At the end of the 2001 season, Mika Hakkinen went on a ‘sabbatical’ – he had a young family and wanted a break from the constant pressures of Formula 1.
But after a while, the desire to go racing surfaced once again. He joined the DTM and even had some talks with Williams over a potential F1 comeback. But when that fell through, he contacted his old boss Ron Dennis to see if he could do a test.
So on 30 November 2006, Hakkinen took to the track in the MP4-21.
Hakkinen did 79 laps at the Circuit de Catalunya, but on paper things didn’t look good. Of the 18 drivers at the test he was the slowest, more than two seconds off of Lewis Hamilton’s pace in the other McLaren. Given that Mika was known in his prime as one of the very fastest drivers, it made it look like he’d lost it.
Years later it was revealed however his car had a problem which the team didn’t have the parts to fix, which severely affected his pace. Although Hakkinen enjoyed being back in an F1 car again, he said that all the issues and waiting around to solve problems reminded him why he left the sport in the first place.
11 years later and he hasn’t attempted another comeback yet. I’m beginning to think he’s never going to return from this sabbatical…