|ATLAS F1 Volume 6, Issue 35|
|Dick and Mika|
|by Karl Ludvigsen, England|
I couldn't help thinking of Dick Nixon, the gestures were so similar. They had the same stiff, wooden, robotic quality. They seemed to say, "I am in a public situation and I am expected to act in a certain way and I will do my best, although doing so is anything but natural for me." That's the way I felt about the behaviour of Mika Hakkinen on the podium after his great victory in the Belgian Grand Prix.
I'm sure that in private Mika is the most natural of men, able to relax in the company of his friends and family. Clearly, however, public occasions don't bring out the best in him. Much the same was true of Richard Nixon (some of you are old enough to remember him, I'm sure). Nixon's achievements in office were many, his skills and knowledge great. But he was so gauche and awkward in public that it was hard to warm to him. Much the same is true, I think, of Hakkinen.
It's about time that we all faced up to the fact that Mika Hakkinen is one hell of a race driver. In spite of his two World Championships, he hasn't made it easy for us to do this. His hesitancy in front of the media and his public appearance hasn't helped. Unlike Michael Schumacher, he isn't constantly reminding us how wonderful he is. He prefers to let his achievements speak for themselves.
And are they ever speaking! Spa is acknowledged as one of the circuits that demands the best of a driver, and Hakkinen was towering through every aspect of practice and the race. He threw down the gauntlet to his closest rival, his teammate Coulthard, and left him gasping. Coulthard was supposed to dominate at Spa on his way to this year's Championship. As is his style, Mika showed with actions, not words, that he has other ideas.
The best measure of a driver is his teammate and these two have been paired for so long that it hasn't been easy to assess Hakkinen against others in the field. Nor does it help that the Finn is driving for McLaren, a team that prides itself on ruthless, monolithic efficiency. The McLaren cars are good, that's for sure. But they are not always as good as Mika often makes them look. A big part of the battle in Formula One is psychological, convincing your rivals - and the press - that you're the best. With their potent silver imagery, the McLarens achieve that - so much so that it tends to diminish the contribution made by their drivers.
Mika's contribution at Spa was so outstanding that it far surpassed the car he was driving. Yes, he put himself at a disadvantage by making a mistake, but his recovery from that mistake will go down in racing history. His first victory at Spa was one for the man, not the car.
Of course, I'm still on record as saying that the car of the season is Ferrari F1-2000. I'm giving Ferrari a few more races to prove me right! The men from Maranello always pull out something special for Monza, and the Championship is still on a knife edge. But if Mika makes his third title on the trot, he will - as usual - have done it with actions, not words.
|Karl Ludvigsen||© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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Karl Ludvigsen's resume extends throughout the international automotive industry: he was Vice President of Ford of Europe, also responsible for Ford's European motor sports activity; He was the Vice President of Fiat Motors of North America; He was senior public affairs official with General Motors and previously a GM designer, where he planned experimental front-drive prototypes. In publishing and journalism, Mr. Ludvigsen has held editorial positions for several motoring publications. His work as author, co-author or editor of 17 books has won numerous awards. Among his books: "Juan Manuel Fangio" (1999), "Jackie Stewart: Triple Crowned King of Speed" (1998), and "Stirling Moss - Racing with the Maestro" (1997).