By Lasse Hiltunen and Bob Krueger
Mr. Tom Fazekas presented FHM’s monthly offering called: “If you want to win, hire a Finn.” He is the principal at Fairport Harding High School in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.
Fazekas presides over a building built in 1922, added onto in the 1950’s, and again in the 1960’s. It is a building and educational system rich in tradition that had its roots in the Finnish philosophy that education was really important and was the key to success. First references to school and children was the “enumeration of youth between the ages of four and twenty one in the first district of Painesville Township in 1842.” That’s 162 years in the education arena.
It is perhaps that Fairport philosophy that propelled the growth and sustenance of its schools and provided that characteristic attitude which Mr. Fazekas addressed. He discussed the rationale behind the Finnish philosophy that eschews tracking during the common years. Noted was the idea that special education was not separate but part of the regular classroom, and that an effort to minimize low achievement was vital. This according to Wikipedia is typical of Nordic educational systems.
Fazekas compared the Finnish model which states “After their nine-year basic education in a comprehensive school, students at the age of 16 may choose to continue their secondary education in either an academic track (lukio) or a vocational track (ammattikoulu), both of which usually take three years.” (Wikipedia) This matches very closely what we (Fairport Harding High School) are trying to achieve with Fairport Harbor’s Early College initiative. Students are encouraged to enroll in either Auburn Career Center or a local college for their last two years of high school, all at the district expense.
All of this schooling information is important in understanding the concept expressed “if you want to win, hire a Finn.” Fazekas showed two You Tube videos about automobile racing illustrating this concept. One is called Top Gear and is a very prestigious show watched and followed by many racing and car enthusiasts. It was one of these shows featuring an interview of Mika Häkkinen by James May that inspired Fazekas to make this presentation to the Finnish Heritage Museum. The key concept emerging from the interview was “SISU.”
As per Wikipedia: Sisu is a Finnish word generally meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. However, the word is widely considered to lack a proper translation into any other language. Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is Sisu. It is similar to equanimity, except the forbearance of Sisu has a grimmer quality of stress management than the latter. The noun Sisu is related to the adjective sisukas, one having the quality of Sisu.
"Having guts" is a fairly literal translation, as the word derives from sisus, which means something inner or interior. One closely related concept to Sisu is grit; which shares some its denoting elements with Sisu, save for 'stress management' and passion for a long-term goal.
It provides the final empowering push when we would otherwise hesitate to act. This is why Finnish racing car drivers have been so successful in international competitions.
Formula 1 and Rally Racing with Finns
By Bob Krueger
Finns have raced and achieved prominence in two of the world’s major racing series—Formula 1 and rallying. Formula 1 is the modern example of what are known as Grand Prix (French for great prize) races. The first true grand prix race took place on a closed circuit in Le Mans, France in 1906. The driving force behind the decision to race on a circuit, as opposed to racing on ordinary roads from town to town, was the Paris to Madrid road race of 1903. During this race a number of people, both drivers and pedestrians, including Marcel Renault, were killed and the French authorities at Bordeaux stopped the race. Further road-based events in France were henceforth banned. The current-day Formula 1 series races on both closed circuits and public roads, but the safety provisions at modern road races like Monaco and Singapore are orders of magnitude better than they were a century ago.
Races in the pre-Formula 1 period were heavily nationalistic affairs, with a few countries setting up races of their own, but no formal championship to tie them together. Nonetheless, grand prix racing proved to be popular enough to survive throughout the pre- and post-World War II years. In 1947, however, with participation in grand prix races on the wane, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) was organized and a single set of rules was established. This paved the way for the formation of a single series of race venues and a world championship of grand prix races, and in 1950 Formula 1 emerged.
In the early years, with the exception of Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina, who won five World Drivers’ Championships, British, Italian, and German drivers dominated F1 racing, but in the 1970s Finnish drivers began to emerge on the scene. The first Finn to participate in Formula 1 was Leo Kinnunen. Kinnunen, a successful sportscar and rally driver, came to Formula 1 in 1974. Unfortunately, AAW Racing, the team for whom Kinnunen was to drive, was not well funded and could provide only a cobbled together car for him. The gearbox failed during qualifying for his first race and he didn’t make the starting grid. Later that year Kinnunen and the AAW team entered six Grand Prix but were only able to qualify for the race in Sweden, from which they retired after eight laps with an engine failure. Unable to provide a competitive car, AAW Racing retired from racing at the end of the 1974 season and Kinnunen’s Formula 1 career was over.
The next Finn to race in Formula 1 was Mikko Kozarowitzki, who reached the pinnacle of open-wheel racing in 1977. Driving for RAM Racing, Kozarowitzki’s luck was even worse than Kinnunen’s. He entered the 1977 Swedish Grand Prix, where he failed to qualify mainly thanks to a lack of testing time in the car.
His next attempt was at the 1977 British Grand Prix where he failed to pre-qualify following an accident during practice. Kozarowitzky broke his hand in the accident and left the team after they wanted him to try to qualify in the spare car despite his injury. His Formula 1 plans for 1978 came to nothing due to lack of funds, and he then retired from the sport.
It wasn’t until 1982 that the prowess of Finnish Formula 1 drivers emerged for all to see. Driving for Williams, Keke Rosberg (father of current Formula 1 driver Nico Rosberg), with one race victory and five podium finishes, was crowned World Drivers’ Champion for that year, the first Finn to win the world title.
