By Natalia Langsdale | We’re always excited to talk to Mika Hakkinen, and this time he opens up about his work with Johnnie Walker, bringing big partners to Formula 1, and his personal plans.
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Mika, how do you see the sport today?
Formula 1 has been going through a continuous change since decades and decades. Since I finished my active career in 2001, there has been a tremendous amount of development and changes. I do follow Formula 1 today very closely, and I strongly believe that the sport has all the rights to continue winning the hearts and minds of fans for decades to come.
In a recent interview, Stirling Moss told us that the drivers used to have an enormous amount more fun than the current drivers have now. Is that true?
Today’s drivers are phenomenal athletes, but I think that has always been the mindset. Did we have more fun in my days? I think that depends on your personal attributes as well as the people around you. Yes, we worked hard, spent an enormous amount of time on testing, which doesn’t exist today, did some serious racing, but still, somehow we did have some fun. Occasionally.
I think there is so much more we can offer for motorsport fans using the new technology, and I’m truly excited about that.
In an interview for us last year, Sir Jackie Stewart mentioned that Liberty Media are Americanizing the sport, but Formula 1 isn’t going to lose its European touch. What’s your take on that?
Most big American companies are a few steps ahead in terms of marketing, merchandising, and commercialising events, sports events included. The fans want to see real racing, and I think Liberty Media are very much aware of this, so my take on this is an optimistic one.
How is your work with Johnnie Walker going?
I’ve been Johnnie Walker’s “Responsible drinking” ambassador for more than a decade now, can you imagine? What a journey we’ve had so far – we’ve visited dozens of countries across many continents and urged people to sign up and promise to never drink and drive. We’ve collected some 15 million signatures so far. And the journey continues!
Do you think Formula 1 is still capable to bring in giant international partners?
As the sport has moved away from tobacco and alcohol brands, we have seen many technology partners coming in. In my opinion, we will see new multinational partners in Formula 1 for years to come, absolutely. What brands and companies are looking for and also what the sport is able to offer will evolve, however, I believe Formula 1 will keep its business charm.
Talking about Formula 1 itself, there are still talks about whether it should keep its exclusivity or be more open to the fans. What would you do?
When I was racing in Formula 1, there was no social media. Today, every driver or even partner has a personal, separate media channel. If a Grand Prix takes place every second Sunday and lasts some 100 minutes, what can we offer to the fans between the races, and should that content be exclusive? It’s actually all very challenging. Fans need more authentic content, and virtual races against Formula 1 drivers just might be one of the solutions in the future.
Any personal plans for the near future?
Certainly! As a father of five children, I’m busy to stay connected to the young generation. Furthermore, I’m very lucky to have a great set of top-quality partner companies, including McLaren, Johnnie Walker, UBS, Nokian Tyres, Unibet, and Neuroth. I’ve also co-founded a social media company iNZDR, which we are preparing to introduce for Formula 1 fans pretty soon. I think there is so much more we can offer for motorsport fans using the new technology, and I’m truly excited about that.