In 1973 at
the age of 5 Mika Häkkinen started to race karts at the Keimola
racing circuit in Finland. His father worked six years, besides his regular job, as a
part-time taxi driver to pay for his sons karting career. He bought his first kart (model
Zip) from rally driver Henri Toivonen.
In 1975 he won his first karting race at Keimola.
In 1978 and 1979 he raced in the Keimola Regional Karting Championship, FK 85cc Mini class. Both years he became Keimola club champion.
In 1979 he competed against other (future) world class drivers like Jyrki Jarviletho (JJ Letho) and Mika Salo.
In 1980 he ended 4th in the Lapland Karting Championship class 85cc Formula Mini. His Finnkart was built by Pekka Pirkola. Mika was champion in the Swedish Lapland Cup.
In 1981 at the age of 13 he drove for the Blue Rose team and had his first major success: Finnish Kart Champion in the F-mini series (85cc). The dark blue colour on his helmet still reminds to this period. The Blue Rose team was owned by Mr.Carisolo of the GWS company, one of Mika's personal sponsors in the early years. He beat the number 2 Taru Rinne, a girl who was really though to beat and Mika Rinta-Jaskari who finished 3rd. Mika Häkkinen raced at Lappeenranta (beaten by Taru Rinne and a girl named Ninna Österholm), Lahti, Ruukki, Espoo, Kouvola and Riihimäki (pushed off the track). His Finnkart Partner was again built by Pirkola. His mechanic was Taiso Laine from Lahti, Finland.
In 1982 he finished 2nd in the FK 85cc Formula Mini class after champion Taru Rinne. 3rd place was won by Ninna Österholm. Mika won the Ronnie Peterson Memorial Race in Sweden and the Salpauselka Cup in Lahti just before Ninna Österholm and Mika Rinta-Jaskari. He also won in Ruukki before Rinne and Österholm and the Kuopio race. The Finnish Karting Association chose Mika Häkkinen as the FK Junior of the year 1982.
In 1983 Mika competed in the FK 100cc Formula Nordic class. He won the championship with a Finnkart Parilla built by Pekka Pirkola. The kart was tuned by Taisto
Laine from Lahti City and sponsored by Restaurant Allun Grilli in Vantaa. Taru Rinne used
forbidden gasoline in the last race, that's why she lost the title to Mika. She was
disqualified for one year. 2nd was Jukka Savolainen, 3rd Timo Palenius. Rinne dropped to
In the "A Junior team races" Finland became champion beating Germany and France at Horrem, Germany. The Finnish team consisted of Mika Häkkinen, Taru Rinne, Janne Nyman and Marko Mankonen from Porvoo and drove a Birel Parilla kart.
In 1984 Mika continued his FK 100cc Formula Nordic class Finnish Championship title. He beat Jari Laine (2nd) and Jukka Savolainen (3rd). Mika drove an imported Italian Birel Parilla kart. Maintenance was done by Pirkola and tuning by Sami Pensala, a later Formula VW 1600 champion. In Laval, France Mika finished 14th in the A Junior class cup. In 1984 he competed in the race for the karting worldchampionship but had to retire. The 1984 worldchampion karting became Michael Schumacher. (The first Häkkinen vs Schumacher). In 1984 he tested for the first time a Formula Ford car at the Ahvenisto track in Hämeenlinna. The car was owned by Arno Kotilainen.
In 1985 Mika was Finnish
champion of the FK 100cc A-class, before Jukka
Savolainen and Mika Salo, in a Birel Parilla kart. He finished 2nd in the Nordic
Championships A-class after Tom Kristensen from Denmark. Jonas Karlsson from Sweden
finished 3rd, Mika Salo 7th. At the World Championship race in Parma, Italy, Mika
Häkkinen did not made it to the final due to some mechanical problems. Salo finished
In the 135cc Formula K-class Mika drove a Birel Komet kart fixed by Pekka Pirkola. He won in Lappeenranta before Mika Rinta-Jaskari and Ari Loivanne.
