Mercedes team next season. Is it true?
Hakkinen: David has asked me already to come and test. It was a little surprise for me but I think that his question was very serious. You know that the team changed the tyres from Bridgestone to Michelin for next year so it is important to have more opinions from different drivers to understand for which state the tyres are and how they suit the car. At the moment I am in a situation that I'm taking time off and spending time with my family as much as I can and I haven't been thinking about going testing. At the moment, I don't want to test and obviously, there's no contract.
Q: I would compare Mika to Niki Lauda and Alain Prost who also took a pause and then returned. But the times have changed since then. Wouldn't it be too dificicult to come back after a year?
Hakkinen: It's more difficult these days but not because of driving. The complication and difficulty is in the technology - the electronics - traction control for example. There are so many complicated issues which can make a return very difficult. I want to race in 2003 season and I will have to be very focused on all the development of the car and I should understand the electronics.
Q: When will you start missing sitting in F1 cockpit or has it already happened?
Hakkinen: I haven't been missing Grand Prix racing yet. It's too early. It's just couple of weeks when the season finished in Suzuka and I haven't been thinking about racing at all. It will happen sooner or later, when I'll be thinking about racing and driving because it is my passion so I think this is going to come. Maybe tomorrow, maybe in January or July - you never know. But at the moment I try not to think about it at all.
Q: How does an ordinary day of Mika Hakkinen looks like these days?
Hakkinen: I don't want to answer that. It's very private. Next question, please.
Q: Maybe this is a little bit hypothetical question. There is a driver here in the Czech Republic, his name is Tomas Enge. He did three races for Prost this season and now he has two offers. One is from lower F1 team , the second is a really good F3000 team with F1 testing option. What would you recommend him as a twice world champion?
Hakkinen: I am talking about my personal experience. It must have been a great opportunity for him to race in three Grands Prix. I'm sure that now he has an understanding about Formula One. I met him on couple of occasions and I realised he is extremely positive person. If I would be in his shoes I would not go to F3000 and wouldn't do the testing either, I would definitely choose Formula One, even if it is a lower team. All the team managers and sponsors are watching and following the driver who's leading and the driver who is last and also performance of those in between. So if he can do a fantastic work in any team and if he performs the best he can do, one day he will get place in a top team. But he needs to be very good and he needs a lot of patience and a lot of couragement from his friends, from his managers and the country, of course.
Q: How do you recall Ayrton Senna?
Hakkinen: It is a quite few years ago when he passed away but when remembering him it is like yesterday. He is definitely still with us, with Formula One in that way. I didn't know him too much in person. When I was racing with him he was just planning to change the team so his motivation level was not in the highest at that time. But he was very proffesional, very tough. For me it is difficult to speak about him because I raced with him only three races and his and my results were very close in terms of lap times, in terms of qualifying, and race results and.... I think I don't want to continue. Let's change a topic.
Q: Aren't you afraid of losing your place in team for the 2003 season if David and Kimi top the Drivers' Championship for example?
Hakkinen: First, I have to say that there is a fantastic situation in the team. West McLaren Mercedes is the only team who can afford to drop one good driver. But to your question. Anything can happen. It could be a situation that they'll dominate the next season. It will be a difficult decision from Ron Dennis. Let's wait and see what happens.
Q: Would your decision [to take a year off] be different if the season was more successful for you?
Q: Are you planning to visit some of the Grands Prix next season as a spectator? The tickets are very expensive, has Ron Dennis promised you to give you some for free?
Hakkinen: Yes, I am planning to come to some GP's. I'd like to see the car - from walking distance. Yes, the tickets are expensive, indeed. Indeed.
Q: If you wouldn't get a position in West McLaren Mercedes or in other team in 2003, would you try a different car racing class?
Hakkinen: I haven't thought about that at all. I cannot give you a quick answer now. Maybe tomorrow.
Q: Don't you think that Nick Heidfeld would be a better replacement for you than Kimi Raikkonen. They were in the same team and Nick had better results and he is also more experienced.
Hakkinen: It depends on how you look at it. Nick has been in Formula One longer than Kimi, if you look at the results this year I think Kimi has done better than Nick. I have to explain something. I am not the person to criticise too much or compare the drivers which one is better. Because it's quite private thing so I don't want to do that too much. But like I said before: If you wanna win, get the Finn .
Q: It is a nature of people to get lazy when they've got nothing to do. Are you afraid of this? Do you admit to yourself that you might not come back?
Hakkinen: Everything is possible, of course. I don't know. I don't think any of you or my family can answer that question. The time will show.
Q: F1 drivers usually admit that when they start thinking of leaving the sport, they start to realise the dangers more. Was it your case too?
Hakkinen: Yes. It is reality. There are always reasons for decisions that anybody makes and me taking a year off - there were reasons. Those reasons made me think in the middle of the season more and more about the motor racing, about myself, my family and everything. So it makes you a little bit afraid. I don't think it affected me much in terms of results, in Indianapolis the result was there. But inside, mentally, when you know you're going to take a year off, it makes you think.
Q: Would you like, as a relaxation, have a ride in the Two-Seater with David Coulthard drivig and you being a passanger?
Hakkinen: To be honest, I would feel comfortable with David as I know his reliability, the speed he has.
Q: It is known that Ferrari and West McLaren Mercedes have different race strategies. Do you think that the team would change it in order that David would have better chances to win the championship?
Hakkinen: I didn't hear the question [laughing]. McLaren is the team who has alwas worked hard to be better. For the next season the team is working in different areas to improve the performance. They obviously analyzed the weaknesses last year and years before. I am confident that next season they're going to be better than ever. The fact that I am not there will not change anything.
Q: How do you recall Lotus team? What it meant to you when they left F1 in 1995?
Hakkinen: I was quite sad because Lotus is the team with a name. Lotus is a name like McLaren or Ferrari. It has always been a leader in development and technology in F1. My performance in Lotus was fantastic.
Q: Where was the break point in your career when a driver who cannot win a race started winning one race after another and became a world champion? What happened?
Hakkinen: I was in a very special situation. I've got a lot of patience, that's my personality. I was waiting for the results. When my first victory came in 1997 in Jerez, Spain, it was the last GP of the year. And people remember the winner of the first and the last Grand Prix. So the whole winter I was a winner - in my own head. I gave me an enormous amount of confidence that I can win. And when we started season 1998 I was very high confident with myself, I had a great support from the team, from the family, friends and it gave me the strength. I had a very balanced life - I had a great girlfriend then, my current wife, who was really supporting me. I had great friends who were believing in me and motivating me to win. And I had a team which was having bad years and they knew that if they give support to Mika, he can do it. So if you calculate all this, it was the best possible team who could win. And we started to win. And also West came in 1997 to join McLaren. Everybody, including the partners, was pushing the team forward. There are more things that made us to be so good in 1998.
Published at 23:58:43 GMT