McLAREN AT LE MANS
Le Mans 24-hour Grand Prix d'Endurance, the ultimate test of man and machine. A whole day of non-stop racing on the La Sarthe circuit in France, at speeds of over 320km an hour.
McLaren's success at the event began in 1995, when the team entered the McLaren F1 GTR model. The car piloted by Frenchman Yannick Dalmas, the former Finnish Formula 1 driver JJ Lehto and Masanori Sekiya took the chequered flag and overall victory, making McLaren the first manufacturer to win the event in its inaugural year, having completed 298 laps at an average speed of 168.992 km/h.
In 1997, due to major changes in the regulations, McLaren Cars developed the F1 GTR for the 24-hour race. The changes were aimed at improving the engine, an all-new sequential transmission was introduced, and radical changes were made to the car's aerodynamics. In addition to this was an overall reduction in weight.
The results of these changes were that the lap times improved by four seconds from the previous year and the F1 GTR piloted by Frenchmen Jean-Marc Gounon and Pierre-Henri Raphanel and Swede Anders Olofsson, went on to win the GT Category and finish second overall, completing 360 laps at an average speed of 202.993km/h.
A second GTR filled the final podium position, completing 358 laps at an average speed of 201.858kph and was piloted by Peter Kox, Roberto Ravaglia and Eric Helary. Driver TIME LINE
When Bruce McLaren died in a testing accident at Goodwood in 1970 at the young age of 33, he had already established a rich heritage which he was to leave to the world of motor racing. His team had been phenomenally successful in various forms of racing, he had been successful as a driver, and he had been much admired as a person and greatly loved in the sport.
That heritage has survived throughout the years. Teddy Mayer ran the team for a decade after McLaren's death, Ron Dennis then took it over and in the last 20 years, McLaren International, now known as McLaren Racing, has enjoyed incredible success, run with an attention to detail that the founder would have appreciated.
McLaren's early links with Ford, for instance, are mirrored by those currently with Mercedes-Benz. To move into Grand Prix racing, McLaren established his team under the flight path at Colnbrook, near Heathrow. The McLaren Technology Centre, where the formula One team is now based, on the outskirts of Woking in Surrey is establishing new standards for racing and performance car construction.
But it all began on the other side of the world. Bruce McLaren was born in Auckland, New Zealand on August 30, 1937. His father, Leslie, ran a garage and having raced motorcycles, moved to racing cars after the war.
Bruce McLaren himself had an extraordinary childhood; aged nine, he contracted Perthe's disease which affects the hip. After a month in hospital, he spent three years in a home for crippled children, his legs in plaster casts, lying in traction, immobile for months on end. Later he would be allowed a wheelchair but at one time there were fears that he would never walk again. He did so, of course, but with a limp; his left leg was 1 1/2 inches shorter than his right. All this time, however, he studied and was able to graduate to an engineering course at Seddon Memorial Technical College. But he was already intrigued by motor sport. His father bought an 750 cc Austin Ulster Seven but it scared him rigid. Bruce, however, persuaded his father that he should race it and an early rival was one Phil Kerr, who was to become a mainstay in the McLaren team.
When the Austin was sold (it is now in Woking) Bruce raced his father's Austin Healey 100 in 1956/7, but when this expired, McLaren managed to buy a bob tailed centre seat Cooper, previous raced by Jack Brabham.
All this time, Bruce was still a student but managed a kind of correspondence course with Brabham in England to sort out the car. Brabham then suggested bringing a pair of Formula Two Coopers to New Zealand for the winter and that Bruce would drive one of them. There was a fair amount of success, and Bruce went on to become New Zealand's first 'Driver to Europe' in 1958.
McLaren sold his own car and instead bought a new Cooper when he arrived in England. It was the start of his international career, and he learned about European racing as he trailed the little Formula Two car from race to race. But it was finishing fifth overall and first in Formula Two in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring that really established him. He took a 1960cc Formula Two car home to New Zealand and won his national championship that winter.
For 1959, McLaren was signed as a Cooper Formula One driver which he would remain for the next six years. His teammate was Jack Brabham and in that first year, he won the final Grand Prix of the year at Sebring. He was the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix at 22, and his teammate won the World Championship.
Bruce became engaged to Patty Broad that winter, and would marry her the following year. On his return to Europe, he was Brabham's teammate again, and once again, the New Zealander won the World Championship. McLaren actually led the championship for a race and won in Argentina. He was second to Brabham in the championship.
Brabham now left the team, leaving McLaren as team leader, but new engine regulations cost the team dearly in 1961. It was better in 1962 when McLaren was allowed some say in the design process and he won at Monaco, finishing third in the championship. The following year, however, was very difficult. Patty McLaren was injured in a water skiing accident, John Cooper was badly injured in a road accident, Bruce himself was thrown out of his uncompetitive car at the Nürburgring and was knocked out. McLaren began to look for alternatives.
As usual, McLaren wanted to take a car down to New Zealand to race in the Tasman series, but his suggestion to slim down a pair of Coopers for himself and American Timmy Mayer, fell on deaf ears at Cooper. So late in 1963, Bruce McLaren and Mayer's brother Teddy registered the name Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd. The series was a success in that Bruce won the championship, but tragic because Mayer was killed. It had sewn the seeds, however. McLaren would say that there was nothing like designing, building, running and racing your own cars. It was full circle. McLaren would continue as a Cooper Formula One driver for another two seasons scoring 13pts in 1964 and 10 the following year, while his own company was being established.
While Formula One remained the major series, sports cars were also fashionable on either side of the Atlantic. Bruce, via Mayer, bought the ex Mecom/Penske Zerez Special and raced it in Europe. That spawned the idea of their own car, the McLaren M1, and that was put into production by Peter Agg's Lambretta Trojan Group in Rye, Sussex. They would make and sell 200 McLarens during the next ten years. McLaren was also involved in the development of Ford's GT cars.
McLaren was still Cooper's number one driver in 1965, but Charles Cooper died and son John sold the team to the Chipstead Motor Group. McLaren, helped by a former Concorde senior scientific officer called Robin Herd, began to seek other areas than sports cars and looked to the new three litre Formula One in 1966. THE 1960s
Model: M2B Engine: Ford V8 and Serenissima V8
Driver: Bruce McLaren
McLaren's first ever Grand Prix car, the McLaren Ford M2B appeared at Monaco for the first Grand Prix for the new three litre Formula on May 22, powered by a slimmed down but still capacious Ford Indy V8. It was the Mallite monocoque successor to Robin Herd's M2A test car. It qualified tenth of sixteen runners, but completed just nine laps before retiring with an oil leak. Two non-starts in Belgium and Holland sandwiched a sixth place at Brands Hatch for the British Grand Prix with the weak Serenessima V8 engine. The team, however, was waiting for the return of the Ford V8, which they campaigned for the last two races of the year, McLaren taking fifth at Watkins Glen, but the engine's swansong resulted in retirement. However, in its first year, McLaren's Formula One team attempted six out of nine races, raced in four of them, and scored points in two. At the same time, the team was also busy in the British Group 7 sports car series while McLaren and Amon won Le Mans in a 7.0 Ford GT Mark 2.
