Mika Hakkinen, renowned for his F1 World Championships, nearly ended his career in a harrowing 1995 Adelaide crash. This incident marked a pivotal moment in his illustrious racing journey.
In the collective memory, Mika Hakkinen will always be known as the one who clinched two world championship titles, battling against Michael Schumacher and Ferrari in 1998 and 1999.
However, the career of the Flying Finn could have come to an abrupt halt in 1995, in Adelaide. During the Australian Grand Prix qualifiers, the then McLaren driver experienced a massive crash.
His left rear tire caught some debris, sending the McLaren into a spin and into the barriers at over 200 km/h.
Mika Hakkinen, with a bloodied face, had to undergo a trackside tracheotomy to help him breathe; he was on an artificial respirator in the hospital and remained in a coma for two days.
Upon waking, the McLaren driver was engulfed in physical pain, not to mention the psychological damage.
Speaking to FOM, Mika Hakkinen recalled that terrifying moment…
“I participated in a few Grands Prix that year  with McLaren and Ayrton Senna. In 1994, we changed engine suppliers, getting Peugeot after Ford. In 1995, we finally got a Mercedes engine. I was a young man constantly developing, learning about teamwork, technical stuff, data.”
“And then bang! My accident in Adelaide. A big crash!”
What decided Hakkinen to return to F1
Understandably, Mika Hakkinen hesitated for a long time before deciding to return to F1.
“McLaren, the team management, my family didn’t ask me questions like, ‘Would you like to return to racing?’ Because I had fractured my skull and had been in the hospital for a long time…”
“Nobody pushed me to resume racing. But of course, time passes. Naturally, the team came to the point where it had to ask: ‘Okay, we need to start preparing for the next season. Is Mika ready to do the test? Is he scared? Is he worried?'”
“It was a very, very difficult period because I was constantly in pain. I think about it all the time. I don’t want this anymore. I don’t want to live through that again. And I thought about what caused this problem…”
“A young man thinks: Is it okay? Should I be scared? What do I want?”
But what finally decided Mika Hakkinen to make his comeback in the premier class?
“I put my mind in a different position. Not as a human, but as a racing driver who says ‘Come on, there are no emotions now. There’s a job to do. You’re on the right track in your career and you’re heading towards your goal, which is to become a world champion, to win races, to get pole positions.'”
“If I decided to stay at home, I would regret it and be a loser… My human side then tried to tell me: Mika, you know, you just went through something so terrible – is it really good to go back to that danger? It’s almost…”
“Traumatic? Yes, absolutely. What saved me and allowed me to not be afraid, are the people around me: my family, my girlfriend, the team, the management, friends – they always supported me. I thought: I can’t let them down like this! I want to go back.”
From his first drive in the McLaren, Mika Hakkinen knew he had made the only possible decision.
“So I went back for a test and when I jumped into a race car after my accident, the first time I saw the mechanics and engineers, they were shocked – because I looked different. I had no hair on the side [of the head], I was thinner… I was different.”
“When I got in the car, leaving the garage, I felt like I was in heaven. What a beautiful machine! What a beautiful tailor-made car that Formula 1 is. And when I left the pits and started to drive, I had no fear.”
“I’m not saying I didn’t think about my accident, I’m not saying I didn’t think that when I go into a high-speed corner… I could say, what will happen if something goes wrong? It’s natural. You’re aware of what’s happening: Let’s stay at 95%, 99% in this corner. Now it’s about regaining confidence and everything else. But everything was fine!”
Mika Hakkinen Adelaide Crash. Mika Hakkinen Adelaide Crash
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