Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen believes that current series leader Nico Rosberg is now ready to follow in his footsteps and win his first title in 2016.
Rosberg has finished second to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the past two seasons, taking the championship to the final round in 2014.
Having won the last six grands prix, Rosberg is in the form of his career and is the early leader in the 2016 championship, enjoying a 36-point advantage over Hamilton after three races.
Rosberg has cooled talk of the championship with 18 races still to go in the season, but Hakkinen now believes the German is ready to win his first world title.
“I remember how he walked around as a four or five-year-old with a small helmet in his hand,” Hakkinen told Spox.
“When I see him now, I’m very proud of him. He has developed fantastically. He has became a man and a father with the responsibility of a family.
“What many people underestimate [is that] the path to being world class is incredibly long, arduous and painful. The emphasis is on pain. Since it does not matter if your own father himself was world champion or not.
“Although he has his friends and family on the side, at the end you are still alone, with an immense burden, especially mentally, to cope.
“The physique and talent were always there. Now he has the goal clearly in mind and says with conviction: ‘Yes, I want to become world champion!’ He has risen to the challenge.
“Therefore my answer is yes, he is ready for the world title.”
Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.
Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.
He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.
“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”
Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.
In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”
Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.
Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.