Salo, Mika PDF Print E-mail

Mika Salo (Mika Juhani Salo)

 (Mika Juhani Salo)
Nation: Finland
DOB: 30 November 1966
Place: Helsinki
Grand Prix entered:111
Highest grid position:4 (x1)
World Championships: 0
Podiums: 2
Highest race finish: 2 (x1)
Fastest laps0
Points: 33
First Race:Japan 1994, Lotus
Last Race:Japan 2002, Toyota
YearTeamGrand PrixStartsPointsChampionship
2002 Toyota    217th
2001Toyota test driver---
2000 Sauber  611th
1999Ferrari, BAR  10 10th
1998Arrows  3 13th
1997Tyrrell  2 16th
1996Tyrrell  5 13th
1995Tyrrell  5 15th
1994Lotus  0 

Mika Juhani Salo is a Finnish Formula 1 driver. He was born in Helsinki, November 30, 1966. His best ranking was 10th in the world championship in 1999.

Formula 3 and Early F1 career
He raced against countryman and fierce rival Mika Häkkinen in the 1990 British F3 championship, finishing 2nd to him. After a few years racing in Japan he made his first Formula 1 starts at the end of 1994, with a full season at Tyrrell the year after. He was to spend 3 years with the team, scoring points several times, most notably by running the whole of the wet 1997 Monaco Grand Prix without a fuelstop (although he pitted to replace his front wing), the only driver to do this since refuelling was reintroduced in 1994. Despite a promising 1998 with Arrows, he had no full-time drive in 1999.

Substitute for Ferrari
Following an injury to BAR driver Ricardo Zonta, Salo did get a short-term drive for 1999, for three races. However, when Michael Schumacher broke his leg at a crash during the 1999 British Grand Prix Salo was selected as his long-term substitute to partner Eddie Irvine at Ferrari. In his second race in Ferrari at the 1999 German Grand Prix Salo lead for much of the race and would have scored a Grand prix win but team orders demanded that he give the lead to Irvine, who at the time was fighting for the championship with Mika Häkkinen. He also finished third at Monza, ahead of Irvine.

Ferrari to Sauber
He was back full-time in 2000 with Sauber, again taking 10th in the championship, although he left the team for 2001 to help the new Toyota team prepare for its entry in 2002. He scored 2 points for them in their first season, becoming only the 2nd driver to score points on a team's debut in the modern era by finishing 6th at the 2002 Australian Grand Prix (the other being fellow Finn, JJ Lehto) for Sauber in 1993. He retired from Formula 1 at the end of this season, after surprisingly getting fired from Toyota. Rumours said that the reason for Salo's release was personal problems with staff working for Toyota, but this has not been confirmed.

During his Formula One career, he achieved 2 podiums, and scored a total of 33 championship points.

After F1
He raced in 4 races in CART for PK Racing during the 2003 CART season. He finished 3rd in Miami in his second series start. He has also partaken in GT Racing for Maserati, driving the MC12 chassis in 2004.

He currently resides in London with his Japanese wife Noriko (born Endo) and their son, Max.

In April 2006, he signed with Risi Competizione to drive their Ferrari 430GT in the 2006 ALMS Series.

100 Q&A with Mika Salo

1. What are your parents called?
My father Seppo and my mother Tarja. Both of them are now half-retired, but they both still work for a Finnish telecom company.

2. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A little brother, Tomi. He's nine years younger than me. No sisters.

3. Have you ever had a nickname?
No, everybody has always called me by my Christian name or surname. Always.

4. Were you good at school?

5. What was your best subject?
Probably English.

6. Why do you think you were good at English?
I don't know. In Finland you are made to study Finnish and Swedish, then in the third grade - about 10 years old - you can choose whether you continue with Swedish or whether you take up English. I dropped Swedish and took up English as my second language - which I think was quite unusual.

7. What was your worst subject?
History and sports. Well, not really the activity of sport, but I didn't really get along with my sports' teacher. He didn't like me, so I didn't get into any teams.

