McLaren win
Formula 1

McLaren’s victory at Monza can be a springboard for success

September 14, 2021January 5th, 2022

Drivers must take it to the max, but they must also finish the race. Safety remains paramount, writes Mika Häkkinen.

I am happy for everyone at McLaren for achieving a fantastic 1-2 in Italy on Sunday. It’s a brilliant result, and one they have worked hard to achieve. Having won both my World Championships for McLaren I know the team well. I also know what this victory means to them.

Nine years is a long time to wait between race wins, especially for a team that has won 20 World Championships.

To rediscover the winning formula is never easy in this business. During the 2015-17 partnership with Honda the team realised it needed to take a new approach to F1. What we saw on Sunday was the result of that new strategy. Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl have done a brilliant job to lead the team into this era. It is an exciting time for everyone involved.

To see Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris finish first and second on merit, controlling the race after a strong performance in Friday qualifying and Sprint Qualifying, was special. Daniel has taken time to settle into the team, but this is completely normal. It took me four years to win at McLaren – it has taken him six months.

A new team means learning how to work with new people, adapting your style to their way of working, understanding the way the car works and all its complex systems. There is nothing easy about this, so Daniel has had to work hard. Winning the Italian Grand Prix is his reward and it will boost his confidence.

In Lando Norris he has a young, quick, talented team-mate, who has been working with McLaren for four years and driving for them in F1 since 2019. Lando has been one of the big stars this season, finishing in the points at every race apart from Hungary and making it onto the podium three times. I am sure he wanted to be the driver who would take McLaren’s first win, but he did the right thing to show his speed yet support his team-mate and secure the 1-2. His day will come.

Together Daniel and Lando make a formidable combination and it has been clear for some time that the team was getting closer and closer to scoring a win. All it took was for Red Bull Racing and Mercedes to have a less-than-perfect day and McLaren were in a strong position.

Valtteri Bottas drove brilliantly at the weekend. Quickest in qualifying, his performance in the Sprint Qualifying event showed how much he was enjoying Monza. Forced to start last on the grid as the result of an engine change, his drive through the field looked like fun – and was impressive. It was great to see him smiling after the race.

The collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was avoidable, but when two drivers are fighting for the same trophy they often end up fighting for the same piece of tarmac. The stewards decided Max was mainly at fault, giving him a grid penalty at the next race. A much bigger penalty is that Max did not win the race. To beat Lewis he must outperform him.

My old rivals Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher were involved in many controversial accidents, but in my opinion it is always best to avoid the other guy and stay focused on winning. When you have contact you can never be certain what will happen. Your competitor might have a damaged car, but it can easily be your turn to suffer. There is no certainty about crashing into each other.

It is much better to focus on staying flat out, running the best strategy and accepting that you cannot win every race. Sometimes second or third is an important result, especially when you are trying to win a World Championship.z

At Silverstone, Max was lucky not to be injured following his high speed collision with Lewis. On Sunday we saw Lewis saved by the halo device. Two potentially serious accidents in four races is concerning because none of us should take safety for granted. We cannot be complacent.

This year’s World Championship is fantastic to watch and very close. I want to see Max and Lewis give 100% on every lap, but also wish to see them finish the races and stand on the podium. Let the results decide the championship, not the number of accidents.

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