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Walking—and Driving—the Talk: Mika Hakkinen and Johnnie Walker promote responsible drinking
 
Formula One double world champion Mika Hakkinen took to the streets of Makati this month to send a strong message for responsible drinking. The message: never drink and drive.

Mika Hakkinen is one of the most recognizable F1 superstars from the late 1990s and early 2000s. His race and championship battles with Michael Schumacher have become the stuff of legends. He retired near the peak of his prowess to spend more time with his family. Now most of his time and effort are spent with the campaign to promote driving safety, primarily for the advocacy to never drink and drive.

After retirement from F1, Mika has tried his hand at DTM racing and is now a brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker. Together they promote responsible drinking, urging motorists to never drink and drive. Looking fit and relaxed in a black shirt with discreet Johnnie Walker logos on the collar, the double world champion joined us for a look back at his career and an insight as to what motivates him these days.

Alvin Uy - What is a good age to get into karting as a starting point for a serious career in racing?

I would not have been a Formula One driver if I did not go into go-karting. I would not have created a racing career without starting in go-karts. With that you learn the rules and technique of driving. With that you learn the skills, your talent and understand what is the idea of competition You learn to win and to lose, with that as a child you carry that when you are in the bigger formulas. Every age is good in my opinion but it depends what is the purpose of the exercise. If it is just for fun it doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s a good exercise for the body and mind. It relaxes you and its good fun! If you want to put your child to karting and its going to be a career, you will have to start around 6 or 7 years old but not as an absolute rule.

AU - Are your children into the sport?

Absolutely! My son Hugo is racing already. He started around 6 years old. My daughter, who is 6 years old now and she also wants to do racing. But I am not so keen on that (laughs)

Jason K. Ang - Will you allow your children to go all out into racing as a career?

Well, I am a very protective person. But this winter I might put my daughter to try racing and karting and see how she likes it. I hope she doesn’t like it too much! (laughs)

JA – On a more serious note, just last month we had some fatalities in motorsports - Marco Simoncelli in MotoGP and Dan Wheldon the Indy 500 driver, despite all the advances in safety. What are your thoughts on this?

Yes. It is always hard to find the words when a driver gets killed. It’s always hard to find the words to say anything. Very often people they want to say the words. They wake up and they say hold on, this is dangerous, we have to do something. But it is too late. The reality is that you constantly have to improve on safety, whatever the sport. You have to focus on safety. Like we do with the campaign never drink and drive. We keep going year after year, we create new ideas to motivate the people to understand that way. We want to create the emotion and feeling to understand what is this and to make the public understand the seriousness of this message.

We always have to create new ways to improve safety and in Formula One racing since the death of (Roland) Ratzenberger, Ayrton Senna; even I had a bad accident, so they really started developing safety features in Formula One. That way it is not only the fastest cars on the race track but also the safest in motor racing to make sure the drivers are more secured.

AU - Were your personal experiences one of the main reasons why you joined the safety campaign with Johnnie Walker?

In my career I had a number of accidents for different reasons. Tires falling off, steering wheel comes off, completely amazing situations where I just become a passenger in my car not being able to control. And it had been very painful experiences and so I know what it means by not being in control of my car. So when you drink and drive you are not in control. So when I was thinking about all these connections with my experiences of driving it made me to say yes. I want to be part of this campaign and this journey. I want to make people aware of this danger. I had a big accident in 1995, they were never really pleasant. Whether big ones or small ones, they always leave you a scar. I don’t mean the physical one but a mental one. You have to work very hard to get over it. You just have to be strong. “Keep Walking”!

Winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 1998 was definitely the highlight of my racing career. Because I have been living in Monaco for 20 years and it is my hometown. It is a small city, and everyone knows each other. They know me, I know everybody. It doesn’t matter if it is the police, fire brigade or the people at the restaurants, even private people. I know the system there. So it was great to win over there.

AU – You made your famous overtaking move at the Spa. Is that your favorite track?

I would say the Spa in Belgium would be the most exciting track for me. It is the most enjoyable track for me. It is the longest track in Formula One. It is 7 kilometers long. The circuit is up and down, big differences in the height of the track. It is not the reason for my answer but it really is such a great circuit. That grand prix has a very relaxed atmosphere.

For the newer Formula tracks I could see that they look quite fun. High speed chicanes, you have to be really precise with the car, and with the line you are taking. But when I look at the new circuits, it is always difficult. The circuits are always look dirty and slippery. I would say Abu Dabi would be a nice circuit. It is a nice place. I think India also would be quite interesting.

JA – Michael Schumacher is still racing in Formula One. He is probably your greatest rival and have you ever thought that you could still be doing Formula One racing?

No. I have not thought about it that way. But I could do Formula One. But in which level of commitment for me to able to perform in Formula One? That is a different story. I have three children. I have fantastic campaigns like the one I am doing with Johnnie Walker, with Mercedes-Benz, with Hermes, taking part in driver’s management, so I have a lot of things in my plate, very enjoyable things. So do I have the energy to do Formula One to the level of what I would like to do? The answer is no.

AU – Schumacher was quoted as respecting you the most among all the Formula One drivers. What are your thoughts on this?

If you would ask me that question many years ago, I would have smiled and say really? (laughs hard) But the time has gone past and the more you have time to think things, it is better. We had great competition in driving, we have great respect to each other’s performances, the style of working and what we do with the teams. We had a great fight in the race track without any collisions. Michael and I know why. And I am very glad to hear it from Michael because I feel the same way. Particularly now, because we are both part of Mercedes-Benz. I am its ambassador globally and I am the ambassador for AMG in China, and Michael is working for Mercedes-Benz as well. So it is good teamwork.

AU – What is your daily driver back home?

I have three kids and I need a big space. I drive a Mercedes-Benz GL myself. I travel quite a lot from Monaco to Italy and I have thousands of kilometers I need to go so I need a car which is good for the space. I recommend the GL. It is a fantastic car.


AU – David Coulthard was here a few weeks back. He is also a Mercedes guy. Your thoughts about him?


We rode together in Mille Miglia and David is such a fantastic personality. He is a funny guy. We had a good time in a car, we have known each other for many, many years. Why was he here?

AU – He was here to promote TW Steel Watch in Manila

Fantastic. Here, I got one myself. (showed the watch he was wearing)

By Jason K. Ang and Alvin Uy
No gallery images uploaded for this article.
 

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