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BBC Sport's Peter Slater
"This season has been disappointing for Hakkinen"
 real 14k

Friday, 14 September, 2001, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Flying Finn waits for an answer
Mika Hakkinen at Silverstone
Hakkinen's only win this season was at Silverstone
BBC Sport Online profiles Mika Hakkinen following his decision to take a career break.

They are building a statue of Mika Hakkinen near his birthplace in the Helsinki suburb of Vantaa.

The sculptor has been commissioned to honour Finland's favourite son with something similar to the Sibelius monument, which has long been a popular tourist attraction in the city.

  Mika Hakkinen
1968 Born Helsinki
1974 Starts kart racing
1991 First grand prix for Lotus
1993 Joins McLaren
1995 Seriously hurt ahead of Australian Grand Prix
1997 Wins European Grand Prix
1998 First world title
1999 Second world title
2001 Announces break from Formula One

The question is, will there be any more triumphs in Hakkinen's illustrious career following his decision to take a sabbatical at the end of this season?

Hakkinen has done everything he needs to in motor racing and has nothing left to prove, but the position he holds in his nation's affections makes it uniquely difficult to let go.

He is a proud and sensitive man who would much rather bow out after another year back at the top than at the end of his most miserable season to date.

Hakkinen clearly believes that, somewhere deep within him, he still has what it takes to be champion again.

With just one grand prix win so far this year, the flying Finn has obviously been struggling to get airborne.

He has failed to finish seven of the 14 races so far, and his title challenge evaporated early.

This season is a terrible disappointment and all I can think of is a new fight in the future
Mika Hakkinen

"This season is a terrible disappointment and all I can think of is a new fight in the future," he said recently.

"This is only sport and my humour will be enough."

After winning back-to-back world titles in 1998 and 1999, motivation has certainly been a problem, and his focus was missing for much of last season.

The birth of his first child, Hugo, before Christmas was also held up by some as a reason why he was on the wane.

But this is a driver who has long been a star of Formula One, who pulled off "the move of the century" at the Belgian Grand Prix last year when he sneaked past Michael Schumacher, who was passing Ricardo Zonta at the time.

Hakkinen is regarded by some even at Ferrari as a better qualifier than the great German.

Mika Hakkinen
Hakkinen wants time to recharge his batteries

So such criticisms have clearly hurt and are why he is talking in terms of recharging his batteries rather than closing the garage door.

"Of course it might have been easier to retire, but that just isn't a decision I feel ready to take," Hakkinen said on Friday.

"I know I will have to work hard to return after my break."

Born on 28 September 1968, Hakkinen drove his first grand prix for Lotus in the United States in 1991.

He joined McLaren two seasons later, although when Ayrton Senna changed his mind about leaving, he was kept on the sidelines until Michael Andretti was dropped.

The Finn showed what he thought about that by outqualifying Senna in his first race back.

After finishing fourth in his first full season, Hakkinen suffered a life-threatening head injury at Adelaide in 1995.

When you know you want to win, then it gets easier
Mika Hakkinen

But he returned the following season to finish fifth, a position he held a year later, when he won his first race, the European Grand Prix in Spain.

If it had been a slow start, the next two years were anything but as Hakkinen and McLaren dominated the sport.

Eight wins in 1998 and five more the year after brought his two world titles to date.

"You have to find the inner strength inside yourself and ask yourself 'do you want to win or do you not want to win?'" Hakkinen said recently.

"When you know you want to win, then it gets easier."

Whether or not he returns is obviously open to doubt, but Hakkinen has asked himself the question and believes it is worth waiting for the answer.

See also:

14 Sep 01 |  Formula One
Hakkinen takes break from F1
11 Jul 01 |  Formula One
Raikkonen dreams of Ferrari future
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