Mika Häkkinen: Bottas will benefit greatly from winning his first race and Alonso can win the Indy 500

Formula One legend and Unibet Insider Mika Häkkinen writes about the huge effect winning his first race will have on Valtteri Bottas. Häkkinen also applauds Fernando Alonso’s decision to compete in Indy 500 and raises questions about proposed F1 safety reforms.  

Watching Valtteri Bottas win Sunday’s Grand Prix was such a great feeling. Not only have I known him for many years but I also know just how hard he has worked to take his raw talent and continuously improve it. He knows that talent isn’t enough, that you need to be very critical of yourself, and work hard both on yourself and in the team environment. This result is all down to hard work and shows what a serious talent Valtteri is.

His big strength is that he is a really strong, balanced guy. He does not have ups and downs. This is an important quality because when you have personal downs it can bring the whole team down.  Valtteri doesn’t do bad days; he is just eager to win and in Sochi he proved to everyone that he really is a winner, not only against Lewis Hamilton but also against a very strong Ferrari. Ultimately, he wanted to show that there is no reason why any teammate should beat him when they have the same car, and that was an important part of his performance in Russia. It also showed that he could get the most out of the car set-up in both qualifying and the race.

I watched parts of the race whilst taking part in the annual St Tropez to Monaco charity cycle race in aid of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, and then watched the replay that evening.  It was great to see, and when I think back to my first F1 win, in Jerez in 1997, I know this will have a very positive effect on Valtteri’s mindset. It will make him even stronger.

When you win your first Grand Prix it provides a big step, quite literally giving you the power to win more races. A racing driver’s performance comes from your ability to focus on the job, and when you have not won a race it just gives you something else to think about, becomes a distraction and something else for everyone to keep asking you. When are you going to win?

It also effects your performance, because when you have not won a race you have a little monkey on your shoulder telling you not to take this risk in qualifying or that risk in the race. It takes away focus and the whole conversation about not winning can easily develop into negativity.

When you win, all that disappears. It puts one less thing in your mind to think about and it makes you hungry to do it again. The other thing that happens when you start winning races is that you also begin to think about winning the World Championship. Everyone is congratulating you, and suddenly you are surrounded by positivity. It’s very motivating, and when you drive the car the next time you allow yourself to push to the limit more easily, to let the driving flow, take those little risks you used to worry about and ultimately deliver a better performance. So Valtteri will really benefit from this experience, and I expect this will be the first of many successes for him.

Fernando Alonso has achieved a lot of success in Formula One, of course, and from my perspective his decision to compete in the Indy 500 with McLaren is a fantastic opportunity. It’s a very smart move by McLaren, Honda and Fernando to compete together in America’s biggest race, and missing a single Formula One event is not going to matter. The journey towards success for McLaren and Honda is going to take time, so competing in Indy will be very motivating for Fernando and is a great PR opportunity for McLaren, Honda and Formula One.  

I would not be completely surprised if Fernando won the Indy 500. He is a very talented driver, he will study the race very carefully and there is enough practice time for him to get fully up to speed. We’ve seen the signs already this week during the rookie tests. Every lap he follows another car he will learn something, so every part of the experience will help him move up the learning curve. He will also have very valuable data from the Andretti team, from Honda and great advice from Gil de Ferran, so when you put all of that together you can expect that he’ll be competitive. He’ll go flat out from start to finish, and that will be worth watching


I took a look at Indycars back in 2002, and that included going to America and meeting with Zak Brown who understood the power of bringing F1 talent to Indy. I decided against it, partly for family reasons because I was not prepared to make the commitment to live full time in America, and partly because I had decided to step back from the risks of open wheel racing. I was at a different point in my career and mindset to Fernando and it was the right decision not to do it.

Talking of risks, I agree with Ross Brawn that the decisions concerning the introduction of cockpit protection in Formula One have to be thought through very carefully. When I saw the halo system I thought it could not be right, because it raises as many questions as it answers.  

I don’t really care if a safety system looks pretty, but it is definitely the case that every aspect has to be satisfied, and a move towards an enclosed cockpit could bring other issues for a driver sitting in the tight cockpit of a Formula One car. Even if the decision is made to put an aeroscreen in front of the cockpit it will require a mega amount of research and data so that every scenario is tested and the FIA, teams and drivers completely certain that its introduction is a definite improvement in safety. F1 is all about having the right data to make the best decisions, so that has to apply to future improvements in cockpit safety.  

This is a Mika Häkkinen Insight courtesy of Unibet