8. How long did you stay at school?
We stay until the ninth grade in Finland, which is about 15-years-old. After that you either go to high school or you study for a specific profession. I did not want to go to a high school. I liked cars, so I tried to get involved in something to do with cars. I also worked for a brief time at an electricity firm.

9. How long did you work for the electricity company?
Two years, doing things like house electronics.

10. Did you have an idol as a kid?

11. What age were you when you started karting?
I drove my first race when I was six, but my first drive in a go kart was when I was five. I was karting throughout my schooling, but I wasn't even thinking about it becoming my profession.

12. How did you first come to drive a kart?
We lived quite close to a circuit called Keimola and my father likes racing a lot, so he took me there a couple of times to see what was going on. Then, one day, his company had a corporate karting day and I went along too. That's when I first got behind the wheel.

13. Did you watch F1 as a kid on the television?
It wasn't broadcast in Finland until Keke [Rosberg] won the championship in 1982. Anyway, I was too busy with my own racing at the time, so I didn't have time to follow it closely.

14. When and where did you win your first race?
I won my first race when I was six, but I was the only driver in the race! Because I was so young, I raced with guys who were much older than me - about eight - and I won my own category in their race.

15. Why did you become a professional racing driver?
It just sort of happened for me. Even when I was racing in Formula 3 in England I had a sponsor who was paying for my drive and it wasn't so serious. It was just a hobby for me. That was until I had a call from Japan and when I started to get paid for driving I thought I'd better start acting like a professional as well.

16. What's your best memory in Formula 1?
Finishing third at Monza in '99 for Ferrari. When I was standing on the podium, the fans were quite unbelievable. They went mad! But that wasn't one of my best drives; most of them were in the Tyrrell in '95. We had no power and finished sixth, seventh and eighth the whole time, but I drove some great races. Being now with Panasonic Toyota Racing I have the feeling that maybe even better times could come for me as I am sure that in the long term the team is definitely on a very successful road.

17. What has been the most memorable race of your career so far?
The entire European Formula Ford season in 1988 was good because I won all the races and beat Michael [Schumacher] at the Österreich-Ring. Formula 1 is great, but you always think that your best race is just around the corner. That's why I look further back for my best memories.

18. Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My father.

19. With which current F1 driver do you get along best?
I don't have problems with anyone, to be honest. Jacques [Villeneuve] is a good friend because we got to know each other when we were racing together in Japan. We talk almost all the time.

20. Is it difficult to be a real friend of a rival?
Not really. We have the same holidays, after all, so it's easy for us to go out together.

21. Describe your relationship with Panasonic Toyota Racing team-mate Allan McNish?
We get along well; there are no problems. We have a lot of the same interests outside of racing, which helps. We talk a lot, but we don't really go out together.

22. Name the best team-mate that you've had in F1?
As a driver, it has to be Jos [Verstappen]. He was bloody quick. As a person, I've got along with most of my team-mates. Ukyo [Katayama] and I had a lot of fun together. Then there was Pedro [Diniz]. The first year that we were together at Sauber was not so good, but during the second year we became much closer. Eddie [Irvine] is Eddie and, with Allan, it's going well.

23. Who is the best driver in F1?
It's pretty obvious that, at the moment, it's Michael.

24. Could any driver on the grid win a race in this year's Ferrari?
Probably not. Michael has so many years of experience that he can get everything out of the team and the car. Someone else might only be able to use half of that potential.

25. Who is the best driver ever?
That's difficult for me to say because I only follow the current drivers, so I'd say Michael.

26. Why do you think there have been so many successful Finnish racing drivers?
I don't know. I don't think we're anything special, it's just a case of everyone else not being better.

27. Excluding yourself, name three current drivers that you would have in your fantasy F1 team?
Michael would be in one car, so long as he was a bit cheaper! I would have Kimi [Raikkonen] in the other car, and I would have [Juan Pablo] Montoya as a test driver.