Drivers' Championship: 14th=, McLaren, 3pts
Constructors' Championship: 9th, McLaren Ford, 2 pts; 10th, McLaren Serenissima, 1pt
Model: M4B and M5A Engine: FBRM V8 and V12
Driver: Bruce McLaren
For their second year, McLaren decided to race just one car in Formula One with the team boss in the cockpit. Initially, they would have a 2.1 BRM engine available, but a 3.0 V12 unit was on its way. So Robin Herd adapted the M4A, initially a Formula 2/3 car, to be used with the smaller engine, this being called the M4B.
McLaren did just two Grands Prix in this car, it being tailormade for the twists and turns of Monaco where he finished a fine fourth, although second was on the cards until a pit stop. But he crashed on lap two due to an oil slick in the Dutch Grand Prix and that was the end of the M4B effort.
Instead, McLaren subsequently raced an Eagle in France, Britain and Germany, although without any success, certainly not that enjoyed by Gurney in the preceding Belgian Grand Prix which he won.
McLaren then did the remaining four races in the championship in Herd's M5A with its BRM V12 engine, but while he finished the first of those races in seventh place, he failed to finish the remaining three although he qualified in the top ten each time and on the front row at Monza.
Greater success was enjoyed by the orange M6As in CanAm racing where McLaren and Denny Hulme won five out of six races and Bruce became champion. (Hulme was Formula One World Champion for Brabham). The boss also did a few Formula Two races too... All this while running a successful customer side, although the cars were produced by Trojan.
Drivers' Championship: 14th=, McLaren, 3pts
Constructors' Championship: 8th, 3 pts
Model: M5A and M7A Engine: BRW V12(M5A) and Ford DFV(M7A)
Drivers: Bruce McLaren
Jo Bonnier (Joakim Bonnier Racing Team M5A)
Dan Gurney (Anglo American Racers)
Partly thanks to Goodyear and Gulf Oil, Denny Hulme signed up with McLaren to make a formidable Kiwi combination in 1968. The pairing of Formula One World Champion and CanAm champion racing together in both series was a powerful one. But McLaren, like Lotus and Matra, also had the benefit of the new DFV engine which gave some sixty bhp more than the BRMs. Once again, the chassis design was mainly by Robin Herd, before he left for Cosworth.
However, the first race of the season was some four and a half months before the second, so Hulme only raced a BRM engined M5A in South Africa where he finished fifth. Next up came two non championship races in England, ideal tests for the new Cosworth powered M7A and it performed magnificently: victory for McLaren in the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, for Hulme at the International Trophy at Silverstone, with McLaren second.
The rest of the season went pretty well too, although Lotus with Hill and Matra with Stewart just had the edge on the McLarens, although all three were using the same DFV engines. McLaren won a Grand Prix for the first time using his own car in Belgium, while Hulme won in Italy and Canada, leading home McLaren in the team's first one-two at Mont Tremblant. But in the final race of the season, Hulme crashed due to a broken damper and was beaten into third in the Drivers' title, although McLaren were just 13 points behind winners Lotus in the Constructors' thanks to super reliability.
In CanAm, works and customer cars dominated with Hulme winning the title this time and McLaren 11 points behind in second
Drivers' Championship: 3rd, Hulme, 33pts; 5th, McLaren, 22 pts; 21st=, Gurney and Bonnier, 3pts
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 49 pts
Model: M5A(Bonnier), M7A&C, M9A(4WD) Engine: BRM V12(M5A) and Ford DFV
Drivers: Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Vic Elford(Antique Automobiles M7A), Derek Bell(M9A), Basil van Rooyen(Team Lawson M7A)
McLaren's record just got better and better, even though they were still using the M7s from the previous year and were somewhat distracted by going down the fashionable, but ultimately fruitless, four wheel drive road with the M9A. It was also the era of high wings, until they were banned, so aerodynamics were somewhat varied. Nearly all the opposition were running dominant DFVs, apart from BRM and Ferrari.
Tyres, reliability, rule changes, 11 CanAm races and the four wheel drive programme all took their toll on the straightforward Grand Prix campaign. McLaren got onto the rostrum three times during the year but Hulme had a very poor second half of the season, only alleviated by victory in the final round of the series in Mexico, as Goodyear's latest tyres began to overcome Firestone and Dunlop's early season form. Even so, the team sunk to fourth in the championship.
But the team's orange M8Bs won every round of that busy CanAm series, led by Bruce McLaren himself while Peter Gethin dominated the Formula 5000 championship in Church Farm Racing's M10A. It may not have been a good year in Grand Prix racing, but there was plenty to shout about elsewhere.
Drivers' Championship: 3rd, McLaren, 26 pts; 6th, Hulme, 20 pts; 13th =, Elford, 3pts
Constructors' Championship: 4th, 38pts THE 1970s
Model: M7A, M7C, M7D, M14A, M14D Engine: Ford DFV and Alfa Romeo V8(M7D
Drivers: Bruce McLaren (M14A)
Denny Hulme (M14A)
John Surtees (Team Surtees M7C)
Peter Gethin (M7A and M14A)
Andrea de Adamich (M7D and M14D)
Dan Gurney (M7A and M14A)
Jo Bonnier (Ecurie Bonnier M7C)
Nanni Galli (M7D)
The death of Bruce McLaren while testing the team's latest CanAm challenger at Goodwood not surprisingly overshadowed the entire year. It was going to be a busy one. Not only was there a Grand Prix programme with the evolutionary DFV powered M14As, but also a parallel programme with Alfa Romeo powered M14Ds, principally for Andrea de Adamich. On top of that, there was still the CanAm programme, and McLaren had decided, the previous year, that they would tackle the Indy 500. They had moved to new premises at Colnbrook, near Heathrow, and now numbered 50 people.
Hulme finished second in the first Grand Prix of the year, and McLaren was similarly placed in the second. Hulme finished fourth in Monaco, and although the Alfa Romeo programme suffered from inconsistent engines, things were looking good otherwise.
But then Hulme was badly burnt in an Indy practice fire, and days later, McLaren was killed. It was a cruel blow. Perhaps Hulme, shouldering team leader status, came back to racing too early, but it would take some time for his burns to heal. Peter Gethin, again successful in Formula 5000, became his teammate in Grand Prix racing and in CanAm. But in a year that Lotus replaced their 49 with a 72, and when Ferrari began to make a comeback, it was no surprise that McLaren didn't win a single race, and remained at fourth equal in the championship. However, Hulme won the CanAm title again from customer Lothar Motschenbacher with Gethin third. Peter Revson finished second at Indy.
