Mika Häkkinen, the esteemed double world champion, identifies Mercedes F1‘s pivotal moment, acknowledging Red Bull and Verstappen as top contenders while highlighting the potential shifts in the upcoming 2024 Formula 1 season.
Mercedes F1 stands at a “crossroads,” says former double world champion Mika Häkkinen. The 55-year-old Finn acknowledges Red Bull and Max Verstappen as the prime favorites for a fourth consecutive triumph in the new season.
“It’s the story of Formula 1,” Häkkinen told Bild newspaper when asked why he hoped for a more competitive 2024 season than previous years.
“How many times have there been teams and drivers who were seen as world champions even before the end of the first trial round and then weren’t?”
However, he believes that Verstappen, already a three-time world champion at 26, is “well on his way” to matching the absolute record of seven world titles held by Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
“He still needs the right team leader, the right car, the pit crew, management, everything has to be perfect. That was the case with Lewis and Michael. That’s how they were able to shape an era.”
Mercedes needs to “develop a winning will”
Häkkinen comments on what lies ahead for Mercedes, which he sees as “at a crossroads. After a decade of success, the last two seasons have left their mark on the leaders and employees.”
“And that’s a good thing. They now need to be angry and develop this unconditional will to win again. The team must regain that old blind understanding that it currently lacks.”
And he believes there’s more pressure on Hamilton’s teammate, George Russell, than on the seven-time world champion himself: “It’s clear it’s still Lewis’s team, even though George is entering his third season with Mercedes.”
Even though, in his first season with Mercedes in 2022, Russell beat Hamilton: “That’s true, but last season Hamilton finished third and Russell only eighth. That didn’t surprise me. Lewis wanted to show everyone he was still capable, and George was and remains under immense pressure.”
“When you’re the teammate of a seven-time world champion, all eyes are automatically on you. It doesn’t matter if you finish on the podium if your teammate has won. It’s the same in all teams, but it’s different for George because he’s racing against a record-setting champion.”
Häkkinen “Has High Expectations” for McLaren in 2024
“I have high expectations for McLaren. After a disastrous start last season, they developed very well and, importantly, consistently. With Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, they probably have the best driver duo after Ferrari.”
Hakkinen believes the Norris-Piastri pair is “not yet” better than the iconic Häkkinen-David Coulthard duo, though he praises their talent: “Both have the potential to become top-level drivers, even if they are not quite ready yet.”
“But both have the potential to become world champions. Piastri is putting pressure on Norris, and Verstappen will feel it this year too.”
Mercedes F1 at a Critical Juncture: Former Champion’s Take. Mercedes F1 at a Critical Juncture: Former Champion’s Take
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