28. Which is your favourite circuit?
I like all the old fashioned circuits, like Spa, Monza and Monaco. They all have a challenge. I don't really like stadium circuits, like the A1-Ring for example. Although I have to say that we had a good race there earlier this year. Finishing 8th and 9th Allan, the team and me were happy that we passed chequered flag together for the second time.

29. Which is your least favourite circuit?
There are only a few of them: Nürburgring, A1-Ring and the Hungaroring are the circuits I do not like the most.

30. Would you like to see a Finnish Grand Prix?
After I stop, yes. I have too many friends who would want passes if there was one now. But one day, yes, I'd like to see a Finnish GP.

31. What is the secret behind your success at Monaco?
Not to hit anything all weekend. As a driver, I don't make many mistakes and, at Monaco, I am able drive at the same level as I do at other tracks. Some drivers have to back off a bit in Monaco because if they make a mistake there, it's game over.

32. What was the best F1 car that you drove in the past?
In terms of performance it was the '99 Ferrari, but I think the best car was the '96 Tyrrell. It had a great balance and you could always set it up very quickly. The only downside was that it had no power, so we were always 20kph slower than the other cars in a straight line.

33. What is the best thing about the Panasonic Toyota Racing team?
Panasonic Toyota Racing is a completely new team, building both engine and chassis from zero. This is a unique challenge and I am happy to have the chance to play a key role in this.

34. What's your target for the remainder of this season?
To score a lot more points than we have at the moment.

35. Will you finish your career with Panasonic Toyota Racing?
Most likely. Obviously there is a time when every driver has to stop. And I would not mind if the last team in my career is one that will win the championship one day. Hopefully with me in the cockpit.

36. Describe your relationship with Panasonic Toyota Racing President Ove Andersson.
It's pretty good. I didn't know Ove at all before I came here and we seem to get along really well. He's a guy who can take a lot of criticism and he likes you to tell him how things are, even if it's not always positive.

37. Describe your relationship with the mechanics on your TF102.
It's early days. I know everyone's name, and we talk a bit, but I don't know them outside work. Nevertheless I already experienced that these guys are pretty quick. I was more than impressed when they changed the whole rear end in ten minutes during Friday’s free practice session at the Spanish Grand Prix. That was unbelievable. I have never seen that done before.

38. Would you know how to change a gearbox?
Probably not. As long ago as F3 I learnt not to touch the cars. I'll never forget how I helped my mechanics to put a wheel back on the car and two minutes later one of them came over to check my work and pointed out that I'd forgotten to put the brake pads in! That was it; I don't touch the cars anymore.

39. As a racing driver, what is your ultimate goal?
To win races. There is no point in going racing if that isn't your ultimate goal.

40. What is the best thing about being a racing driver?
That I am doing something I am good at, and something that I enjoy a lot. It doesn't feel like work at all.

41. What's the worst thing about being a racing driver?
All the travel. You never have enough time at home.

42. Is fear a natural mate of F1?
Yes, it has to be, and it's a good thing because if you don't have fear, you do stupid things. If you do stupid things, you hurt yourself and the most important thing in life is to be healthy.

43. How many hours do you work out a day?
It varies, but I try to average two to three hours a day.

44. What will you do when you retire from driving?
To be honest, I have no idea.

45. If you weren't a driver, what other job would you like in F1?
I really do not know. I’ve always wanted to be a racing driver and that is what I am now. For me it is absolutely the best job in the F1 business.

46. What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Max - and I'm not talking about Mosley! I mean my baby Max.

47. Will you encourage baby Max to be a racing driver?
If he wants to, then yes.

48. How has your life changed since Max was born?
Not much, although I'm in more of a hurry to go home at the end of a test or race than I was before. Before Max was born I'd be quite happy to stay at the track after the race and have a party in the evening.

