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Laureus Formula 1 legends Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard interview - Full Transcript

mika1
 
Material on the Laureus website is available for print media use free of charge provided full credit is given, for example….’David Coulthard / Mika Hakkinen speaking to Laureus.com’
 
Question
What makes the Monaco Grand Prix so special?
 
David Coulthard
I think Monaco is really special because of the challenge for the drivers. You cannot make a mistake here, can you? I crashed one year actually. That was a mistake.
 
Mika Häkkinen
Lucky, I forgot that one. I raced Monaco the first time in 1989 and it really made me understand how difficult the circuit is and then I ended up in Formula One in 1991 and I raced there until 2000. It’s a really, really challenging track.
 
David Coulthard
Which year did you win in Formula One?
 
Mika Häkkinen
1998.
 
Question
Is this a freak course or a classic course?
 
David Coulthard
For me, I’m proud to have won this Grand Prix because you can lock into victories on some other tracks that are not quite so demanding, but in Monaco, even if you have people breaking down in front of you, you still need to avoid the barriers for the 80 laps of the race.
You know, as a driver, you’ve really earned your reward at the end of it because from
the first day of practice all the way through qualifying and through the race it’s just mentally exhausting. For me it was one of the most tiring races. Not in terms of G-force, but just the concentration and the demands on you is more than anywhere else.
 
Mika Häkkinen
When you start the free practice on Thursday, the circuit is really slippery because it’s a public road basically. During the course of days the circuit gets better and better so you have to raise your goal and to drive faster and faster, so it makes it difficult. Difficult to feel if the grip is there or not. Friday is a free day. They open the road to the public, so again the conditions change before Saturday.
 
Question
When you two won in Monaco, were you on pole?
 
David Coulthard
The year I had pole I finished fifth, because I had electronic problems before
the start and so it switched the engine off when I selected the gear, so I had to
start at the back. I won from second in 2000 and 2002. I think, Mika, you won from
pole in ‘98?
 
Mika Häkkinen
Yes. But everybody says you have to be on pole in Monaco to win the race, but, like David said, you know he was in P2 and was able to win.
 
Question
Do you prepare yourself and the cars differently for Monaco than anywhere else?
 
David Coulthard
Certainly for me I would be thinking about Monaco right from the very first
test of the new car in January because [the race] comes early in the season. By the time you get to Monaco you have to know your car intimately. You have to know how wide it is to the millimetre because you will touch the barrier on every day that you drive the circuit and it’s just a question of whether you get away with it. Sometimes you don’t. I’ve crashed out of the Monaco Grand Prix and I remember you splitting the car in warm-up in 1996, I think it was, in the wet. Huge crash. But that’s the challenge isn't it?
 
Mika Häkkinen
We do modify the car especially for Monaco. We don’t use the same type of set up or adjustments that we use in Monza, for example. Monaco and Monza is completely opposite. For Monaco we raise the seat a little bit higher, because normally we sit extremely low, but in Monaco you have to sit a little bit higher because you have to see the barriers because you have to go so close. One year we changed the steering to be quicker. Much faster. The corners are so tight in Monaco so you have to be able to [turn] quicker.
 
Question
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the course?
 
David Coulthard
I think the favourite part of the weekend for me is the Sunday night party. All
the people on the back of the boats, that’s normally a good bit of entertainment.
The whole course is a huge challenge, but for me, mentally, by the time you’ve managed to brake and get through the chicane just after the tunnel, if you can get that far and you're on a good lap, it’s not so difficult to finish.
But getting to that point - you can crash at Turn One, you can crash at Casino Square, you can crash at the Portiers. There are so many corners that you literally are constantly between control and out of control and that’s what makes it such an incredible rush and the most exciting Grand Prix in the calendar.
 
Mika Häkkinen
For me, the very first corner in Monaco on Sunday is important. In Monaco you need a certain rhythm. If the corner goes oh, a little bit not correctly, you feel you have to catch the time up in all the other corners that you lost in Turn One. It’s very difficult. So when you get that first corner right for some reason you feel OK, next corner you don’t have to take any risks. You can go maybe 99%, but if you go a little bit slow in the first corner, you have to go 105% every corner to catch that time. So it’s very challenging.
 
Question
Who do you think is going to win this week? Who has the right mentality to win around Monaco?
Mika Häkkinen
It’s always difficult to say who's going to win in Monaco, but let’s say the temperature is really hot then I believe that Kimi [Räikkönen] has a very good chance. I believe if they get the balance [of the car] right, I’m sure they can do well. And also Nico [Rosberg] performs really well on street circuits like Singapore and Monaco, so I think these two drivers have a good chance.
 
