Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Vantaa, Finland, like most champion racing drivers he raced karts from the age of 5, winning a succession of regional and national championships before transferring to full-sized machines. Gaining the attention of managers with a win in the British Formula 3 championship in 1990, he joined the Lotus F1 team in 1991.
Shifting to McLaren in 1993, he had a succession of mediocre (by McLaren's standards) mid-field championship results through the 1990s until the car was finally perfected and he won the championship in 1998 and 1999. For a time Häkkinen had a reputation as a reckless driver and in 1996 was nearly killed in a crash at the Australian Grand Prix, only being saved by an emergency tracheoctomy. This incident forged a strong bond between Häkkinen and Ron Dennis.
Assessing Häkkinen's true talent against Schumacher's benchmark is, like any such comparison, quite difficult. Though they raced each other in the 1990 F3 championship, the differences between the two F1 cars more often than not dwarfs the difference in driver ability at this rarefied level. Whilst most judges rate Schumacher the superior driver, Häkkinen was certainly good enough to beat his highly-regarded teammate David Coulthard to win the championship when McLaren had the best car on the grid. Häkkinen's maiden grand prix win in the last race of the 1997 season courted some controversy as some believed Dennis and Frank Williams had done a deal to assist each other against Ferrari. In 1999 Schumacher sat out most of the season due to injuries.
Häkkinen is married to his wife Erja and has one son, Hugo.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details