Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has revealed that spending time at the McLaren factory led him to believe that a mid-season resurgence to challenge Red Bull was still possible for the team after a dismal start to 2023.
Many had written their season off, but Hakkinen, who won the 1998 and 1999 drivers' championships with McLaren, thought otherwise.
“The only surprise I think we’ll see is McLaren’s possible progress during the next two months,” he said at the time. "I think they will surprise us massively. Just in terms of the speed of the car, they will probably challenge Red Bull.”
Yet no matter how implausible it seemed at the time, the Finn was exactly right.
And Hakkinen has now revealed that it was the impressive team energy at McLaren that led him to believe a turnaround was still possible.
I knew McLaren could turn their season around
“From spending time at the factory with different departments,” he said when asked for his reason behind the bold prediction.
“Talking with different people in the factory, seeing their motivation and how confident they were – they knew what they were talking about. And every department felt like a team.
“You could tell that they had done their homework and calculations, which made me confident. You need team spirit, and you need confidence in the team's leaders, and that is what is going on.
"There is a direction, and that is an important motivating factor. The mechanics, engineers, marketing, media, everybody at the track and factory is working super hard. The teamwork is a mega success.”
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