Drivers' Championship: 4th, Hulme, 27pts; 14th, McLaren, 6 pts; 17th = , Surtees, 3pts; 22nd=, Gurney and Gethin, 1 pt
Constructors' Championship: 4th, 35 pts
Model: M7C, M14A and M19A Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: Denny Hulme
Jo Bonnier (Ecurie Bonnier M7C)
Mark Donohue (PenskeWhite Racing M19A)
David Hobbs (PenskeWhite Racing M19A)
Not surprisingly, the team was still in the process of rebuilding as 1971 started. Gordon Coppuck was concentrating on the design of the team's IndyCar challenger, while Ralph Bellamy joined from Brabham for a year to design the factory's Formula One M19A. It featured rising rate suspension which initially seemed a good idea. Elsewhere, the management of the team passed to Phil Kerr and American Teddy Mayer who had both been Bruce McLaren's right hand men in various departments.
Hulme lead the first race of the year at Kyalami until a bolt fell out of the rear suspension but thereafter, the team was in trouble, partially due to tyre vibration and understeer. Bruce McLaren's engineering ability was sorely missed. Mark Donohue became a semi works driver in his Penske entered machine to try and solve the problem, bumping Gethin out of the team to BRM, with whom he won the Italian Grand Prix that year.
Donohue's third place in Canada was the highlight in a year dominated by Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell, while McLaren scored just ten points, including Donohue's four. But McLaren again won the CanAm series with the M8F, Hulme ahead of Revson. The American again finished second at Indy.
Drivers' Championship: 9th= , Hulme, 9pts; 16th=, Donohue, 4 pts;
Constructors' Championship: 6th, 10 pts
Model: M19A and M19C Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: Denny Hulme
McLaren's commitments can be typified by the weekend of May 19, 1972. That weekend, Hulme won the Oulton Park Gold Cup in the Formula One M19A, Jody Scheckter won the last Crystal Palace Formula Two race in McLaren's stillborn F2 production car, the M21, and Mark Donohue won the Indy 500 in Penske Racing's M16B. A fine McLaren weekend. For the record, McLaren were finally beaten in the CanAm championship that year, after five consecutive victories, while their F5000 involvement was petering out.
But a new era was dawning. The team had full sponsorship from Yardley and this year ran the previous year's M19s but with changes to wings and tyres. They now had rising rate front suspension, and constant rear suspension.
The season started well, with Hulme second in Argentina and then first in South Africa where Revson was third. But Emerson Fittipaldi and Jackie Stewart made sure that they had little subsequent success, although Hulme and Revson were second and third in Austria, Hulme was third in Italy, Revson finished ahead of Hulme and behind Stewart in Canada and Hulme finished third in the USA. So Fittipaldi won the championship from Stewart, while Hulme was definitely best of the rest in third and Revson was fifth. After his Formula Two promise, Jody Scheckter was given his Formula One debut in the American Grand Prix where he finished ninth.
Drivers' Championship: 3rd, Hulme, 39 pts; 5th, Revson, 23 pts; 12th=, Redman, 4pts
Constructors' Championship: 3rd, McLaren, 47 pts
Model: M19C and M23 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: Denny Hulme
At the end of the previous year, Teddy Mayer and Phil Kerr had announced that McLaren would no longer be involved in CanAm, so now the concentration was on Formula One and IndyCar racing. Changes in regulations meant that the elderly M19s would become obsolete by the European season, but Hulme finished fifth in Argentina, and then third in Brazil, while Revson finished second in South Africa where Scheckter qualified third and was heading for fourth until his engine failed.
And if that promise wasn't enough, the writing was already on the wall for McLaren: Gordon Coppuck's M23, complete with obligatory deformable structure, allowed Denny Hulme to start from pole on its debut in South Africa and once again lead, only to be delayed again, this time by a puncture. It looked good.
And it was good. The M23s usually started from the front three rows and were usually in the points. Hulme scored the first win of the year at Anderstorp and Revson won at Silverstone, a race indelibly engraved in the memory of motor sport for young teammate Scheckter's first lap accident which eliminated nine cars. Hulme was third.
Stewart and Peterson often traded wins, but there was usually a McLaren in the points. Jacky Ickx did one race thanks to his Nürburgring knowledge and finished third behind the Tyrrells. Revson was eventually awarded a chaotic Canadian Grand Prix win, but in spite of a promising season, the pair had to give best in the Drivers' championship to the Tyrrell and Lotus drivers. McLaren were similarly placed in the Constructors' series.
Drivers' Championship: 5th, Revson, 38 pts; 6th, Hulme, 2pts; 9th, Ickx, 12 pts(8pts in Ferrari)
Constructors' Championship: 3rd, 58 pts
Model: M23 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: Emerson Fittipaldi (Team Texaco)
Denny Hulme (Team Texaco)
Mike Hailwood (Yardley Team McLaren)
Dave Charlton (Scuderia Scribante Lucky Strike)
David Hobbs (Yardley Team McLaren)
Jochen Mass (Yardley Team McLaren)
A new era for McLaren, and a partnership that would last for many years: Team Texaco was born, managed by Teddy Mayer, while Yardley's involvement was slightly reduced to one car run by Phil Kerr, principally for Mika Hailwood. Leading the team was 1972 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi while the evergreen Denny Hulme stayed with McLaren for his seventh but final year.
It was a thrilling championship. Hulme won in Argentina, beating Ferrari's Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni. Fittipaldi won at home in Brazil, while Hailwood was highest placed finisher in South Africa. Lauda, Fittipaldi, Peterson (Lotus) and Scheckter (Tyrrell) won the next four races; it was that open. Regazzoni and Reutemann (Brabham) also won.
Going into the final round of the championship, McLaren led Ferrari 70 pts to 64, while Fittipaldi and Regazzoni were tied on 52 points. Scheckter still had a mathematical chance with 45 points. He qualified best, on row three, with Fittipaldi behind him and Regazzoni a row further back. Hulme's engine expired on lap five and he flew out of the circuit and Formula One before the race had finished.
With Regazzoni's Ferrari handling appallingly, Fittipaldi knew he just had to shadow Scheckter to the flag, but the Tyrrell succumbed to a fuel pick up problem, and Fittipaldi finished fourth, securing the Drivers' title and the Constructors' too, a great day for McLaren.
Sadly, the Yardley team didn't fare so well, with Hailwood crashing at the Nürburgring and breaking his leg, which ended his career. David Hobbs and Jochen Mass replaced him, but at the end of the year, Hailwood retired, Yardley quit and Phil Kerr followed Hulme home to New Zealand.
But making it a better year, Johnny Rutherford took his M16C/D from 25th on the grid to victory at Indy, while he won another three IndyCar races during the year, narrowily failing to win the IndyCar championship.
Drivers' Championship: 1st Fittipaldi, 55 pts; 7th, Hulme, 32 pts; 10th=, Hailwood, 12 pts
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 73 pts
Model: M23 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: Emerson Fittipaldi
Pat McLaren, Teddy Mayer and Tyler Alexander remained the directors of McLaren at the end of the victorious season, but Alastair Caldwell remained to manage the Formula One team. Also largely unaltered was Gordon Coppuck's M23, now entering its third season. However, Fittipaldi had a new teammate in Jochen Mass.
