There have been many good Formula One drivers over the years. But how many have that one career-defining moment that pushes them from a mere good driver to a great?
I’ve been watching F1 since the mid-1990s – since then, I’d put the greats down as Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Mika Hakkinen. Schumacher’s great moments are too long to list, but I’d put Alonso’s as his pass on Schu around the outside of 130R at Suzuka as his moment, while Mika’s was his near-200mph pass on Schu (again) at Spa – all with Ricardo Zonta in the middle.
Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel have all won titles in that time. And none of them would be considered greats in my eyes at this stage, although Vettel’s lights to flag victory in the Monza rain for Toro Rosso makes him closest to greatness in my eyes of the six.
I spent the afternoon with Mika at Goodwood yesterday and got a real insight into his fascinating character. It can be quite unnerving interviewing Mika; he looks you straight in the eye and you can see him thinking about each question. There is no waffle, no PR speak; just honest, revealing and interesting answers.