From 1989 to 1994, JJ Lehto, more notable for his success in racing sports cars and his two overall wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, raced for Onyx, Scuderia Italia, Sauber, and Benetton in Formula 1. Lehto achieved but a single podium and no wins during his Formula 1 career.
Mika Salo, another Finn with two wins at Le Mans (GT class), began racing Formula 1 cars in 1994 and raced for Lotus, Tyrell, Arrows, BAR, Ferrari, Sauber, and Toyota over the course of his eight-year career in Formula 1. Because these teams were not dominant players during his time with them, he was able to achieve only two podiums in the time between 1994 and 2002.
The next championship for a Finn wouldn’t come until 1998, when the lead driver for McLaren, Mika Häkkinen, triumphed over Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of Formula 1 (with 91 wins and seven championships). In 1999, Häkkinen once again took the title, triumphing over Schumacher for the second time, and thus becoming the most successful and only Finnish driver thus far to be World Champion more than once.
The next to arrive on the scene was Kimi Räikkonen. Kimi entered Formula 1 as a regular driver for Sauber in 2001. He was granted his FIA Super License over the objections of some other teams due to his lack of experience racing open-wheeled cars. He moved to McLaren the next year and became a title contender by finishing runner-up in the 2003 and 2005 championships to Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, proving Sauber’s evaluation of him to have been correct. After several more years in which McLaren’s cars proved to be unreliable, Kimi moved to Ferrari in 2007, where he immediately won the World Drivers’ Championship. In 2010, he left Formula 1 to drive rally cars for Citroen, where he had only moderate success. Kimi returned to Formula 1 in 2012, where he drove for the Lotus team for two years. He now drives once again for Scuderia Ferrari.
In 2007, GP2 runner-up and Renault F1 test driver Heikki Kovalainen was promoted to a Formula 1 race seat with Renault to replace Fernando Alonso, who had left the team to go to McLaren. Kovalainen had gained worldwide recognition in 2004 by beating seven-time World Drivers’ Champion Michael Schumacher in the individual event of the Race of Champions. He gained his first Formula 1 podium by finishing second in the Japanese Grand Prix that year. In 2008 he moved to McLaren, where he achieved his first pole at Silverstone and his first and only race victory at Hungary. In 2010, he moved to Team Lotus (now Caterham), a back-marker team that has seen little success. In 2013, Kovalainen drove two races for Lotus F1 Team as a replacement for Kimi Räikkonen, who was undergoing back surgery.
At this time, there are two active Finnish drivers in Formula 1, Kimi Räikkonen and the rookie Valtterie Bottas of Williams. Bottas has enjoyed uncommon success for a rookie, qualifying as high as second and finishing on the podium (the top three places) four times already this season. Keke Rosberg’s son, Nico, was born in Germany of a German mother and races for Mercedes as a German although he is half Finn. His Finnish heritage shows, however, as he currently leads the 2014 drivers’ championship.
In all, there have been a total of nine Finnish Formula 1 drivers, three World Drivers’ Champions, and four championships in the last 40 years. With the overall prominence of the Finnish contingent increasing over the years, one can’t help but ask who the next Finnish World Drivers’ Champion will be. Valtterie Bottas? Someone yet to appear on the scene? How many will there be overall? More than the 14 scored by the Brits? Only time will tell.
As successful as Finns have been in Formula 1, perhaps their greater claim to fame has been as drivers in the World Rally Championship. Finland has provided more drivers to the sport of rallying than has any other nation on Earth. If you do a Google search for “Finnish rally drivers,” you will find a Wikipedia page that shows 43 names. Each of those names is a clickable link to another Wikipedia page about that specific driver. You could spend days reading about the “Flying Finns” of championship rally racing.
Prior to the formation of the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 1973, rallies were primarily run as independent events sponsored by various countries, such as the Monte Carlo Rally, the Paris–Dakar rally, and various others. In 1953, the FIA created the European Rally Championship, which was the premier international championship series until the creation of the WRC. Since the beginning of the WRC, seven Finnish drivers have won a total of 14 World Championships. Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen have won four each, Marcus Grönholm has won two, and Markku Alén, Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, and Timo Salonen have each won one. Despite the recent dominance of Sebastian Loeb, a Frenchman who won nine consecutive WRC championships from 2004 to 2012, no country has won more rally championships since 1973 than Finland.
Why are the Finns so adept at rally driving? Perhaps the back roads through heavily forested terrain and large uncultivated rural areas in Finland are a factor. Or maybe the skill level and perseverance required to simply get a driver’s license there has contributed to the Finns’ ability to concentrate while driving hard and fast. Are the Finns genetically predisposed to drive fast while sliding around on gravel or snow? Obviously, no one will ever know the answers to these questions, but one thing is for sure—Finns are the kings of the hill when it comes to winning rallies.
For an interesting perspective on Finns, Finland, and rally driving, take a look at this Top Gear video featuring Mika Häkkinen.
Editor’s Note: This article has been appended by Bob Krueger, FHM’s unofficial Minister of Racing, who has been a F1 enthusiast for most of his adult life. FHM expresses thanks to him for his contribution.
©PHOTO BY Bill Lukshaw, FHM Photographer