It has to be Mika Häkkinen, an opponent for seven years, with good times and bad. Good times when developing the McLaren, bad times when we ran at the front. He was very quick. Like all Scandinavian drivers, he’d been left-foot braking since way back in his career, whereas I was a bit late perfecting that.
The rivalry came to a head at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1999 when we were battling for the championship. We had the front row, we touched at the first corner, and I went on to win the race. Mika wouldn’t speak to me on the podium and afterwards his engineer Mark Slade said to me and my engineer Paul Monaghan, ‘Well, if we lose the championship it’s your fault.’
There are teams within teams and drivers are selfish. That can be disruptive and it was up to Ron Dennis to manage it. He’d sit us down away from the track, make it clear we were part of a team, and he expected us to race in the best interests of the team. Hey, we were pussycats compared to people like Prost, Senna and Lauda.