Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Haikkinen has said that he is skeptical about McLaren’s immediate return to the front of the field in 2015 upon the renewal of its partnership with Honda, who will supply engines to the team.
The Japanese manufacturer enjoyed great success with McLaren in the late 1980s and early ’90s, and after six years away from the sport will return in 2015 exclusively as the British team’s power unit supplier.
The move has been touted as the final part of McLaren’s recovery following a miserable run of form, having not won a grand prix in almost two years. However, Hakkinen does not think it will immediately bear fruit as some are expecting.
“During my own Formula 1 career I have worked with many engine manufacturers. After a change of engine brand, we were never satisfied in the first year.
“Based on my own experience, I would consider it to be a small miracle if Honda would immediately return to the top, although they also have very extensive experience in the world of motorsport.”
During his time with McLaren, Hakkinen saw the team switch from Peugeot engines to Mercedes for the 1995 season. Although the team did eventually begin an enormously successful period with the German supplier, the first race win wasn’t until the end of 1997, before Hakkinen’s championships in ’98 and ’99.
Honda’s arrival is the main selling point for Fernando Alonso, who is angling for a move back to McLaren for 2015 after being ousted of Ferrari for the incoming Sebastian Vettel. However, if Hakkinen’s judgement is correct, the Spaniard may be better off taking a year out to consider his options before making a return in 2016.
Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.