Fittipaldi started the season with victory over James Hunt (Hesketh) in Argentina and second to compatriot Carlos Pace (Brabham) at home in Brazil Mass was third. Mass salvaged a win from the Montjuich disaster but then Niki Lauda took over in the Ferrari with four wins in five races. McLaren's pair scored second in Monaco (Fittipaldi), and after a couple of non finishes, third and fourth in France. Fittipaldi won at Silverstone, Mass was fourth in the soaking Austrian GP, Fittipaldi second to Regazzoni at Monza, before harrying Lauda to the flag in Watkins Glen, with Jochen third.
There were suggestions that Fittipaldi had been driving to score points. He led the sixth most number of laps, and in the end, he was 19.5 pts behind Lauda in the drivers' series. Mass was seventh equal while McLaren were third in the series, a point behind Brabham. Perhaps they could have done better, but the M23 was an old car by now.
At Indy, Johnny Rutherford finished second in the rain shortened race, driving Coppuck's John Barnard modified M16E.
Drivers' Championship: 2nd, Fittipaldi, 45 pts; 7th=, Mass, 20 pts
Constructors' Championship: 3rd, 53 pts
Model: M23 and M26 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: James Hunt
Two sets of circumstances combined to see James Hunt replace Emerson Fittipaldi for 1976. Hesketh, for whom Hunt had driven for the previous two years, pulled out of Formula One, due to lack of sponsorship. And Fittipaldi went off to drive for brother Wilson's team. Suddenly Hunt was team leader of McLaren, Mass staying on as his teammate.
The tool for the year was intended to be Coppuck's M26, but it still wasn't ready, so M23s, lightened by 13.6 kilos were used initially, and became the favoured car for the year.
And what a year! Ferrari won the first three races, Hunt the fourth, disqualified, and then reinstated. Lauda then won another two, Hunt came back to win in France and then in Britain, only to be disqualified, eventually, after an extraordinary race in which he was allowed to restart in the spare car.
Hunt won in Germany too, but his chief rival, Lauda, was desperately injured in a fiery crash. While Hunt went on to finish fourth in Austria and first in Holland, Lauda fought back from the brink of death to line up at Monza, finishing a courageous fourth. Victories for Hunt in Canada and Watkins Glen saw Hunt trail Lauda by three points as they came into the final race, after a season of protests and controversy.
It was raining hard as the cars lined up for the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, drivers having discussed whether they should race or not. Lauda pitted after just one lap, Hunt led. The Austrian had trouble seeing in the rain, due to his fire ravaged eyebrows. He reluctantly but responsibly pulled out.
Hunt, however, had to finish third or higher. But his left rear tyre was punctured, and steadily he dropped back, eventually having to pit. Furious, he rejoined fifth, with just three laps to go. On new tyres, he passed Alan Jones and Regazzoni easily, now third. He took the chequered flag, but scarcely realised that he was third, refusing to believe it for several minutes after he'd come into the pits.
James Hunt was World Champion by a point, Jochen Mass was ninth, and McLaren were second in the Constructors' championship, nine points behind Ferrari.
And to cap it all, Johnny Rutherford had won Indy for McLaren for the second time in three years.
Drivers' Championship: 1st , Hunt, 69 pts; 9th, Mass, 19 pts
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 74 pts
Model: M23 and M26 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: James Hunt
Emilio de Villota (Iberia Airlines M23)
Brett Lunger (Chesterfield Racing M23)
Gilles Villeneuve (M23)
Bruno Giacomelli (M23)
A minute gap between the end of one season and the beginning of the next of just 75 days meant that McLaren quite understandably retained their M23s for 1977 while working on Coppuck's M26. Initially, it looked good. Hunt was on pole for the Argentina Grand Prix and for Brazil, finishing second in the latter. He was on pole again in South Africa, beating teammate Jochen Mass to finish fourth.
But at Long Beach, he was only eighth and again on row four in Spain. Teammate Mass finished ahead of him on both occasions. Hunt qualified the M26 third in Anderstorp, but Mass finished second to Laffite. The M23 sometimes seemed better, sometimes the M26. Hunt scored his first win of the season at home in the latter. Meanwhile Lauda, Laffite and Andretti were also potential winners.
It wasn't until Monza that McLaren were in the points again. In spite of Hunt's pole position, Mass finished fourth, but Hunt won at Watkins Glen in the now improving M26. He was branded the bad boy after thumping a marshal in Canada, only to return to glory in Japan with victory. But Lauda had had his revenge, Hunt was only fifth with Mass sixth in the championship. At least McLaren was third in the Constructors' series.
Elsewhere, McLaren were once again involved with Johnny Rutherford and various customers in IndyCar racing but not with the success gained before.
Drivers' Championship: 5th, Hunt, 40 pts; 6th, Mass, 25 pts
Constructors' Championship: 3rd, 6 pts
Model: M26 and M23(Lunger) Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: James Hunt
Brett Lunger (B&S Fabrications M23 and M26)
Bruno Giacomelli (M26)
Emilio de Villota (Centro Aseguredor F1 M23)
Tony Trimmer (Melchester Racing M23)
Nelson Piquet (B&S Fabrications M23)
Hunt had a new teammate in Patrick Tambay, while Formula One was undergoing a change. Renault had introduced their turbo car the previous year although that wasn't the major technical trend. Former McLaren designer Ralph Bellamy and Colin Chapman had come up with the Lotus 78/79 ground effect cars, and it would be this innovation which would prove difficult for other teams to match in the coming years.
Hunt and Tambay would continue to use the M26 in 1978 but they would be largely outclassed by Lotus in particular, but also Ferrari with the 312T3 and Brabham with their Alfa Romeo powered BT46s but principally, the Lotuses.
Hunt scored fourth with the tried and tested M26 at the first race in Argentina, then fifth in Spain, while Tambay was fourth in Sweden. Hunt was third at Ricard and Tambay fifth in Monza but the team was back in eighth place at the end of the year.
Some blame rested with Hunt, that he didn't seem to have the determination and fire of old. He had been ditched by the team and Ronnie Peterson signed for the following year, but the Swede tragically lost his life after a startline accident at Monza.
Meanwhile, McLaren's proven old M23s were much in favour, being run in the British Formula One championship and appearing in various privateer hands at various Grands Prix. In America, Johnny Rutherford was still winning for the McLaren team in IndyCar racing, and there were privateer successes as well.
Drivers' Championship: 13th=, Hunt and Tambay, 8 pts
Constructors'Championship: 8th, 15 pts
Model: M28, M26 and M29 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: John Watson
John Watson was signed to replace James Hunt for 1979, while Gordon Coppuck came up with his own copy of the previous year's all conquering ground effect Lotus. This was the M28 but to get the same ground effect figures as Lotus, the car had grown huge side pods in which to accommodate underwings. It made for a big car which was slow on the straights. It also suffered structurally, due to problems with the bonding.
The M28 was raced for the first half of the season, and Watson scored an impressive third in Argentina, partially thanks to excellent Goodyear tyres, which masked the technical problems. Watson finished fourth in Monaco out of six finishers.
