Two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Hakkinen has defended his countrymen Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen after the former was termed as ‘wingman’ during the Hungarian GP.
The Finn reckons the sport sometimes calls for younger teammates to work with their experienced counterparts and learn from them to help the team achieve their goals of winning the constructors’ title.
In case of Bottas, the Mercedes driver has twice played a key role to support Lewis Hamilton this season. In Germany, the team asked him not to push in his fight with him, while in Hungary he indirectly held up Sebastian Vettel, helping Hamilton to win.
The race in Hungary though sparked an undue controversy when Toto Wolff regarded Bottas as a ‘fascinating wingman’ in the context of the race and not the championship. The situation got cleared between the two later on.
Hakkinen believes it is a team game and takes his example when he arrived in the sport, he had to work with the far more experienced teammates to carve his way up. “There has been a lot of comment about Valtteri being in the position of ‘wingman’ to Hamilton.
“Yet any professional racing driver in Formula One knows that there will times in a race, a season or a career when you are asked to deliver for the team. It is a team sport. Valtteri is only half way through his second season at Mercedes, and sixth season in Formula One.
“He has already won three Grand Prix and, except for that puncture three laps from the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, could be in a stronger position in this year’s World Championship if things had worked a little differently in the first half of the season.
“It took me seven years in Formula One to win my first Grand Prix, and during that time I worked with some very experienced team-mates, such as Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Martin Brundle, and also drivers of similar experience to me like Johny Herbert and David Coulthard.
“You work with your team-mate; sometimes learning from them if they are quicker, other times looking for them to support you. In Hungary last year, for example, Lewis Hamilton handed his position in the race back to Valtteri because he recognised the help that he had been given.
“The battle, and the balance, between team-mates is part of what makes Formula One so fascinating. You have identical cars, an identical opportunity to succeed, but of course sometimes one team is older and more experienced, other times the younger guy can take the risks and play the hero,” Hakkinen wrote in his blog.
While Bottas has relatively less experience to Hamilton, on Ferrari’s side Raikkonen is senior to Vettel. The dynamics in Ferrari is different considering the Finn is doing his job of not supporting Vettel exclusively but the team to achieve their goal of a title.
“Kimi Raikkonen took another good podium finish for Ferrari, and although critics might say that he is ‘wingman’ for Vettel, in reality Kimi is doing what the team requires,” he wrote. “He has had many victories and a World Championship title in the past.
“And at this phase of his career, he is required by Ferrari to push Vettel hard and ensure the best possible result for the team each weekend. So that’s what he delivers. If the opportunity comes to take the win, he will do it, so it’s not as though he is not trying to do his best.”
The former grand prix racer also hoped that Force India gets through the difficult period and stays on the grid not only for the rest of the season but also the years ahead. He recalls the team as Jordan Grand Prix made its debut in 1991 in the same race as he did.