David Coulthard
Well I think that Mika is absolutely correct. In Nico and Kimi you’ve got two
guys that have gone well on street circuits. And that’s a key. Some drivers
just can't handle street tracks and they show great form on other circuits. But they're two drivers that are good. Mark Webber has won here too. Sebastian Vettel has won here. Michael Schumacher, of course, has won here and is looking for his first victory since his comeback. I think he won enough the first time don’t you? [Michael Schumacher won five times]. I think he should leave the wins to the younger drivers.
 
Mika Häkkinen
I think so.
 
Question
What do you think of this season so far?
 
David Coulthard
I think it’s been an incredibly exciting start to the Formula One season. The first
few races we had several different winners. It’s unpredictable. We’ve had
certain drivers complaining about the tyres. Other drivers saying look this is
the challenge. My personal view is that in any given year Formula One will be
difficult for something, whether it’s managing the engine or the brakes
or the tyres and you have to get on with it. Once the race starts that’s what
you have.
You might win one Grand Prix by chance but you do not have repeat success and consistency by accident. You have that by application. You have it by teamwork. And ultimately this championship will be won by the driver that’s able to have good fortune of course, but gel his team and drive consistently and deliver.
 
Mika Häkkinen
We have four different winners in the first four Grand Prix [now five in the first five] so I don’t remember in history there ever being that same situation.
 
David Coulthard
I think it was 1978 the last time we had four different winners at the first four races, so it was a long time ago.
 
Mika Häkkinen
A long time ago, so I found this season is very spectacular. Really, really
good. Great overtaking. Great winners. And great surprises.
 
Question
There seems to be teams now which can challenge what you accept are the traditional big names. For example Lotus. Did that surprise people within the sport?
 
David Coulthard
I don’t think so. Lotus in its previous ownership was Benetton and before that it was Tolman. The actual DNA of that team is a world championship winning team. They won Grand Prix. Many Grand Prix. They’ve won World championships with Alonso and with Schumacher. You know it’s like Red Bull racing winning today. It didn’t just start out of nothing. It was Stewart Grand Prix, then it was Jaguar, then they made it a winning team. So what tends to be the case is that these companies that have previous success they understand the culture of the hard work and delivering the sponsorship to then develop the car and do all that sort of thing. It would be more of
a surprise to me if a team that genuinely was a new team and had no previous history of success within the building were to have a win.
 
Question
Can you tell me your surprise of the season so far?
 
Mika Häkkinen
I think Mercedes has done a great job and I think we were surprised at Nico’s performance in Shanghai. That was incredible. Starting from the free practice to qualifying to the race. I think the Mercedes is definitely a surprise. Even if you look at the winter tests, they showed a little bit of performance but what they're doing at
the moment is great in my opinion, so let’s see if that continues. I think with what Mercedes are doing at the moment they could win the title.
 
David Coulthard
You do not win races if you don’t have a winning car, quite obviously, and you don’t win a race like that [Shanghai] in such dominant style by accident, so they have all the ingredients to repeat that. What is a question mark as we speak is: do they understand the window of the tyres as well as maybe McLaren or Red Bull? So I would say I would not be surprised if the world champion came from either McLaren or Red Bull. I wouldn’t be really surprised if it came from Mercedes, but Mercedes are still relatively new as a team to Formula One. I think it’s more likely the champion will come from either Red Bull or McLaren, but Mercedes have a momentum now. It remains to be seen if they can carry through this year which will make them a threat for the future.
 
Question
Laureus supports sports-based projects around the world to improve the lives of young people. Why is it important for top sportsmen like yourselves to give something back to society?
 
Mika Häkkinen
I think what Laureus is doing is great. Using sports people to get close to the kids to motivate them. I think if you put politicians next to the kids to do the same I don’t think it would work so well. I think that’s why sports people taking part is a great motivating factor for the kids.
We did this event in Milton Keynes and it was a great day. We had 50 kids taking part at this day when we were driving go-karts. Learning about the engineering of the go-kart. And I think what is one of the most important is to learn teamwork. To work together. Not to be independent. Work together. Find the solutions. And that day was really great and motivating. And these kids came from difficult families. Difficult positions in their lives. So it was really interesting to give them motivation and talk to them and give them chance to meet Formula One drivers. For them it was such an incredible day. But for me it was also an incredible day to see the kids like that.
 
David Coulthard
There is no question that sport has an ability to connect with people on an emotional level. The teamwork aspect which Mika mentioned is absolutely crucial in anybody’s journey. You need people around you to help you on that journey, whether it’s with your physical training, whether it’s with, in this case, building and preparing the kart. In other sports of course there is less technology involved. But you need support. And to bring a group of kids together and give them a common goal I think is so important because not everybody gets that opportunity and support from their home because of whatever situation they find themselves in. So I think that’s an absolutely key aspect that Laureus looks out for these areas and these kids and not just in far flung reaches of the world that we maybe only ever see on the news.