Their careers ran perfectly inline with one another, and throughout which, a relationship blossomed through a display of mutual respect. Much like Fangio & Ascari, Prost & Senna, Alonso & Vettel, there was no love lost on track, in a multi-season rivalry which saw both drivers take win after win & clinch titles from the other in often comparable equipment. Off track, however, both drivers have never shied away from displaying sporting affection to their greatest adversary; at the 2000 Japanese Grand Prix, one of the many times in which Schumacher finished first to Hakkinen’s second, in spectacular style to win his first title for Ferrari, Hakkinen was the first to quickly jump out of his car in Parc Ferme and run over to the scarlet Ferrari to jump into Schumacher’s arms and congratulate him in one of the most sincere acts affection I have ever seen in sport. Nearly a decade and a half later, Hakkinen is not supporting Schumacher in another title bid – he is instead urging his fallen comrade to fight for his life following a near fatal skiing accident.
Unlike most of Schumacher’s Motorsport colleagues, who took to social media to wish the German legend well, Hakkinen chose the more intimate and time consuming, more genuine token of support and instead wrote personally to the Seven time World Champion at his French hospital urging him to win this battle through reminders of the pairing’s old form against one another.
“Your accident is now just another challenge. You have to fight hard again, just like we both used to do on the track,” Hakkinen wrote in a letter published in German by Bild am Sonntag.
Hakkinen, clearly concerned for ‘Schumi’ and his dwindling health, referred to his own serious head injury from a Formula One crash in Adelaide in 1995, Hakkinen said he survived “with the help of my family and the professional support of the doctors.” Hakkinen then wrote to the delicate German of iron, “I am sure you are getting the same kind of help.” Reassuring Schumacher, but perhaps subconsciously attempting to reassure himself.
Mika’s letter closed in his own very unique manner that has seen him earn the hearts and laughs of so many fans throughout the years – honestly, feeling no shame in recognising Schumacher’s own superiority to the Finnish superstar.
“Do me a favour: just this once don’t try to beat the clock (like you did against me). You don’t have to post the best time in this race. You have to take all the time you need,” he said, signing off
Take it easy, Mika”.