49. Has Max's presence affected your performance on the track?

50. What values would you like to pass on to Max?
That he has to be honest and polite to everybody.

51. How much has the increase in driver aids in F1 taken away from the driver?
A lot, and I think it's a bad thing. For instance, at the start, all we do nowadays is press a button. Before electronics it was a real balancing act between throttle and clutch.

52. Why do you stay in your motorhome at each race, and not in a hotel?
It's like a home-from-home. I've spent so much time in hotels in the past 20 years that I've got fed up. If I'd known a motorhome was so nice, I'd have bought one a lot earlier.

53. Is the motorhome a big expense for you?
At the end of the day, it costs about the same as staying in a hotel for a year. But this is so much more comfortable and you have all your own stuff in it. You can watch a movie in the evening and sleep in your own bed.

54. How important is money to you?
It helps because it's a very fundamental part of life.

55. Do you have enough money?
I've got enough to be happy, but I don't have enough to buy helicopters and aeroplanes. I like toys, and they are the only thing that I need money for.

56. So you are a spender…
Yes, unfortunately I'm a spender.

57. Where do you live?
Near Lugano in Switzerland.

58. Why do you live there?
Because it's beautiful and for tax reasons. Noriko and I have also just had a baby and Switzerland is a nice place for a baby to grow up. We didn't choose Monaco, like many other drivers, because it's a little bit off the map. I have never wanted to live in the same place as all the other drivers and, in Monaco, you have to be someone. I like to live my life in a normal way.

59. Do you have any pets?
Yes, a Labrador called Layla, after the song by the Eric Clapton.

60. Do you have any other houses?
I have one in Helsinki.

61. Do still have the time to go to the supermarket yourself? Let’s make a test: Do you know how much is a pint of milk?
Yes, I go shopping myself. And I know that in Switzerland, where I live, a pint of milk costs two Swiss francs.

62. What's the worst thing that has ever happened to you?
I burned myself really badly when I was in the army, aged 18. I had second-degree burns and spent more than three months in hospital after a fuel tank blew up on me.

63. Whom do you respect most in the world?
I admire everyone who is at the top level in any sport because they know what it takes to be there. It's not easy.

64. What makes you angry?
People who lie.

65. What do you think about the fans in F1?
Without them we wouldn't be here.

66. Do you like fame?
It's one of the things that I have to live with. It has its good and its bad parts, but the good parts win.

67. Do you respect journalists?
Yes I certainly respect journalists. With some of the journalists in the F1 paddock I have been working for many years. They have seen good and bad times in my life. So it is natural that you develop relationships with some of them.

68. Is luck important in F1?
I'd like to say no, but sometimes it looks like it is. I don't believe in luck because if the car breaks, it's down to bad engineering and if a driver spins out, it's driver error. They have nothing to do with bad luck.
Having said that, some people seem to have everything on their side and have everything go their way, so there is luck, yes.

69. Have you had much luck in your career?
I've been lucky in that I've been healthy all the time. So I think that's lucky. I consider myself also lucky for having the chance to work with Panasonic Toyota Racing. I have the privilege to be part of a team that has been built from scratch. This is certainly a unique experience for me that I would not want to miss.

70. Nowadays, do you do any sports just for fun?
I play ice hockey, I snow mobile - most of my fun sports are winter sports. But I also mountain bike.

71. How many hours sleep do you have a night?
Eight - every night.

72. Is it true that you sleep just before the start of a race?
Yes. I've been doing that for the past 15 years. There's always this gap when everyone wants to go and relax and I'd rather go and sleep. That way you don't think about the race and you don't get nervous.

73. Where was your last holiday?
Japan. We went there at the end of last year for some promotional work and I extended my stay by one week. I love Japan - the food and Tokyo. It's where I lived when I was racing in Japan and there are a lot of things to do there.

74. Do you believe in God?
I guess so, but not seriously. My family is Catholic, but we do not go to church. I joined the church when I was doing my National Service in Finland because it meant that you got every weekend as a holiday if you did so!

