GRR

Famous Five... Top McLaren MP4 winners

08th February 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

After a 36-season unbroken run, the MP4 designation of the McLaren team’s Formula 1 cars has been dropped. And that’s unsurprising, since it was the brainchild of the recently ousted Ron Dennis, whose Project 4 European Formula 2 team and McLaren came together in time for the 1981 season when the Woking-based squad underwent sweeping owner and management changes.

mclaren_mp4_4_08021702.jpg

The new regime, headed by Zak Brown, has announced that the 2017 Honda-powered challenger, to be revealed on February 24, will be called MCL32. That at least continues the numerical run that began with the MP4/1 in 1981, with several cars subsequently featuring B, C, D, E suffixes. Anoraks will know, of course, that MP4-18 never raced, but that’s another story.

For now, as we bid farewell to a dynasty of cars that won 158 Grands Prix between 1981 and 2012, as well as 10 Drivers’ Championships and seven Constructors’ titles, we’ve recalled, in chronological order, the five most successful McLaren Project 4 racers, in terms of race wins. 

MP4/2 – 1984 – 12 wins

Powered by the Porsche-built, TAG-badged-and-funded 1.5-litre turbocharged V6 that had made its debut in the back of Niki Lauda’s MP4/1E for the Dutch GP in 1983, the MP4/2 flew out of the blocks for a debut victory in Brazil at the start of ’84, courtesy of Alain Prost, who’d rejoined McLaren after three years winning races with Renault. The Frenchman racked up another six wins, with team-mate Lauda taking five more to make it 12 from a possible 16 and a first Constructors’ title for 10 years for McLaren. Agonisingly for Prost, he lost the title to the Austrian veteran by half a point!

Races: 16

Wins: 12

Other podium finishes: 6

Pole positions: 3

Fastest Laps: 8

Drivers’ Championship position: 1st

Constructors’ Championship position: 1st

MP4/4 – 1988 – 15 wins

What would prove to be the most successful single-season McLaren was the first to be powered by Honda’s uber-powerful 1.5-litre turbocharged V6, which the team ‘stole’ from the dominant Williams team at the end of 1987. And with Ayrton Senna joining Alain Prost for a potent but ultimately volatile line-up, there was massive expectation ahead of 1988, particularly when the low-line MP4/4 was miles quicker than anything else in pre-season testing. And so it proved, with Senna winning eight times to edge seven-time winner Prost in the final rankings. The only hiccup came at Monza in September’s Italian GP when Senna collided with a backmarker, gifting Ferrari a one-two at home. Result: 15 wins from 16 races, with the Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles a formality.

Races: 16

Wins: 15

Other podium finishes: 10

Pole positions: 15

Fastest Laps: 10

Drivers’ Championship position: 1st

Constructors’ Championship position: 1st

MP4/5 – 1989 – 10 wins

McLaren picked up where it left off in 1988, despite a ban on turbocharged engines meaning its 1989 challenger was fitted with an all-new, 3.5-litre, normally aspirated V10 Honda lump. Senna, carrying the number 1 on his car for the first time, and Prost were still at their devastating best, taking 10 wins between them from the 16 races. The other six were shared out between Ferrari (3), Williams (2) and Benetton (1 – after Senna was disqualified in Japan). Better consistency gave Prost his third title for McLaren, despite only winning four races to Senna’s six, and he left at the end of the year to take the number 1 to Ferrari for 1990.

Races: 16

Wins: 10

Other podium finishes: 8

Pole positions: 15

Fastest Laps: 8

Drivers’ Championship position: 1st

Constructors’ Championship position: 1st

MP4-13 – 1998 – 9 wins

The first McLaren to have been influenced entirely by genius designer and aerodynamicist Adrian Newey, whose work for Williams had landed the team scores of Grand Prix wins and titles in the first half of the 1990s, the MP4-13 (note the oblique had by 1997 become a hyphen!) was the dominant force of Grand Prix racing in 1998, the season in which narrow-track cars with grooved tyres – even in the dry – were mandated. Drivers Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard claimed nine of the 16 races – eight to the Finn, one to the Scot – in the 3-litre V10 Mercedes-powered Silver Arrows. Häkkinen claimed the Drivers’ title and McLaren the Constructors’ crown – its most recent such honour.

Races: 16

Wins: 9

Other podium finishes: 11

Pole positions: 12

Fastest Laps: 9

Drivers’ Championship position: 1st

Constructors’ Championship position: 1st

MP4-20 – 2005 – 10 wins

The last of the all-silver, West tobacco-liveried McLarens, the Adrian Newey-penned MP4-20 of 2005 was a very different machine to it predecessors, the MP4-19 and 19B. Powered by the 3-litre V10 Mercedes for what would be the last time (cars would feature 2.4-litre V8s from 2006 onwards), it featured revised aerodynamics, including a higher front wing to meet 2005’s new regulations. With Juan Pablo Montoya joining Kimi Räikkönen in the line-up, there were high hopes for an improvement on the lean years of 2002-’04. And sure enough, F1’s fastest pair of the year won 10 races – Kimi edging JPM 7-3 and taking runner-up in the final standings. 

Races: 18

Wins: 10

Other podium finishes: 8

Pole positions: 7

Fastest Laps: 12

Drivers’ Championship position: 2nd

Constructors’ Championship position: 2nd

Image courtesy of LAT

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