Hakkinen: Hamilton could become greatest of his era
5 November 2008 – McLaren's last Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen says Lewis Hamilton can become "one of the greatest drivers of his era" after the 23-year-old Briton became the youngest ever Formula One World Champion following a thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mika Häkkinen, twice world champion with McLaren in 1998 and 1999, said: "Lewis has achieved unique results so far if you consider his age, his commitment, his sacrifices, his very short career in Formula One and of course all his poles and podiums. If you consider all this, and understand the complexity of the sport, it is definitively something special.
"If he continues to race in the future with the same commitment and desire to succeed, I think he will become one of the greatest drivers of his era."
Does Mika Häkkinen like Lewis Hamilton's determined style of driving? "He is a racing driver and sometimes you need to take some risk to achieve the result, look at what I did in 2000 in Spa. (Häkkinen, and Michael Schumacher were about to lap Ricardo Zonta. Schumacher went around Zonda to the left, but Hakkinen brilliantly went around Zonta's right and outbraked Schumacher into Les Combes. A brilliant, audacious, race-winning move).
Häkkinen added: "It was risky, but I had to try it, if I wanted to win. We cannot really comment or criticise a driver for some of his manoeuvres as we are not in the car at the moment he has to make that split decision which may make the difference."
Lewis Hamilton has been compared to Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, does Mika Häkkinen agree? "He is definitely a very talented race driver, we all agree on that. The potential is definitively there for a great future, but it is a bit early to start making comparisons as he has not achieved yet as many results as some of the past World Champions," says Häkkinen.
How much of Lewis Hamilton's success is down to him and how much to the car? Häkkinen says: "It is team work, and therefore very difficult to say how many per cent is the driver and how many per cent is the team, but at the end the driver has the responsibility to carry all the research, development, partners investment to the win. He is the last and important link to that long chain of work."