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Motorsport Heroes

Motorsport Heroes: Hakkinen on his darkest day in F1

In Motorsport Heroes, the full-length feature film by Manish Pandey now available on Motorsport.tv, four legends of our sport share their successes, failures, personal struggles and life-threatening accidents. Today, we reflect with Mika Hakkinen on his darkest moment in F1.

Hakkinen’s Formula 1 career was highlighted by two drivers’ world championships, 20 grand prix victories, 26 pole positions and 25 fastest laps. But the ‘Flying Finn’ achieved all this following his darkest day on November 10, 1995.

During Friday qualifying, his McLaren-Mercedes suffered a left-rear tyre deflation on the approach to Brewery Bend – the fastest corner on the street circuit. He hit the tyrewall at an estimated 120mph, and his helmet struck the side of the cockpit causing a fractured skull.

Trackside medics had to perform an emergency tracheotomy before he was transported to Royal Adelaide Hospital in a coma.

In the film, he tells fellow Motorsport Heroes Felipe Massa, Tom Kristensen and Michele Mouton what happened and what challenges he faced during his recovery…

“My accident in ’95 was quite a challenge. This happened in Australia, in Adelaide, I was going flatout on long straight. Just when I was entering the corner, it didn’t explode, it just pfffffft – lost the pressure very quickly. 

“So the car started bottoming, and I lost control of course. There was massive kerb on the exit, and of course I hit the kerb and the car bounced a couple of times. I hit the barrier sideways.

“I was in a coma for a few days. Then the horrible things started when you wake up. You start realising like ‘oh my God’. I banged [my head] so hard that I lost control of one side of my face, because the nerves got damaged. So when I was sleeping they had to tape over one of my eyes, to make it close. 

“Then came the time when they started tests, to see if you can smell normally, you can taste normally. I was there for five weeks, and my girlfriend flew to Australia to support me.”

Mika Hakkinen, Felipe Massa, Tom Kristensen, Michele Mouton

Mika Hakkinen, Felipe Massa, Tom Kristensen, Michele Mouton

Photo by: Motorsport.com

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In a subsequent interview with GP Racing magazine, Hakkinen was asked if he felt that the accident had slowed him down any.

No, I don't think I would have been quicker, but I think I would have continued my career longer,” he replied. 

“It had an effect on me. It made me realise that when an accident like that happens – and it can happen at any time in F1 because motorsport is dangerous – it made me think, as soon as I won my world championships, ‘Hmmm... don't push your luck any further.’

Motorsport Heroes is available on Motorsport.tv. Written and directed by Manish Pandey, who wrote the multi award-winning Senna movie, the 111-minute film interweaves the narratives of our heroes, telling their stories with both archive and first-hand testimony.

To watch the film, subscribe to Motorsport.tv from $4.99/€4.50/£3.99 a month.

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