Mika Hakkinen, the revered two-time Formula 1 world champion, has identified Mercedes as being at a critical juncture in their racing history. In an interview with Bild newspaper, the 55-year-old Finn acknowledged the overwhelming favoritism of Red Bull and Max Verstappen for the upcoming season but maintained a glimmer of “hope” based on the sport’s unpredictable nature.
Hakkinen drew on the history of Formula 1 to support his optimism. “How often have there been teams and drivers who were considered certain world champions even before the first lap of testing was completed and then it didn’t happen?” he posed, recalling instances where pre-season predictions fell flat.
While conceding that Verstappen, a triple world champion at just 26, is on track to rival the records of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, Hakkinen emphasized the need for the right combination of team leadership, car, crew, and management to achieve such success.
Turning his attention to his former team, McLaren, Hakkinen expressed high expectations, particularly praising the potential of drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. “With Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, they probably have the strongest driver pairing next to Ferrari,” he said, though he stopped short of saying they’re currently better than his own partnership with David Coulthard. Hakkinen sees championship potential in both McLaren drivers, suggesting they’ll apply pressure to Verstappen this season.
As for Mercedes, Hakkinen views the team, led by Toto Wolff and featuring Lewis Hamilton, as at a crucial point. “There has not been a question mark over the team for a long time,” he observed, “but after a decade full of success, the past two seasons have left their mark on the people in charge and the employees.” He sees this as a positive challenge, urging the team to rekindle their fierce competitive spirit and cohesion.
Hakkinen also commented on the dynamics between Hamilton and George Russell at Mercedes. Despite Russell’s performance in his first season with the team, Hakkinen believes there’s more pressure on him than on Hamilton. “It is clear that it is still Lewis’ team, even though George is entering his third season with Mercedes,” Hakkinen stated, highlighting the intense scrutiny that comes with racing alongside a seven-time world champion like Hamilton.