It’s funny how twists of fate can work sometimes. One such set of circumstances arose before the start of the 1984 Formula One season, when McLaren was gearing up to switch from atmospheric Cosworth V8 power to turbocharged TAG/Porsche V6 motivation. Little did they know that they were about to set up one of the greatest-ever battles for the driver’s title…
The plan had been to go with veteran Niki Lauda and John Watson, but when Watson allegedly asked for greater remuneration than that offered to Lauda (something Watson himself denies), the decision was made to go instead with a young French hotshoe called Alain Prost. Now Prost had been pretty safe at Renault, who had a good handle on the whole turbocharging malarky having debuted the first turbo F1 car in 1977, however when young Alain became a bit too vociferous at Renault’s apparent lack of urgency in developing the new car, he was fired by the Regie and walked straight in at McLaren.
As well as acquiring the driver widely regarded at the time as the finest in F1, Prost was also an ace development card when it came to further developing the new turbo motor through his experience with Renault. That, allied with Lauda’s experience and a fine car, led to the Woking outfit winning 12 races; at the time a record. The Driver’s title was won by half a point by Lauda, and the second placed team in the constructor’s championship was Ferrari on 57.5 ponts versus McLarens 143.5. Prost and Lauda often finished on a different lap to the rest of the field that year, and the word ‘steamroller’ is often used to describe the MP4/2’s dominance.
At this year’s Festival of Speed, FoS-goers will again get the chance to see this all-conquering Grand Prix car up close, again this year in the hands of Jenson Button who’s attending his fifteenth consecutive event.
‘Addicted to winning’ is this year’s theme; a moniker almost made for the McLaren MP4/2.