Exactly 20 years have passed since Mika Hakkinen almost died in a horrifying qualifying crash ahead of the 1995 Australian grand prix. It was the last race of the season, and the last to ever take place on the popular streets of Adelaide.
MTV, a Finnish broadcaster, said the then 27-year-old Finn suffered a tyre problem just before the fast Brewery Bend corner, hitting the wall sideways at 200kph. "I remember sitting in the car and trying to move my hands, but I couldn't," Hakkinen, who went on to win two world championships just a few years later, recalls. "I tried again and again and so I knew that what had happened was bad."
Luckily for Hakkinen, the Adelaide circuit was well supported by numerous experienced doctors who were attending to the McLaren driver within a single minute. "Mika couldn't move, he wasn't breathing or communicating in any way with us," said Jerome Cockings, an intensive care specialist. "But he was alive." Hakkinen added: "I remember the pain and the fact that I couldn't move but I also understood that I needed to remain calm and let the medical people get on with their jobs."
Famously, Cockings made an incision into Hakkinen's trachea, which saved his life before he was transported around the corner to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Less than four months later, the driver was ready to return to the cockpit of McLaren's new 1996 car, ahead of the next world championship campaign.
He admits he was nervous beforehand, but "The engine sounded great when it started. When I was on the track, everything became clear again. It was fantastic. I was in my element, and I knew that I was not afraid anymore," said Hakkinen. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing