Former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen, who is not known as a man of many words, has surprised many by lashing out at various current F1 drivers for being “over-hyped underperformers”.

Former F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen, never a man of many words, has surprised many by lashing out at numerous current F1 drivers for being “over-hyped underperformers”.

Hakkinen won the Formula One driver’s world championship for McLaren-Mercedes in 1998 and 1999, before retiring from the sport at the end of 2001. His icy, typically-Scandanavian demeanour and mono-syllabic approach to answering questions in official press conferences often caused him to be branded, some would say unfairly so, as surly and clinical by the media.

And when Hakkinen, a long-time mentor of countryman and current McLaren star Kimi Raikkonen (pictured left), predicted that the young Finn would win the title in 2004, nobody was surprised: "I think Michael (Schumacher) probably won't be champion in 2004. Either McLaren driver or either Williams-BMW driver could do it - they all have the experience, they all have the speed - but only one of them has the consistency. And that's Kimi," he said.

However, the Finn upset the F1 establishment when he fiercely criticised stars such as Renault’s Fernano Alonso, Williams-BMW’s Ralf Schumacher and Juan-Pablo Montoya and BAR Honda’s Jenson Button and Takuma Sato.

“Fernando not in Kimi’s class”

Of Alonso, regarded by many as the star of last season, Hakkinen said: "I don't think Fernando is quite in Kimi's class. I haven't seen anything that really justifies the level of hype that has surrounded him so far. He's quick, but is he Kimi-quick? Is he Michael-quick? I'm not convinced.

"After all, he and (team-mate Jarno) Trulli tied eight-all in qualifying last year; if Fernando was really quick he'd have done better than that," the former champion added.

“Ralf, work more and moan less”

"And Ralf is much too inconsistent for someone who's driven more than 100 grands prix," said Hakkinen. "Sometimes I think he should work a bit more and moan a bit less. Sometimes he can be very good - Magny-Cours last year, for example. But after that, even though he had no mechanical failures, he scored only five more championship points. I hope he'll look at statistics like that and admit to himself that he just wasn't good enough last year."

“Montoya is too… careful?”

And of Ralf's team-mate Montoya, Mika said: "Consistency-wise, he's much more like Ralf. In 2002 he scored seven poles, which was a fabulous performance - but last year he often looked slower than Ralf, especially in qualifying. This sounds like a strange thing to say, but sometimes he was just too careful. I hope Juan Pablo is aware of that."

“Button’s not that quick”

Of BAR's Jenson Button: "He may not be quite as quick as a lot of people think he is," said the Finn. "He's fast, but is he super-fast? I'm not sure he is. He made his F1 debut in 2000 and straight away the British press started calling him 'the next Senna'. And I have to say that was ridiculous - how could they know?

"OK, it's not surprising that they get excited when a youngster like Jenson gets hired by a team like Williams-BMW. But the problems start when the youngster himself starts believing what they (the press) write. He was a beginner, not a superstar, and I'm not sure he understood that straight away. I think he understands it now, though, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the pressure of being team leader at BAR. This season will be his fifth in F1, so there are no excuses any more."

Of Sato, Hakkinen said: "He's far too wild."

Original article from Car