For­mula 1’s for­mer most tac­i­turn Finn and a two-time ti­tle win­ner talks travels with his ‘tur­tus’, play­ing mind games with ‘The David’ and the joys of a buck­et­ful of ice cubes in the cock­pit…


Two-time world cham­pi­ons are a rare breed. Over the F1 decades only six have emerged: Al­berto As­cari, Gra­ham Hill, Jim Clark, Emer­son Fit­ti­paldi, Mika Häkkinen and (un­less his luck changes) Fer­nando Alonso. They ex­ist in a plane above the ‘sin­gle­ton’ champs – Hulme, Hunt, Scheck­ter, the Ros­bergs et al

– and as that roll-call at­tests, they’re a pretty spe­cial bunch. Three have passed, Alonso races on, Fit­ti­paldi seems from a dis­tant era.

But Häkkinen? Well, as the most suc­cess­ful Finn among many fly­ing fel­lows, his pres­ence still looms large. Michael Schu­macher’s defin­ing ri­val; in his 1998-99 pomp, maybe the quick­est of all. And, hap­pily, very much still with us.

To­day, Mika wel­comes F1 Racing onto a yacht char­tered es­pe­cially for the Monaco Grand Prix and moored just in­side Tabac. As is cus­tom­ary when board­ing such el­e­gant con­veyances, first we must de-shoe and de­posit our footwear in a quay­side box; F1 Racing notes that pho­tog­ra­pher Steven Tee, with prac­tised el­e­gance, is wear­ing ap­pro­pri­ately plain low-rise socks. “Of course,” he sniffs, shoot­ing a with­er­ing glance at the less suit­able knitwear worn by the words side of the equation.

Up one more deck via a lad­der, while main­tain­ing three points of con­tact at all times, we ob­serve the crown­ing glory of the yacht Ava: mounted proudly on its deck is the 1998 Mclaren MP4-13 in which Mika won that year’s Monaco Grand Prix (his “great­est” win, he reck­ons). It’s an en­tirely fit­ting back­drop for a con­ver­sa­tion with a liv­ing legend dur­ing the course of which, as we are about to dis­cover, he’ll share rev­e­la­tions about a life-that-nearly-was as a cir­cus performer, his fond­ness for tor­toises, and how it felt to come back from a near-fa­tal crash and find his ca­pac­ity for driv­ing as­ton­ish­ingly fast hap­pily undi­min­ished.

These gems and more await in a chat framed by ques­tions gar­nered from the great and good of the For­mula 1 pad­dock – ques­tions that are no­table, in­ci­den­tally, both for their range and for demon­strat­ing the un­der­ly­ing af­fec­tion in which Häkkinen is held. Monosy­bal­lic in his day, ex­cept to those he truly trusted, mod­ern Mika is an al­to­gether more un­but­toned char­ac­ter. Hard to re­call, now, that Häkkinen was once an in­ter­view re­garded with trep­i­da­tion by all but a se­lect hand­ful of hacks. These days his wit and lo­quac­ity are un­bound. On which topic…

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