Mercedes-AMG Motorsport has enjoyed a long and extremely successful relationship with its Finnish ‘grand masters’ of the steering wheel. And for the 2017 season, Valtteri Bottas will become the latest addition to that list, as the fourth Finn to utilise Mercedes-Benz power in Formula One. Here, we delve deep into the motor racing annals to examine the Finnish legacy.
Mika Häkkinen: The ‘Flying Finn’
A Finn in a Mercedes? That immediately evokes memories of the ‘Flying Finn’ Mika Häkkinen in the minds of many motor racing fans. Mika not only won two Formula One World Championships for McLaren-Mercedes in 1998 and 1999 but became an absolute fan favourite, gaining kudos for the entire brand thanks to his friendly manner and his appearances in Mercedes-Benz commercials. His two World Championship titles, his 20 Grand Prix victories and numerous scraps with Michael Schumacher – in particular, his legendary overtaking manoeuvre on the Kemmel straight in Spa during the year 2000 – are unforgettable.
Mika retired from Formula One after the 2001 season, making just a brief F1 outing for testing in 2007. He had, at that point, just finished his third and final season for Mercedes-AMG in the DTM. The double F1 World Champion had returned to the cockpit full-time for the 2005 season - driving for the three-pointed star, of course, but at the wheel of a DTM racing car and not in an F1 single-seater.
Mika secured his first pole position and maiden win in the DTM at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in his very first season, finishing fifth overall at the end of that year. After a fallow season without any wins in 2006, he returned to top step in 2007, securing victories both at the Lausitzring and in Mugello, where he drove from grid position 15 to an impressive victory. After 31 races, three wins and eight podium places, Mika finished his DTM career for good at the end of the year but subsequently contested several races in the gullwing Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 racing car in his role as brand ambassador.
Another Finn picks up the baton at McLaren-Mercedes
After Mika had left Formula One at the end of 2001, another Finn continued the tradition of Finnish drivers at McLaren-Mercedes when Kimi Räikkönen moved from the Sauber team in Hinwil, Switzerland, to Woking. Between 2002 and 2006, the Iceman secured nine wins, eleven pole positions, 36 podiums and 19 fastest race laps for the team. The Finn came to the squad with only one year’s Formula One experience but quickly became one of the most accomplished racing drivers in the field, going on to cover himself in glory as 2007 World Champion with Ferrari at one of the most exciting World Championship finales in history.
A year after Räikkönen’s move to Maranello, another promising talent from Finland took his place in a McLaren-Mercedes cockpit in 2008, when Heikki Kovalainen became Lewis Hamilton’s new team-mate. The absolute highlight of his two years with the team has to be his maiden Grand Prix victory in Hungary, 2008. In 2017, Valtteri Bottas becomes the fourth Finnish driver to take the wheel of a Formula One car powered by Mercedes and the first to drive a thoroughbred works Silver Arrow.
Formula One stats: Finns & Mercedes-AMG
|Mika Häkkinen||1995-2001 (2 F1 titles)||113||20||26||44||25|
Keke Rosberg: Another F1 World Champion in the DTM
The link between the three-pointed star and Finnish racing drivers transcends Formula One, of course. Long before Mika was fighting for victories in his Mercedes-AMG C-Class, another Finnish Formula One World Champion was already achieving success in the DTM: Keke Rosberg.
Keke won the Formula One World Championship title with Williams in 1982, becoming the first driver to do so for his country. Along with Mika and Kimi, he is one of only three Finns to have done so. 34 years later, his son Nico emulated that feat in his Silver Arrow last season, but under the German flag – his country of birth.
Following the end of his Formula One career in 1986, Keke returned to the cockpit of a racing car in the early 1990s, making his DTM debut for Mercedes-AMG in 1992. During his third race weekend in Wunstorf, Keke took his maiden win in the DTM in the second race. Having achieved a total of nine podium places, Keke finished fifth overall in the standings, just as Mika did during his debut season in the DTM 13 years later.
DTM stats: Finns & Mercedes-AMG