McLaren International Ltd
|Based in: Woking, Surrey
Founded: 1963 (active since 1966)
Team principal: Ron Dennis (1980-2009), Martin Whitmarsh (since 2009)
Managing director: Ron Dennis, Jonathan Neale (since 2004)
Technical Director: Gordon Murray (1987-1990), Adrian Newey (1997-2007), Paddy Lowe (2011-2012), Tim Goss (since 2013)
Director of Engineering: Neil Oatley (2004), Paddy Lowe (2005-2010), Tim Goss (2011-2013)
Director of Design & Development: Neil Oatley (since 2005)
Chief Designer of engines: Mario Illien (1995-2005)
Chief Designer of chassis: Steve Nichols (1988-1989), Neil Oatley (1990-2003), Mike Coughlan (2002-2007)
Chief engineer: Tim Goss (2001-2010), Pat Fry (2002-2010)
Formed initially for Tasman racing, the team built its first sports cars in 1964 and 1965 before Bruce McLaren, inspired by the efforts of Jack Brabham, left Cooper in order to tackle F1 on his own. His first effort was the M2B, penned by Robin Herd and built in 1966. Unfortunately, it was the first year of the 3.0 litre era and reliable engines were difficult to come by. Bruce had to opt for an underpowered Serenissima unit, although McLaren did manage to sneak into the points at the British Grand Prix. Herd's next effort was the M7, which he designed before leaving for Cosworth. Fitted with the new DFV engine the beast proved a worthy contender in both F1 and Cam-Am circles. It was while testing the latest Can-Am car that Bruce was killed in a crash at Goodwood in 1970. With the help of Denny Hulme the team struggled on and established itself at the top during the mid 1970s clinching the constructor's title in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi also bagging the driver's title.
That was the highpoint and a steady decline, interrupted by Hunt's 1976 title, left the team floundering as the decade came to a close and sponsors Marlboro instigated a merger with Ron Dennis's Project Four F2 operation. Teddy Mayer left soon after, whilst with the help of John Barnard's revolutionary carbon- fibre monocoque, McLaren took consecutive world titles in 1984, '85 and '86.
Then came the era of Senna, Prost and Honda. Three more titles went into the trophy cabinet despite the constant infighting between the drivers. Honda withdrew from the sport in 1992, Prost went to Williams and then at the end of 1993 Senna left the team. Young Finnish charger Mika Hakkinen was recruited to fill the gap but despite his quick and spectacular driving style he simply did not have the experience or racecraft to keep the silverware cupboard stocked. A disappointing Peugeot engine did not help matters so when Mercedes approached with a works engine deal Ron Dennis snatched it with both hands. Since 1995 the Woking-Stuttgart partnership has grown in stature and competence, and the Mercedes engine was probably the best part of the car for most of 1997. Hakkinen and Coulthard continued to perfect their art with a brace of wins and a few near misses suggested that they really do have the ability to win races. All that is missing is a chassis capable of matching the best Williams can offer. Enter Adrian Newey, former Williams aerodynamicist and a man who can get downforces out of a packet of peanuts.
Newey's first car was the McLaren MP4-13 and it was immediately a full hit. While 1997 showed promise with a win in the final race of the season, the new car was immediately the class of the field. A major change in the chassis regulations and an early switch to Bridgestone tyres proved beneficial. On top of that, the team was helped by the retirement of Renault as an engine supplier and have a top line Mercedes engine available. Mika Häkkinen opened the season with two consecutive wins and confirmed the domination of the new McLaren. In fact, at the season opener in Melbourne, both drivers were able to lap the entire field before the half-way stage. A handful of mechanical breakdowns mid-season meant that by Austria the championship battle was heating up, as Ferrari and Michael Schumacher won three races on the trot. McLaren always had the better chassis, and Mika Hakkinen made few mistakes, but the car was unreliable in comparison with the Ferrari. Following the Italian Grand Prix, Mika Häkkinen and Schumacher's Ferrari were tied on 80 points each. The championship was won at the final race as a blown tyre put Ferrari out of contention. Häkkinen took the driver's title while McLaren easily won the constructor's championship.
In 1999, the team was still ahead of Ferrari, but this time only by a very small margin. Ferrari had been upping its game after Schumacher joined in 1996. The McLaren MP4-14 was a development of the winning MP4-13 but still suffered a lack of reliability. The season was coloured by a spin at Monza after which Häkkinen cried aside of the track and Schumacher getting injured at Silverstone after a failed brake. Although the Finn clinched his second consecutive championship, Ferrari as a team proved too strong.
The year after proved to be the beginning of 4 years of Ferrari domination. Although Häkkinen and Coulthard both stayed close to Schumacher, the latter's final 4 race wins in the season confirmed Ferrari's rise.