However, as early as May 1, a decision had been taken to develop a new, compact replacement for the M28, known as the M29. This was more of a Williams copy than a Lotus, said Coppuck. In its first race, the British Grand Prix, Watson finished fourth and finished fifth at Hockenheim. Sixths in Canada and America followed, before the season fizzled out.
Meanwhile, the American campaign was also coming to a halt. There were top three finishes in the States, but by the end of the season, the team had been wound up. McLaren now only raced in Formula One.
However, there was just one ray of sunlight in the future. In November of that year, the team tested an interim M29 with new underwings. Potential drivers for the following season were also on hand, including one Alain Prost. His opening laps were quicker than Watson's. He was quickly signed for 1980...
Drivers' Championship: 9th, Watson, 15 pts
Constructors'Championship: 7th, 15 pts THE 1980s
1980 Model: M29 and M30 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: John Watson
Stephen South (DNQ)
Alain Prost's initial promise was borne out throughout the first half of the season, with the Frenchman usually outqualifying his teammate. He scored a point in his first ever Grand Prix in Argentina, and went on to finish fifth in Brazil. Two mechanical breakages in South Africa resulted in a broken wrist which kept him out of Long Beach. Stand in Stephen South failed to qualify but Watson finished an encouraging fourth.
Belgium offered little respite, and they hit rock bottom in Monaco where Watson failed to qualify, and Prost went out at the first corner. Prost qualified seventh in France and Watson finished in the same position while Prost was sixth at Brands Hatch.
But by this stage, there were developments on two fronts. A new, M30 was on the stocks, designed by Gordon Coppuck and 50 per cent stiffer. Prost took his model to sixth on its debut in Holland.
But more importantly, there were changes afoot for the team as a whole. Formula Two team owner Ron Dennis and sponsor representatives had already approached Mayer a year before, suggesting a merger. Now Marlboro, for whom Dennis's Project Four team was running a BMW M1 in the Procar series, told Mayer that he had better merge because they were no longer competitive on their own. Mayer was wise enough to heed the advice.
Part of the deal was that Dennis would bring his own designer, John Barnard, and Gordon Coppuck would have to leave. The merger, announced in September of 1980, saw Dennis and Mayer as joint Managing Directors of McLaren International, now known as McLaren Racing. Mayer was also Chairman while Tyler Alexander, one of the McLaren's early members, and Barnard would both be Directors.
By this stage, Watson had rediscovered his old fire, and with Barnard's input, his M29 and the M30 were to score points. Watson was a competitive fourth in Canada but Prost suffered another breakage at Watkins Glen and was once again injured, unable to start the race. It had been a poor season, but the dawn of a new era.
Drivers' Championship: 10th=, Watson, 6 pts; 15th=, Prost, 5 pts.
Constructors' Championship: 7th=, 11pts
Model: M29 and MP4 Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: John Watson
Andrea de Cesaris
In spite of the promise of the new team, and John Barnard's forthcoming carbon fibre monocoque for the first MP4, Alain Prost found a way out of his contract to leave the team to drive for Renault, his national team. Watson hung onto his seat, and was partnered by the team's Italian hope, de Cesaris.
The team started the year with old M29s, now in F configuration and it wasn't until the third race in Argentina that Watson got his MP4. Two races later, he qualified fifth and two races after that, finished third in the queue behind Gilles Villeneuve in Spain. At Dijon, he was on the front row of the grid and finished second, and at Silverstone, he won! All this was against a background of technical chicanery to get around new rules to combat ground effect, and Formula One politics pitching governing body FISA against the teams.
There was another point for Watson in Hockenheim and Austria, while he was second in Canada. But the MP4 was prone to porpoising, and it didn't make a driver's task easy. De Cesaris's season was remembered as being a succession of accidents, earning him the nickname de Crasheris, while Watson had a big accident at Monza from which he was lucky to walk away uninjured.
De Cesaris was sure not to keep his seat, but Watson's win and subsequent form ensured that he kept his. Before the end of the year, it was announced that he would be partnered the following season by his old Brabham teammate, Niki Lauda, who was emerging from retirement.
Drivers' Championship: 6th, Watson, 27pts; 18th=, de Cesaris, 1 pt.
Constructors' Championship: 6th, 28pts
Model: MP4 and MP4B Engine: Ford DFV
Drivers: John Watson
Barnard only slightly modified his MP4 for its transformation to B specification. The chassis had lasted well, so Barnard tried to slim down the monocoques, modify the suspension and increase stiffness throughout. Set up on Michelin's tyre proved crucial and the team worked hard in both their own local wind tunnel in Feltham and that of Michelin. Carbon fibre brake discs were also tried during the year.
The season started remarkably well, with Lauda fourth and Watson sixth, both in the points. Watson picked up second in Brazil after the disqualifications of Piquet and Rosberg. Proving that he'd lost none of his magic, Lauda won at Long Beach while it was Watson's turn at the Belgian Grand Prix, with Lauda third. However, the Austrian was disqualified for being underweight. Watson was a point behind leader Prost in the Drivers' championship, and McLaren led the Constructors'.
After a disappointing Monaco, Watson sensationally won the inaugural Detroit Grand Prix from 17th on the grid, partially helped by a stoppage which allowed him to fit harder Michelins to iron out understeer. He scythed through the field, past his teammate who then spun, but Watson and McLaren now led their championships.
Watson was third in Canada a week later, while Lauda was then fourth in Holland, then won at Brands Hatch. McLaren still led the Constructors' but Watson was now second in the Drivers' series to Pironi. After the turbo Renaults and Ferraris dominated at Ricard, Pironi was badly injured in Germany and Lauda also suffered wrist injury when he spun off, and would miss the race. Watson's suspension broke and he spun out of third. Lauda scored an unexciting fifth in Austria, but Rosberg's close second elevated him to championship leader, a position reinforced by victory at Dijon where Watson damaged a skirt and dropped to 13th.
Lauda scored points at Dijon, and Watson scored in Monza, his first points in three months which just kept his hopes alive but even a fine second in Las Vegas wasn't enough, and Rosberg won the title by five points and Ferrari had a similar margin in the Constructors'.
Drivers' Championship: 2nd=, Watson, 39 pts; 5th, Lauda, 30pts
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 69pts
Model: MP4/1C and MP4/1E Engine: Ford DFV, DFY and
Drivers: John Watson
Late in 1982, two things happened which were crucial to McLaren. The first was that Teddy Mayer and fellow director Tyler Alexander left the team, feeling that they were no longer required in the new structure, leaving Dennis and Barnard to run the show. In addition, the second phase of an agreement with Porsche to build turbocharged V6 engines financed by Akram Ojjeh's Techniques d'Avant Garde or TAG was signed. Ojjeh's son Mansour formed a company jointly with Ron Dennis and McLaren for the purpose.
