Former McLaren doctor Aki Hintsa loses battle with cancer

Dr. Aki Hintsa seen during a press conference in Sept. 2004. (Photo: Matti Bjorkman/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Aki Hintsa, who was best known for his years as McLaren’s team physician and was a confidante of many top F1 drivers, has died at the age of 58. The Finn had been bravely battling with cancer for some time.

An orthopedic and trauma surgeon by training, Hintsa had lived a full life even before he became involved in motor racing, working for many years in challenging circumstances in Africa – as a missionary as well as medical man – and dealing with victims of armed conflict.

His Hintsa Performance website explains how influential his time on the continent would be, noting that he “had the chance to observe the training routines of elite Ethiopian distance runners. He was intrigued by their dominance in this demanding sport. He also observed how the athletes lived in a state of balance. Their lives were integrated, with all elements in their environment geared towards supporting their running ambitions. Hintsa soon came to the realization, which later established the foundation of our philosophy, that success derives from holistic well-being.”

That philosophy was explained and expanded upon in Hintsa’s book, The Core, in which he told his life story as well as offering a self-help guide for people from all walks of life.

Hintsa joined McLaren in the Mika Hakkinen era, quickly establishing himself as a vital presence in the camp, and someone who dealt with far more than just the physical health of the drivers and team members with whom he worked. He was close to fellow countrymen Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen as they passed through the team, and enjoyed a particularly strong relationship with Lewis Hamilton.

He established Hintsa Performance and built it up with friend and business partner Jussi Raisanen, and together they created an ever expanding team of physios, coaches and other specialists. The company has helped many drivers from up and down the F1 pitlane, and among those who work on a day-to-day basis with Hintsa’s performance coaches include Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Hamilton. Hintsa also works with big names from other sports, and organizations looking to improve the efficiency of their employees.

Hintsa has been the subject of tributes on social media from many people in motor sport who knew him, but perhaps one of the most poignant came from Dean Stoneman, who fought back after his own battle with cancer. The Indy Lights star wrote: “Deeply saddened to hear of Dr. Aki Hintsa's death. A tremendous man who helped and guided me and my career in recent years.”

In a moving tribute, McLaren said: “He was taken from us far too soon, aged just 58, but he packed more into his all-too-brief life than did many who lived almost twice as long. And, in so doing, he illuminated the lives of everyone he met, friendly and funny and kind and wise as he invariably was.”

Meanwhile, on the company website, Hinta’s business partner Raisanen noted: “We have now lost a very dear friend and colleague, a truly great man, whose impact in this world will be bigger than we even know today. Aki's life-long mission to help people reach better life will now continue by his beloved colleagues.”

Raisanen also revealed part of a letter than Hintsa sent to colleagues just days before he passed away.

“I am very proud of you, and I have all the trust in you to take our mission forward exponentially,” he wrote. “People need [a] Better Life. I place my trust in God. I know that I am in good hands, and the mission continues.”