At the Kemora track Mika tested a Formula Ford 1600, a Van Diemen RF83 owned by Arno Kotilainen.
1986. Again Finnish champion in the FK 100cc A-class with a Birel Parilla. 2nd and 3rd Mika Utria and Minna Kuoppala, a girl from Kauhajoki. In Zaragoza, Spain, Mika finished fourth after Bonanno, Wilson and Tom Kristensen, driving a Birel Komet. In the rest of the European races Mika was unfortunate finishing 11th in Goteborg, Sweden, 18th in Jesolo, Italy and 28th in Liedolsheim, Germany.
His 'left foot braking' is a skill he learned in the
karting period. Between 1981 and 1987 Mika Häkkinen became five times Finnish Karting champion.
Mika also drove a VW beetle on ice tracks.
In 1987 Mika raced Formula Ford 1600 in a '86 Reynard he bought from Jyrki Jarvilehto (JJ Letho), the 1986 champion. During the winter the car was rebuilt by Taisto Laine from Lahti. With 9 wins out of 15 races Mika became Finnish, Swedish and Nordic champion. Every lap he was almost a second quicker than Lehto was the year before.
In that year he also drove two races of the EDFA 1600 Championship in Zandvoort, the Netherlands (Sept. 13th, pole position but crashed in the rain) and Zolder, Belgium (Sept. 27th, 1st). In November he raced the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch in a Reynard. He raced against fellow Finn Mika Salo, Eddie Irvine, Karl Wendlinger, Alain Menu and Allan McNish. In the Formula Ford Euroseries he ended as number 7.
At the end of the season, in October 1987, Mika competed in a FF 2000 Marlboro test-day at Donington. Young drivers were tested and judged by McLarens' Ron Dennis and former world-champion James Hunt. Among the contesters were Mark Blundell, Gianni Morbidelli and Roland Ratzenberger. Jean Alesi and Volker Weidler were chosen to drive Formula 3000, Eddie Irvine and JJ Letho to drive Formula 3 and Allan McNish and Mika Häkkinen to drive the Vauxhall Lotus Challenge in 1988.
In 1988 he joined the British Dragon Motorsport/Marlboro-team of Hywel Absalom and Doug Bebb in the GM Vauxhall-Lotus Challenge in England. Pole position in the first race, victory in the second and almost every race the fastest lap. Despite this perfect start he ended up with 127 points as number 2 in the championship behind his Scottish team mate Allan McNish (142 points). Number 3 was Justin Bell (son of Derek) with only 77 points. Allan McNish never entered the F1 except as a test driver from 1991-96. In 1998 he won the 24 hours of LeMans, and drove in 1998 in the FIA-GT series with a Porsche 911 GT-1 98 together with Yannick Dalmas. In 2000 Allan McNish drove the American LeMans-series.
Mika driving Opel-Lotus in 1988,car nr.10
In that same year Mika Häkkinen also competed with the Dragon team driving a Reynard in the Opel-Lotus EDFA Euroseries, and drove on several European circuits like Zandvoort (1st), Paul Ricard (pole, fastest lap and 1st), Silverstone (1st), Hockenheim, Spa (1st), Nurburgring, Estoril and Jerez. In the Euroseries he took victory four times, was two times second and two times third. In this championship he beat Allan McNish who ended third. Mika became European champion with 126 points beating number two Henrik Larsen from Denmark by only 1 point. 6th finished a young German driver named Heinz-Harald Frentzen....
In this year Mika also served in the Finnish army at Lahti Sports Military School.
In 1989 Mika and his team took the big step from the Vauxhall/Opel-Lotus Challenge to the Lucas British Formula 3 championship. He raced 16 races in the Dragon/Marlboro-Reynard TOM's Toyota team with a Reynard 893 chassis and a Toyota engine. That this was not the fastest combination of the field became clear at the end of the season when Mika finished 7th with 18 points. Mika did manage to archive one 2nd and one 3rd place, two pole positions and one fastest lap in 16 races.