The emphasis of the season was weighted towards running this engine, particularly when new regulations came into effect banning ground effect and calling for cars to run flat bottoms. This effectively robbed cars of their downforce, and larger front and rear wings would be needed to compensate for this loss. However, they would be used at the expense of drag, which would handicap the less powerful Cosworth runners in comparison to the turbo powered entrants. Another handicap was that tyres developed for turbo runners weren't necessarily suitable for those running normally aspirated engines...
So McLaren were looking at several disadvantages during the year. The cars were modified for the new aerodynamic regulations but they had to bear in mind the forthcoming engine. Often they won the Cosworth battle during the year, and sensationally, won the second race of the season at Long Beach, with Watson and Lauda completing a McLaren one two from 22nd and 23rd on the grid! Equally poor qualifying at Monaco, however, resulted in neither of them starting the race at all.
Lauda ran the TAG engine in Holland for the first time and both drivers had them for the final three races of the year. Qualifying positions improved, but neither driver finished, as the team began the steep turbo learning curve already experienced by other teams and drivers.
Drivers' Championship: 6th=, Watson, 22pts; 10th, Lauda, 12pts
Constructors' Championship: 5th, 34pts
Model: MP4/2 Engine: TAG turbo V6
Drivers: Niki Lauda
After several seasons of preparation, McLaren now had all the weapons that they needed. Barnard changed his chassis little, but it did feature new rear suspension. The engine development continued during the winter and Alain Prost returned to McLaren after being sent on his way by Renault, with whom he had gained valuable turbo experience. McLaren may have been among the last to join the turbo brigade, but they had prepared the ground well.
They hit the ground running. Alain Prost won the first race of the year in Brazil, Niki Lauda led his teammate home in the second and while they may not have featured in the third, they won the next three between them. At season's end, they had won 12 races between them, clinching the Constructors' championship by a massive 86 points. Their matched pair of drivers were separated by just half a point, Lauda pipping Prost.
It was a phenomenal demonstration and a warning to all. If this was the way McLaren were heading, then rivals would have to match this effort. Having said that, Porsche certainly had their problems with the engine, although rarely in races. And McLaren worked carefully on fine tuning brake cooling throughout the year, and had just one problem with Prost's front wheel working loose at Dijon. Otherwise, it was a pretty remarkable year.
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Lauda, 72pts; 2nd, Prost, 71.5 pts.
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 143.5pts
Model: MP4/2B Engine: TAG turbo V6
Drivers: Alain Prost
After the victorious and dominant 1984 season, McLaren were quite rightly the team in everyone's sights in 1985. Most elements in the team were largely unchanged, apart from the departure of Michelin. To keep abreast of the competition, John Barnard introduced new bodywork, new rear suspension, new front uprights and new wings.
On the engine side, there weren't huge changes, although Barnard was highly complimentary about Bosch's Motronic electronic management system, while mirror image KKK turbochargers were custom made for TAG's V6 instead of the previous identical models.
Three wins by Alain Prost in the first four races - if one includes the chaotic San Marino Grand Prix from which he was subsequently disqualified - suggested that McLaren hadn't lost their touch although Lauda could only claim a single fourth place, two mechanical retirements and a spin on oil. A further string of retirements followed, while Prost won at Silverstone, was second in Germany, won again in Austria, and then harried his teammate all the way to the line in Zandvoort as Lauda regained form. However, a wrist injury suffered two races later in Belgium merely served to confirm his decision to retire from the sport. Replaced by John Watson for the next race, he retired after a year that reaped only 14 points and which Ron Dennis described as 'unlucky'
Prost had clinched the title by round 14 of the sixteen races and McLaren were Constructors' champions again, although this time only eight points ahead of Ferrari.
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Prost, 73pts; 10th, Lauda, 14pts;
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 90 pts
Model: MP4/2C Engine: TAG turbo V6
Drivers: Alain Prost
It is often said that this was a season that Williams Honda lost rather than McLaren won. Piquet and Mansell both had a chance, yet Prost pinched the title in the last round at Adelaide, when Mansell suffered a tyre delamination, and when Prost himself thought he was going to run out of fuel. Praise was fullsome for the Frenchman who won his second world title back to back, and McLaren won their third consecutive Drivers' title.
John Barnard, who was to leave McLaren for Ferrari during the summer, made detailed modifications to the MP4/2Bs that were to become 2Cs, particularly given the new 195 litre fuel tank restrictions. There was a six-speed gearbox but apart from the latest version of Bosch's Motronic engine management system, the engines were little changed.
One small headache was new recruit Rosberg's press on style of driving, so different to Prost's and previous teammate Lauda's. It was only after Monaco that the Finn's set up was changed.
After both engines failed in Brazil, Prost was third in Spain, then won at Imola and at Monaco. A point in Belgium (in spite of a remarkably bent engine mounting), then second in Canada kept their hopes alive, but then Williams seemed to gain the upper hand with better fuel consumption. Only late in the season did Prost reassert the team's position with a win in Austria, second in Portugal and Mexico and the crucial win in Australia. But once again he had lost his teammate and now the technical director had gone too. McLaren were going to have to regroup.
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Alain Prost, 72pts; 6th, Rosberg, 22 pts.
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 96pts
Model: MP4/3 Engine: TAG turbo V6
Drivers: Alain Prost
Something old, something new: TAG's legendary engine was getting long in the tooth; Stefan Johansson arrived to partner Alain Prost, and Steve Nichols became Formula One project leader following John Barnard's departure the previous year. He had worked on the car with Barnard, and estimated what needed to be left and what changed. The suspension was left, as was the gearbox, but a new monocoque was designed, with new aerodynamics and a small housing for the smaller fuel tank.
Meanwhile Porsche raised the compression ratio of the TAG engine three times in order to improve fuel efficiency but then engine development failed to reap rewards and a misfire set in. Alain Prost won in Brazil, Johansson was third there and fourth at Imola. The pair were first and second at Spa but a couple of thirds were the only reward from the next four races. The increase in power had in turn resulted in an increase in weight, upsetting the engine's balance, causing vibration. In Germany, Prost was heading for victory until an alternator belt broke five laps from home. It was a curious failure as the belt hadn't broken in 100,000 miles of racing, and had then broken several times.
Another lean spell ensued as Honda dominated and active suspension became the fashion, but Prost was back on top in Portugal and second in Jerez, before sinking into oblivion again with only Johansson's third in Suzuka as reward.
Sadly, Johansson was to be elbowed by a dream team in 1988; Dennis has succeeded not only in attracting Ayrton Senna, but also Honda...
Drivers' Championship: 4th, Prost, 46 pts; 6th, Johansson, 30pts
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 76 pts.
Model: MP4/4 Engine: Honda turbo V6
Drivers: Alain Prost
In theory, this was a transitional year for Formula One, as the turbo boost was lowered from four bar to 2.8 to give the advantage to normally aspirated engines in preparation for a turbo ban and fuel capacity lowered from 195 to 150 litres. In practice, it allowed McLaren, Honda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna to rewrite the record books as they totally dominated the year.
