Hakkinen: McLaren not a ‘cold’ team anymore

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz McLaren

Carlos Sainz has revealed a big factor in his happiness with the McLaren team - not being put under pressure during the difficult early times.

Two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen believes his former team McLaren aren’t “cold” like they used to be.

Hakkinen claimed the World Championship on two occasions with McLaren in 1998 and 1999, winning 20 races with the Woking outfit.

And while more recent years have been a far greater struggle for McLaren, 2019 and 2020 have marked clear steps forward with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris taking McLaren to P3 in the 2020 Constructors’ Championship.

The team have credited the “family atmosphere” and open sharing of information between drivers as big factors behind their recovery, and Hakkinen says this is a very different approach to the one which the team took when he was there between 1993-2001.

Back then, McLaren painted a very “cold” picture to the outside world.

“When I look at the overall picture, what the marketing has done with the team, they’ve done brilliant work,” the Finn told Mark Gallagher on the latest episode of the At The Controls podcast.

“Image is a very important part of the team. When I look back at my time when I was racing with McLaren, it was quite a cold team outside.

“It was a very straightforward operating team and difficult to enter, to have a relaxed atmosphere. So that was the kind of image McLaren had from the outside in the past.

“It was 100 per cent his [Ron Dennis’] way of running the system, and it worked, it simply worked and it was fantastic.

“Now these days, the time is changing, the generation is changing, people are thinking differently. And I see that what Zak Brown has been able to bring to McLaren, the marketing work they have done, beautiful stuff.

“I mean fans loving it, partners loving it, they want to be part of McLaren.”

Carlos Sainz in his McLaren during FP1 for the Portuguese Grand Prix
McLaren have pinpointed cause of wind problem.

Hakkinen described McLaren’s direction for the future as “mega”, believing that the move to Mercedes power for 2021 and the aerodynamic changes which will come to accommodate the new engine will only help the team’s recovery further.

“The drivers, they are pushed very much to the limit, from the engineers, from the mechanics to get the great success,” he continued.

“They sit in the car and they put their crash helmet on. The drivers are fighting really aggressively against each other to create the best possible result and lap times.

“And technical-wise, they [the team] are super developing all the time and knowing where they are, that they are going to use Mercedes engines next year, again a little bit smaller engine, smaller cooling ducts in the car will keep the better aerodynamic performance.

“So there’s a lot of little details that look great in the future. But this year, definitely [with] all those elements put together, not just the result at the black and white end of the day after the season, it definitely looks brilliant.

“It looks like it’s moving forward in the same direction all the time and knowing Zak Brown’s energy level, what he has to run the team, I know it’s going to go in the right direction. It’s absolutely mega.”

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