Mclaren will be embarking in a new era in their history in 2017, with the announcement that the moniker for their chassis, MP4, will be changed in favour of MCL instead, ending a sequence started way back in 1981.
The name conjures up some iconic cars from the Woking team’s history – here’s just a few from their hall of fame.
After the innovative carbon fibre model of the MP4/1, McLaren refined the design and added turbo-powered Porsche engines to create a formidable package. Niki Lauda beat teammate Alain Prost by half a point to win the 1984 championship, securing the Constructors Title for the Woking outfit, and the MP4/2B in 1985 gave Prost a dominate first World Championship and saw the team retain. The third modification, the MP4/2C, saw a canny Prost steal the title away from the Williams of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at the Adelaide finale.
With the MP4/3 hampered by the now ageing Porsche units and overtaken by Williams in terms of aerodynamics, McLaren made some aggressive changes to become competitive again – in came Honda V6 power, Brazilian sensation Ayrton Senna and designer Gordan Murray. The lowline design pioneered by Murray at Brabham came into it’s own with Honda’s refined engine, creating one of the most dominating seasons the sport has ever seen; only Senna colliding with the lapped Jean-Louis Schlesser at Monza preventing a clean sweep of victories for the team.
Despite being eclipsed by the epic rivalry of Prost vs. Senna coming to a head at the end of 1989, it’s easy to forget that McLaren’s next car was equally as all-conquering, despite a switch to Honda V10 power as per new regulations. With Prost taking his title to Ferrari for 1990, Gerard Berger joined the team, which saw more success in another Constructors title and another world title for Senna with the MP4/5B.
Senna capitalised on technical gremlins affecting the faster Williams car to take his third, and final, championship in Japan after Nigel Mansell’s retirement. Honda’s third engine configuration in four years – this time a V12 – powered McLaren to their fourth straight constructors championship.
After Honda’s withdrawal and flirtations with Ford and Peugeot engine deals, McLaren signed with Mercedes in 1995, seeing a rise in fortunes that culminated in the Adrian Newey penned MP4/13. The regulation change of narrow track cars and grooved tyres created a power shift that saw Mika Hakkinen turn from nearly man to World Champion over the course of the winter. McLaren haven’t secured a constructors title since, however.
Hakkinen retained his title by overcoming Eddie Irvine at the last race in Suzuka, with Ferrari switching their focus to the Irishman as Michael Schumacher breaks his leg at Silverstone. The German returned to deliver the constructors title for the Scuderia, as McLaren’s superior aero advantage isn’t maximised, mainly due to reliability issues and driver error.
After not being able to deliver fully in terms of speed and reliability – which sees designer Adrian Newey depart for Red Bull – McLaren find the perfect mix of Bridgestone tyres, aerodynamics and Mercedes power, coupled with the signing of World Champion Fernando Alonso and star rookie Lewis Hamilton. The season ends in acrimony, however; Alonso and Ron Dennis fall out spectacularly, both drivers miss out to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the title chase, and the team is disqualified and fined $100m for being found guilty of copying the Scuderia’s designs.
The first car to power Lewis Hamilton to the World Championship, despite only winning six races all season, and the last one with the MP4 name to do so. Dominant wet weather wins for Hamilton at Monaco and Silverstone highlighted the driveability of the chassis in diifucult condiditions, but it’s lasting legacy will be it’s involvement it arguably the most dramatic Formula One finale ever at Interlagos.