The statistics are simple: McLaren won 15 out of 16 races, Senna winning eight (he was disqualified from the first race in Brazil), Prost seven. Senna therefore won the championship by three points; both drivers had double the points of third placed Gerhard Berger. Similarly, McLaren scored three times as many points as the second team in the Constructors' championship, winning with 199 points to Ferrari's 65. Senna started the first six races from pole position, and added another seven before the end of the year. It was a magnificent, mind numbing performance by team and drivers; scarcely exciting, but mightily impressive in its perfection.
The drivers did occasionally clash, particularly when Senna chopped Prost at Jerez, and both were beyond the limit at Monza, where Senna's audacity in lapping Jean-Louis Schlesser's Williams resulted in retirement. He also lost concentration at Monaco and ended up in the barrier. Prost, once again, revealed his dislike of wet conditions.
Steve Nichols once again led the design team which had to cope with new cockpit regulations as well as the smaller fuel tank, so much of the car was new, which made it even more deserving. Honda reliability was exceptional and overall reliability was phenomenal, all contributing to a record breaking season. They deserved everything they got.
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Senna, 90pts; 2nd, Prost, 87 pts.
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 199 pts
Model: MP4/5 Engine: 3.5 Honda V10
Drivers: Alain Prost
While Steve Nichols's MP4/4 design had been winning the final championship of the turbo era, Neil Oatley had been hard at work on McLaren's first chassis for the return to normally aspirated, but now 3.5 litre engines. Although the end result was the same - McLaren winning both Constructors' and Drivers' Championships - there was no surprise that they didn't quite enjoy the same domination as 1988.
However, a McLaren led every race but Portugal (where Senna started from pole), and he and Prost won ten of the 16 races, Prost with four to Senna's six, although it was the Frenchman who claimed the Drivers' title with just three retirements to the Brazilian's nine non-scores.
But that just tells half the story. It was a year in which Prost became increasingly paranoid about his teammate. They fell out at Imola, when Prost felt that Senna had breached a no passing agreement. Prost went further at Monaco where Senna scored a superb victory, apparently without second gear. At Monza Prost accused Honda of favouring Senna and would then reveal that he was leaving the team. Earlier in the year, he had written off a monocoque at Phoenix, the first such accident he'd had in five and a half years with the team. Three races later, he and Senna collided at the Suzuka chicane, and even though neither of them scored points in the last two races, the championships still went to McLaren.
Against this intensely political background, McLaren and Honda provided the best combination for the best two, if different, drivers in the field. Oatley's design still followed similar lines to those before, but weight shaving continued throughout the year, although it also suffered a handling imbalance. The team also introduced a complete new rear end, based around a transverse gearbox, midway through the season.
Honda, meanwhile, made a phenomenal effort, with five different specifications of engine for various conditions, circuits and situations. They reaped their reward, but there was a human cost. And it was interesting that Senna suffered more mechanical failures than Prost...
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Prost, 76 pts; 2nd, Senna, 65 pts
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 141 pts THE 1990s
Model: MP4/5B Engine: 3.5 Honda V10
Drivers: Ayrton Senna
Prost's defection to Ferrari also saw Steve Nichols leave McLaren, but Neil Oatley's design from the previous season had been successful and he was entrusted with what became a B version of the same car. It incorporated different front suspension, revisions to the six speed transverse gearbox, aerodynamic profile changes and a multi-arch diffuser which was ultimately discarded.
Senna's new teammate, Gerhard Berger, didn't fit into this new design, however, in spite of initial changes to the car, and it was no surprise that Gerhard was somewhat downhearted until further changes almost resolved the problem at mid-season.
Senna, meanwhile, was leading from the front. Indeed, he led every race of the season apart from Hungary where he harried Thierry Boutsen to the flag, and Suzuka, where he punted Prost off at the first corner to claim the championship.
Against a continued backdrop of acrimony with the governing body from the previous year, McLaren claimed the first race at Phoenix, in spite of the late completion of their cars. Berger set pole position but Senna would be on pole for the next four and then Berger. In all, Senna started from pole ten times during the year.
But Prost at Ferrari proved a formidable opponent with team-mate Mansell, and Williams's pairing of Boutsen and Patrese also had their fair share of success. Honda again supplied McLaren with a variety of engines which often suffered power loss during the year, while McLaren themselves suffered a drop in performance mid season. Typically, they reacted well and returned to claim both titles, only the second time that the Constructors' series had been won three times in a row.
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Senna, 78pts; 4th, Berger, 43 pts
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 121 pts
Model: MP4/6 Engine: 3.5 Honda V12
Drivers: Ayrton Senna
For the fourth time in as many years and the third time with Honda McLaren had a different engine specification to use. Otherwise, things were pretty much the same, apart from Henri Durand helping chief designer Neil Oatley on the aerodynamics side of the latest car.
The new engine and its thirst not surprisingly, demanded several changes to the car's layout. Front suspension was changed twice during the year, while both the gearbox and the chassis itself were changed, the former being operated automatically and the latter being more rigid. Aerodynamics were also changed.
Honda's decision to go to V12 configuration did result in a greater thirst in comparison to the V10s of the opposition, but it was also tricky for the team's own TAG engine management system to keep abreast of development both in fuel and engine terms. This resulted in Senna running out of fuel twice during the season, at Silverstone and then two weeks later at Hockenheim.
But the season had started brilliantly with a quartet of victories, including an emotional if troubled win at home at Interlagos. One retirement and two thirds to Williams were followed by those two retirements, but Senna came back superbly with a flag to flag win in Budapest and then leading home a great one two in Spa, in spite of gearbox problems as in Brazil. The subsequent two second places should have been enough to clinch the championship, but for previous problems, but a generous second to teammate Berger in Suzuka was sufficient to clinch the title with the seventh win of the year in Australia, the icing on the cake. It was Senna's third title, McLaren's fourth in succession.
Drivers' Championship: 1st, Senna, 96 pts; 4th, Berger, 43 pts.
Constructors' Championship: 1st, 139 pts
Model: MP4/6B then MP4/7A Engine: 3.5 Honda V12
Drivers: Ayrton Senna
This was to be fifth and last season with Honda, and the third and final season that Gerhard Berger would drive for the team. Nevertheless, with Ayrton Senna still with the team and Honda, there were still expectations of huge promise. The team started with the previous year's MP4/6 until it was suddenly realised that perhaps the new car was going to be introduced as soon as possible, and it was used from Brazil onwards.
Once again, the new car was the work of the team lead by Neil Oatley with several new features, fly by wire throttle being one of them, and a new method of making the monocoques. The gearbox was still transverse, but once again, revised.
However, there were several shortcomings. The car was unpredictable in fast corners, while the latest Honda was scarcely more powerful than its precedessor and certainly just as thirsty, which of course, meant a weight penalty. In the days of ever more sophisticated V10s, this was a considerable handicap.
Both drivers were in the points in the first race, Berger in the second and both retired their new cars in the third. Senna won in Monaco, Berger in Canada and then after two disappointments, Senna finished second in Germany and then won in Hungary and in Italy. Berger won in Australia, his swansong with McLaren.
