DRIVERS: MIKA SALO

Name: Mika Salo
Nationality: Finland
Date of birth: November 30, 1966 - Helsinki, Finland

Mika Salo and Hakkinen lived only a couple of streets away from one another in their native Helsinki, and went on to race only a couple of centimeters away from one another in a battle that enlivened the 1990 British F3 Championship. But if Salo ever felt hard done to as his rival's ultimate narrow success catapulted him straight into F1 with Lotus while he himself was forced to tread the journeyman route to Japanese F3000, he has never let it show.

Like Hakkinen, Salo learned his trade in Finnish karting before moving on to further success in Formula Ford in Scandinavia and Europe. After his six wins in F3 in 1990 failed to win him the crown, his switch to Japan set him on a lengthy course towards F1. Initially, as test and development driver for Yokohama, he found the manufacturer's wares uncompetitive in Formula Nippon, but over the ensuing four years he got better rides and was able to show his true worth on a regular basis. The light at the end of the tunnel proved to be a Lotus seat for the final two races of 1994, in Japan and Australia. His debut at Suzuka took place in appalling conditions, but Salo drove the difficult Lotus 109 with considerable panache to finish 10th, probably the one driver all weekend not to spin at some stage.

Lotus boss Peter Collins signed him for 1995, but Lotus never made it that far and he was eventually released to drive for Tyrrell, where he stayed for the next three seasons. His fortunes fluctuated in accordance with the team's budget, and his best results were fifths at Monza and Adelaide in 1995, at Monaco in 1996 and '97, and at Interlagos in '96.

A switch to Arrows in 1998 brought fourth at Monaco, but after a massive shunt at Spa that year Salo lost faith in the team and prepared to sit out 1999 rather than run at the back. The bold gamble paid off. He did three races at BAR, standing in for the injured Ricardo Zonta, before getting the ultimate call-up, to stand in for the injured Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.

Now the Finn had a car in which he could truly express himself, and he used it to maximum effect. Only team orders denied him his first Grand Prix victory in Hockenheim, when he ceded the lead to title-challenging teammate Eddie Irvine. He finished second that day, adding third at Monza three races later. Ferrari opted for Rubens Barrichello to partner Schumacher for 2000, but on the strength of those performances Salo negotiated himself a full-time ride with Sauber Petronas. At the end of 2001 he moved to the new Toyota F1 team but was dropped after just one season.In recent years he has raced sports cars with the Maserati factory team.

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