2001 proved to be even more difficult for anyone not in a red Italian car. Häkkinen had trouble finding motivation due to several retirements, mostly from point scoring or race winning positions. He later announced he would take a sabbatical in 2002 which turned out to be his retirement.
Ron Dennis quickly signed Sauber's promising youngster Kimi Räikkönen. The car did however not permit many successes and the result was only a single win, marked by David Coulthard at Monaco.
2003 started with great promise as Räikkönen and Coulthard could each win one of the first two races of the season. McLaren at the time was however intensively developing the very anticipated McLaren MP4-18 which marked a change of concept and was a very revolutionary design. Due to reliability problems involving that design, McLaren had to continue the season with the MP4-17D, basically a year-old design which was adapted for the modified regulations. Despite the setbacks, Räikkönen finished in the points consistently and challenged Michael Schumacher for the championship all the way up to the very last race, eventually losing the title by only two points.
The team began the 2004 Formula One season with the McLaren MP4-19, which technical director Adrian Newey described as a "debugged version of the MP4-18." This proved to be anything but the case, and a new car was required by mid-season. The McLaren MP4-19B was basically an all new car with a radically redesigned aerodynamic package. Coulthard immediately qualified third in the car's first race while Kimi Räikkönen won the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix, salvaging McLaren's dismal season.
At the beginning of 2005, daredevil Juan Pablo Montoya was appointed to fill in David Coulthard seat who left to join Red Bull Racing. The new McLaren MP4-20 was a thorough evolution of its predecessor but was still lacking pace in the first races. At Imola however, the team had the fastest car. As it later emerged, it was partly thanks to the addition of an inerter (or J-damper) to the rear suspension. Räikkönen however abandoned the race from the lead, due to a reported driveshaft failure, although it is believed it may well have been a failure of their new damper.
Apart from the first four races, the McLaren was, along with the Renault R25 the fastest car on track, but suffered too many reliability problems which basically cost Kimi Räikkönen a chance to win the world championship.
The speed of the car could however not be repeated in 2006. Neither driver managed to win a single race. JP Montoya meanwhile ran his last F1 race at the American GP, after which he sustained a fracture in his shoulder and was replaced by De La Rosa for the rest of the season.
2007 was a crucial season for McLaren. It started the season with Vodafone as its new title sponsor, hired double world champion Fernando Alonso on a 3-year contract and brought in Lewis Hamilton, a rookie who won the GP2 series in 2006. As the car proved competitive, the situation heated up early on in the season as it became apparent that Alonso was not getting the benefits he was promised upon contract signing. On and off the track, both drivers were razor sharp against each other, and the team did not want to choose a first driver. In the end it cost them all the championship, as both ended the season on equal points, one short of Kimi Räikkönen's Ferrari.
Amidst the driver tension, a spy scandal came to light in June when an employee in a copycenter in Woking noticed Mike Coughlan's wife copying confidential documents of Ferrari. The Italian team was promptly notified and an investigation started up. McLaren immediately suspended and later sacked its chief designer of chassis and on July 16 published a bulletin, claiming he had handled on his own. The latter quickly proved untrue from email evidence. On September 13, the world motor sport council decided to penalise McLaren with a $100 million fine, a further conditional sentence and the removal of all its constructors points the team scored in 2007.
Alonso, completely disillusioned by the situation at McLaren promptly decided to leave at the end of the season and rejoined Renault, the team run by his long time friend and business partner Flavio Briatore.
On December 17, 2008, the team confirmed that Heikki Kovalainen would come from Renault to run for McLaren for the next two years. Kovalainen immediately found himself in a competitive car but was never a match to Lewis Hamilton who eventually clinched the championship at the Brazilian GP thanks to a last corner overtake on Timo Glock. He thereby became the youngest ever, first black world champion in Formula One.
At the launch of the 2009 contender, the McLaren MP4-24, Ron Dennis announced that he would retire from Formula One and instead focus on the sports car division of McLaren. Martin Whitmarsh was promoted to replace Dennis at the helm of the F1 team.
The new McLaren made a troublesome start to the season. McLaren found itself struggling with the heavily changed aerodynamic regulations and was a massive 2s per lap slower than the BrawnGP car at the first races of the year. McLaren was later on also handed a suspended 3-race ban after Hamilton was found guilty of deliberate lying to the stewards after the Australian GP. Fortunes shifted however later on in the season when McLaren found the ideal weight distribution on its car in addition to a string of new aerodynamic improvements. Hamilton won the Hungarian and Singapore GP's and the team eventually ended 3rd in the championship.
After the season ending, rumours began to surface that Mercedes would go its own ways after being unhappy with McLaren's own sports car division, competing with Mercedes' own SLR project. On November 16, 2009, Mercedes announced its acquisition of Brawn GP and its sale of shares from McLaren.