But in spite of three wins, Senna and his teammate were fourth and fifth respectively in the championship, and McLaren finished 65 points behind winners Williams in the Constructors' series.
Drivers' Championship: 4th, Senna, 50 pts; 5th, Berger, 49 pts
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 99 pts
Model: MP4/8 Engine: 3.5 Ford Cosworth V8
Drivers: Ayrton Senna
Having tested him a year or so before, Ron Dennis signed reigning IndyCar champion Michael Andretti for the 1993 season, even though Dennis hadn't revealed the source of the team's power unit, perhaps because it wasn't finalised until November of the previous year. It turned out to be a McLaren financed development of Ford's HB engine. However, it was a version behind that of Benetton until Silverstone, which was a disadvantage.
What they lacked in straight horsepower, however, they hoped to pick up with mechanical sophistication, and that involved TAG's electronics, the light and economical engine, loads of electronic trickery including, of course, very advanced active suspension and traction control.
In spite of a fine second to Prost at Kyalami, two superb races in the wet one at home and the legendary Donington victory and his sixth victory at Monaco, there was some doubt as to Senna's commitment and it became increasingly clear that he would turn his back on the team that had brought him three World Championships at the end of the season.
While Prost and Hill made hay for Williams, Senna suffered few mechanical problems, although there was a third consecutive fuel related retirement at Silverstone. The year ended with two victories at Suzuka and then Adelaide, which was Senna's last and which promoted McLaren as the most successful Grand Prix team of all time. But they scored exactly half the points scored by winners Williams, although Senna was only 23 points behind World Champion Prost.
But McLaren was pretty much a one driver team this year. A late regulation change meant that Andretti didn't have the laps available for him to learn circuits and he never really embraced the European Grand Prix way of life. His best race might have been at Imola before he went off, but after finishing third at Monza, he returned to the USA, to be replaced by Mika Hakkinen who promptly out qualified Senna in Portugal. That, in itself, signified the end of one era, the beginning of a new one.
Drivers' Championship: 2nd, Senna, 73 pts; 11th=, Andretti, 7pts; 15=, Hakkinen, 4pts.
Constructors' Championship: 2nd, 84 pts
Model: MP4/9 Engine: 3.5 Peugeot V10
Drivers: Mika Hakkinen
The only question mark over McLaren's long term future was its engine, and in 1993, the team began a long term partnership with Peugeot except it lasted a year. It wasn't an entirely disastrous year but inevitably, Peugeot's arrival, the loss of Senna, new regulations, new drivers was going to take time to get used to.
The new MP4/9 chassis was based on the Ford chassis from the previous year with slightly different aerodynamics and the facility to use a hand operated clutch for the first time. A fully automatic upchange facility in the gearbox was outlawed. The team also ran power steering for the first time, although the drivers preferred conventional steering on the faster circuits.
The main problem was handling on slow corners, although a revised underbody and new rear wing made things better after the Hungarian Grand Prix. There were rule changes with the banning of traction control and other driver aids, and more after the death of Ayrton Senna.
Peugeot's new engine made several steps forward during the year, but it had been difficult to define the cooling for the engine prior to running it, and then when it did run, it was in fairly cool conditions. However, when races were run in hot conditions, there were problems.
Hakkinen was very highly motivated, scoring his first rostrum position in that devastating San Marino Grand Prix, with more consecutive thirds in Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Jerez, the downside being his accident in Hockenheim for which he was banned for a race, his place being taken by Philippe Alliot.
But the fact remains that for the first time in its existence, McLaren International, now known as McLaren Racing, did not win a race. Before the end of the season, the long term relationship with Peugeot had been terminated and a new one signed with Mercedes Benz.
Drivers' Championship: 4th, Hakkinen, 26 pts; 7th, Brundle, 16pts
Constructors' Championship: 4th, 42 pts
Model: MP4/10, MP4/10B and MP4/10C Engine: 3.0 Mercedes V10
Drivers: Nigel Mansell
This was a year of ups and downs as McLaren coped with new drivers, a new engine partner, new regulations and new ideas.
First of all, they were using their fourth different engine in as many years. And perhaps reviving a precedent, Ron Dennis insisted on engine design changes to accommodate new regulations, just as John Barnard had done with Porsche. But the Ilmor designed Mercedes engine was smaller than the previous year's Peugeot, so it wasn't too much of a problem for Neil Oatley's design team. The new car featured McLaren's first high nose and a wing atop the engine cover.
Meanwhile the team's title sponsors insisted on high profile driver names and after he'd been turned down by Williams, Nigel Mansell was signed. But the MP4/10 not only suffered a major imbalance in testing, both drivers also found it lacked room.
So a new, wider monocoque was designed and built for Mansell in 33 days who stood down for the first two races, replaced by Mark Blundell. But front end grip was still a problem and Mansell quit before Monaco, his place taken on a more permanent basis by the popular Blundell who usually qualified a couple of places behind teammate Hakkinen.
The Finn finally got onto row two in Belgium following Ilmor's introduction of a revised engine and McLaren's new gearbox. There was no doubt that huge efforts were made by both teams.
Hakkinen missed Aida due to appendicitis, his place taken by Magnussen while a week later, Hakkinen's third on the grid and second in the race was welcomed, but any optimism was cruelly dashed by his huge accident in Adelaide, leaving the team despondent as they approached the new season.
Drivers' Championship: 7th, Hakkinen, 17 pts; 10th, Blundell, 13 pts
Constructors' Championship: 4th, 30pts
Model: MP4/11 Engine: 3.0 Mercedes V10
Drivers: Mika Hakkinen
This, perhaps, was a year of consolidation. Hakkinen had thankfully made a remarkable recovery and would improve on his previous year's performance. He was joined by David Coulthard, who came from front runners Williams but found life a little more difficult at McLaren. Ilmor fine tuned the Mercedes engines just as McLaren did the same with the MP4 chassis. Helping out were former McLaren employees Steve Nichols and Alain Prost.
Although both engine and chassis were refinements of previous models, neither carried over much from either unit. There was massive detailed effort on the chassis, particularly on suspension, but once again imbalance proved a problem. The front wing mounting needed revision during a year when the drivers preferred the car in low downforce trim. It didn't like bumpy circuits, and Coulthard's bete noire would be rear end stability. A short wheelbase version became the standard at mid season.
From an engine point of view, there were huge revisions here too, working on mid range torque, while it was lighter than before with a five per cent increase in power. Engine response improve progressively during the season, and this year, McLaren chosen to drive its power through a longitudinal gearbox again.
While there were no massive gains in terms of competitivity, the drivers did slowly make inroads into the Williams/Benetton domination. Coulthard finished second to Olivier Panis at Monaco, while Hakkinen had four third places. But at the end of the year, a 23 year old partnership drew to a close. Dennis, rather than accept a cut in budget from the current title sponsor, preferred to find a new major sponsor, and he did so.
Drivers' Championship: 5th, Hakkinen, 31 pts; 7th, Coulthard, 18pts
Constructors' Championship: 4th, 49ptsSource: McLaren