Lewis Hamilton-Sebastian Vettel rivalry great for Formula One: Mika Hakkinen

Formula One great Mika Hakkinen that the rivalry between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is great for the sport.

other sports Updated: Nov 11, 2017 19:12 IST
Rajesh Pansare
Rajesh Pansare
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Lewis Hamilton,Sebastian Vettel,Formula One
Mika Hakkinen won two Formula One drivers’ world championships in 1998 and 1999.(HT Photo)

The battle witnessed for the 2017 Formula One crown between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel before the former clinched his fourth world title will be great for the future of the sport, feels racing great Mika Hakkinen.

Vettel was going great guns, entering the summer break with a 14-point lead over his Mercedes rival but it all went downhill from there for the Ferrari driver while Hamilton won five of the seven races after the break to clinch the title at the Mexican Grand Prix with two races to spare.

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After a long time two drivers from different teams locked horns for the title. It was not the case in previous few seasons when Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dominated the sport.

“It was an incredible start to the season (with Vettel winning). It was not so straight forward that Mercedes will go and win the title (as they did in previous seasons). But then came the summer break and Ferrari started to have some mechanical problems while Mercedes did a great job.

“This (rivalry) is in the interest of Formula One and interest of the fans. We want to have different nationalities to get interested in Formula One. If there’s only one driver winning, people will lose interest,” Hakkinen, who won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1998 and 1999, told Hindustan Times on Saturday.

The Finn praised Hamilton for the tenacity he has showed to win four world titles.

“He is a great champion. When you win world championship four times, it’s not just by luck. You need to have great skill to handle the car and work with the people. It has to be a complete package and he has done a great job,” said Hakkinen.

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The 49-year-old former McLaren driver dismissed talks of Formula One becoming easy with each passing year because of the excessive use of technology.

“You still need great engineers, great mechanics and good drivers. Nothing has changed. Materials are just getting more and more developed, access to information is getting faster and faster. It’s like mobile phones, if you look back 10-15 years, you didn’t have a camera. In 50 years, you would be lucky, if you cans sent text message,” said the ‘Flying Finn’, who was in Mumbai to promote the ‘Join the Pact’ campaign which advocates against drink and drive and with which he has been associated for last 10 years.

During his initial days with McLaren, Hakkinen’s teammates were legends like Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and the time spent with them in the pit and during testing helped him develop as a driver.

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“Driving with those greats helped. They were great characters, different personalities and had different ways of working. Mansell was a very hard working guy, Senna didn’t work so much but was a very naturally talented driver.”

While his rivalry in the late 1990s with Michael Schumacher was not as bitter as Niki Lauda-James Hunt or Aryton Senna-Alain Prost had, but nonetheless it was one of the fiercest. So what relation he enjoyed with Schumacher off the track?

“We had many battles on the track. So you can imagine. But we had very high respect for each other, our profession and our commitment. But there wasn’t really a friendship. We weren’t enemies either,” concluded Hakkinen.

First Published: Nov 11, 2017 19:12 IST