75. Did you enjoy your time in the army?
It was okay, but I wasn't very serious. I shot a gun probably only once and spent the rest of the time chauffeuring a Finnish naval commander.

76. Away from racing, what did you think you'd do for a living?
I've never been the kind of person who worries about the future too much. What will be will be, so I never really thought about what I'd do.

77. Do you have any superstitions?
I don't admit to any.

78. Do you always get in the car from the same side?
Sometimes I do and if I realise that it's becoming a habit, then I make a point of getting into it from the other side - just to break the habit.

79. When did you get your driving licence?
When I was 18.

80. Did you pass first time?
I passed the car licence first time, but I failed my motorcycle licence three times. I took my bike licence when I was 16 and was failed each time for going too fast. The instructors couldn't keep up with me!

81. What was the first road car that you drove?
My father's Datsun 100A when I was about five years old. I couldn't reach the pedals, but I was doing everything else.

82. What car do you own now?
Amongst others I have a Lexus IS 300 as well as a Lexus SC 430, a Lexus RX 300 and a Toyota RAV 4. Then, for fun, I have a 550 Maranello Ferrari, a 32 Model Ford and a '69 Camaro, which has a Toyota GT1 engine in it - twin turbo V8. It's mega!

83. What would you never do?
I'll try anything once.

84. What's the most important thing in life?
Your health.

85. What's your favourite food?
It's a difficult choice between Japanese and Italian. If you forced me to make a choice I'd say Japanese - real Japanese sushi. Not a fake one somewhere in Europe. The real stuff tastes totally different.

86. What is your least favourite kind of food?
Nothing in particular, just something that has no taste. I can even eat a hamburger, although I won't particularly enjoy it. Having said that there is some food in Japan that I can't even put in my mouth. Some of it smells really disgusting.

87. What's your favourite drink?
Fresh milk.

88. Do you ever drink alcohol?

89. Have you ever smoked?

90. Are you vain?
No. From the alarm going off to me leaving the house or hotel it takes me 10 minutes. Sleep in the morning is very important, so I wake up as late as possible and hurry outside.

91. What is your favourite kind of music?
Hard rock. Old bands like Led Zeppelin and ACDC, as well as a load of new bands, whose names I can't remember.

92. What was the first record you bought?
I can't remember, but it would have been in Finnish, a very long time ago.

93. What's your favourite book?
I always prefer to read Finnish. If I read an English book, I don't really take in what I'm reading. I tend to read a lot of English books half way through and then stop because I get bored with them. I like Finnish adventure stories, particularly those by a writer called Remes. He has three or four really good books.

94. What’s your favourite magazine?
I prefer comics.

95. Who's your favourite actor/actress?
I like comedies and action movies, so anyone who's good at either of them. People like Mel Gibson. In terms of actresses, there are new one coming along the whole time who are better than the old ones, so it's difficult to keep track of them.

96. What's you favourite TV show?
"Third Rock From The Sun", one of the most famous American sitcoms, is my absolute favourite show. It's about these four aliens that come to earth and study humans. Really funny. And "The Simpsons", of course, this series is great.

97. If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?
"Superman", of course. The strongest of all.

98. Who is your best friend, and what kind of person is he/she?
Noriko is my best friend. She has been with me for a very long time and we knew each other before F1 and she has always been there for me. She understands me better than anyone and we never talk about racing when we are at home together. She knows when I'm angry and, when I have had a bad weekend, she knows not to disturb me.

99. You will go down in history as the driver to score the first ever World Championship point for Panasonic Toyota Racing. That must be a special feeling.
For sure that was one of the greatest points I have achieved in my F1 career but I hope to score a lot more for the team. They certainly deserve it.

100. Is there anything you would like to say regarding your 100th Grand Prix?
I would like to thank my family, my friends and the whole Panasonic Toyota Racing team for the great support they have been given to me!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 July 2006 20:48

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