British Formula 3 champion became his former team mate Allan McNish in the best British F3 team of the last couple of years: West Surrey Racing. The team that made Ayrton Senna find his way to Formula One. Mika's worst memory that year was the crash at Snetterton, when he landed upside down with his Reynard.
upside down at Snetterton and explaining how it happened....
In the same year he was invited to race the Monaco F3 GP (16th), the Macau F3 GP (retired) and the Cellnet F3 Superprix at Brands Hatch as a guest driver of the West Surrey Racing Ralt RT 33 Mugen Honda team. That this was a much better car than the Dragon-Reynard-Toyota proved the pole position, the fastest lap and the victory he took at Brands Hatch.
This year he changed the colour-scheme of his helmet to the current dark-, middle- and light blue horizontal stripes,which is still the same until today.
Mika's Arai helmetdark blue of the Blue Rose team, light blue of the Finnish flag.
After his success at Branch Hatch, a move from Dragon to West Surrey Racing in 1990 was a logical step. With his WSR/Marloro-Ralt-Mugen Honda (car nr.2), Mika was the whole year the man to beat in the British Formula 3 championship. Among the other competitors in the series were his team mate Christian Fittipaldi (nephew of Emerson), Damon Hill (son of Graham), Paul Stewart (son of Jacky) and Mika Salo.
Mika driving the WSR-Honda nr 2, just behind him the yellow helmet of team-mate Christian Fittipaldi
Because Häkkinen and Salo won almost every race, it was also called the MikaMika-series. 11 pole positions and 11 wins made Mika Häkkinen British Formula 3 champion of 1990 with 121 points before his fellow-countryman Mika Salo with 98 points.
Jacky Stewart helps Mika Häkkinen with the champagne: British F3 champion in 1990
Races outside the British championship were
held at Imola, Italy (1st, beating Italian F3 driver Domenico 'Mimmo' Schiattarella and 5th
place driver Jacques Villeneuve who also competed in the italian F3 series), Hockenheim,
Germany (Pole, fastest lap and 1st, before local favourite Michael Schumacher) and the F3 World
Championship race at Macau.
At Macau he started from pole position, drove the fastest lap but did not finish, due to a crash with Michael Schumacher on the last lap of the second heat. (The second Häkkinen vs Schumacher). Mika did won the first heat, more than 2 seconds before Schumacher, but tried to overtake the German in the second heat to impress the Lotus F1 team. Mika crashed and Schumacher won.
The second 'Häkkinen vs Schumacher' at Macau in 1990.
After this race his manager Keke Rosberg told him he would drive Formula One next year for Lotus, although he already did a test drive for Benetton on Silverstone's south circuit. He skipped the F3000, which is normally the entry to F1.
An exclusive photograph: Mika Häkkinen in a '90 Benetton.
For information about his pre - F1 career we recommend the book "Mika Häkkinen, doing what comes naturally" by Christopher Hilton, first published in July 1997. (ISBN 1 85960 402 1)
Mika's manager Keke Rosberg is former Formula 1 champion. Keke's real name is Keijo and was born at December 6, 1948 in Stockholm, Sweden but is Finnish citizen. He was F1 World Champion in 1982 with a Williams-Ford winning only one GP that year: The Swiss GP held in Dijon-Prenois, France. 1986 was his last season as a F1 driver, driving for McLaren-TAG. He has raced 128 F1 races and earned a total of 157,5 points. He had his own DTM team and is now running a German F3 team together with Ellen Lohr. Keke is Mika's manager from 1987. Keke is also manager of Finn JJ Letho and since 1999 from Olivier Panis. In May 1998 he was witness at Mika and Erja's wedding in Monaco.
In 1991 when he was 22 years old, Mika's
Formula 1 career started with Team Lotus.
Click on the Lotus to race to 1991.