The motorsport community in Finland is a small world. It’s a huge country, covering 130,000 square miles but has a population of only 5.5 million, the majority live in the south of the country, where the climate is harsh – as opposed to the north where it is brutal.
Mika Hakkinen grew up in the suburbs of Helsinki. When he was six his father bought him a kart, acquired from a 21-year-old called Henri Toivonen, who was about to switch from circuit racing to rallying. Henri would soon become the youngest driver ever to win a World Championship Rally.
When Mika was old enough to start racing, he found that his primary rival was a youngster who lived on the same street as he did: Mika Salo. Hakkinen attended the Linnanmäen Sirkuskoulu, a circus school in Helsinki, while also honing his driving skills by driving a VW Beetle on a frozen lake with another pal, Mika Sohlberg, who went on to be a World Rally Championship driver.
When Hakkinen graduated to Formula Ford he bought his first car from a youngster called JJ Lehto and then one day went to a sauna and bumped into Keke Rosberg, who agreed to be his manager.
Hakkinen and Salo both ended up in British F3 in 199o, the pair dominating the series: Hakkinen won nine of the 17 races and Salo won six. As they say in Disneyland, It’s a small world…