WATCH: The incredible story of how the McLaren MP4/4 redefined dominance in F1
While Red Bull broke numerous records with the championship-winning RB19 in 2023, many F1 fans will remember the McLaren MP4/4 as setting the benchmark for dominance during a memorable 1988 season.
A new documentary on F1 TV tells the story of that remarkable year from inside the McLaren team. In F1 Icons: Redefining Dominance, Steve Nichols – Car Designer and Engineer of the MP4/4 – recalls the approach to designing the car and why he had concerns about the process.
With two star drivers in Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna eager to try out the team’s new challenger for the first time, there were nerves for Nichols ahead of the initial test. However, the drivers were astonished by the sheer speed of the MP4/4, with Nichols recalling Senna’s particularly stunned reaction and Prost’s bold prediction about the car.
The story of 1988’s Brazilian Grand Prix curtain-raiser reveals how, after such high pre-season expectations, Senna and Prost experienced contrasting fortunes in the opening race. The famous rivalry between the two racers is explored, as Nichols explains how the initially “good” relationship deteriorated, while their intra-team battle became particularly apparent during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
Insiders lift the lid on how the squad’s clean streak of wins eventually came to a halt, while Nichols looks back on Senna’s “incredible” team radio response to clinching his debut Formula 1 world championship at Suzuka.
Having won all but one Grand Prix that year, Nichols and Gary Wheeler, Senna’s #2 mechanic, reflect on how it felt to be a part of one of the strongest periods of dominance in the sport’s history.