Latest News / Feature

The Best of 2016 - McLaren at 50: essential facts, stats & stand-out moments

23 Dec 2016

For the latest instalment of our end-of-year series picking out our favourite features, interviews and videos from the past 12 months, the focus moves to one of F1 racing’s iconic marques. On the 22nd May 1966 Bruce McLaren entered a single self-built chassis into the Monaco Grand Prix, marking the beginning of the McLaren team’s extraordinary Formula One journey. Fifty years on, we reflected on their standout statistical achievements, as well as some of their greatest on-track moments…

Debut race: 1966 Monaco Grand Prix

Two years after founding his own team, New Zealand racer Bruce McLaren enters his first world championship Grand Prix in one of his own cars - the Ford-powered M2B. It would be the first of four starts for the white car, which lasted only nine laps before succumbing to an oil leak in Monte Carlo.

Maiden win: 1968 Belgian Grand Prix

Just two races after another New Zealander, Denny Hulme, had scored McLaren’s first podium in Spain, team founder Bruce McLaren becomes only the second driver (after his mentor Jack Brabham) to win a Grand Prix in a car carrying his own name when he takes a last-gasp victory at Spa-Francorchamps.  

Lowest winning grid slot: 22nd

John Watson's unlikely victory from 22nd on the grid at Long Beach in 1983 remains the furthest back from which a Grand Prix has ever been won. What's often forgotten is that team mate Niki Lauda finished second from 23rd on the grid in the same race!


Total wins: 182

Of McLaren's 182 victories, 47 - or 25.8 percent - have been one-twos, which is an indicator of the levels of domination the team have reached in the past. McLaren have also led 322 races (second only to Ferrari), though they haven't tasted victory since Jenson Button triumphed in Brazil in 2012.

Most wins: Ayrton Senna

19 different drivers have stood on the top step of the podium for McLaren, but none did it more often than the Brazilian superstar. 31 percent of Senna's McLaren wins came at just two venues: Monaco and Spa-Francorchamps.

Most successful car: MP4/4

The MP4/4's statistics speak for themselves: 15 wins [including a record 11 consecutively], 10 one-two finishes [including the close one at Hungary, seen in the video below], 15 pole positions and 10 fastest laps. “It is a wonderfully pure design," says Ron Dennis of the Honda-powered car. "And in fact it would and should have won all 16 Grands Prix that year, had Ayrton not crashed into Jean-Louis’ [Schlesser] Williams-Judd [at Monza] while lapping him. Even today, nearly 30 years after the event, Jean-Louis and I always enjoy a humorous exchange on the subject whenever we meet.” 

Number of drivers’ titles: 12 

Are McLaren fond of nail-biting finishes? Perhaps. Seven of their 12 drivers' titles were sealed at the final round, while a further four were decided at the penultimate race. Alain Prost's 1985 success is the notable stand-out, having been settled at race 14 of 16.

Number of constructors' titles: 8

McLaren won their first constructors' championship in 1974, through a combination of that year's world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, Denny Hulme, Mike Hailwood (rounds 1-11), David Hobbs (rounds 12-13) and Jochen Mass (rounds 14-15). The team's last success came in 1998, when Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard combined to put Ferrari to the sword.

Youngest world champion: Lewis Hamilton

The circumstances surrounding Lewis Hamilton's dramatic last-gasp championship win in 2008 - sealed with a final-lap pass of Timo Glock - may have seemed a tad fortuitous to some, but according to then team principal Ron Dennis it was the climax of the team's "most professional" campaign. "Our approach to the race weekend was extremely cautious, but it was also meticulously controlled," Dennis recalls today. "The preceding lap times had shown that Lewis was on course to take the fifth place he required before flag-fall – and, although as things panned out it ended up being a bit too close for comfort, it duly happened. So that world championship was very satisfying - because it was so disciplined. It was definitely not won by luck." At 23 years and 300 days, Hamilton was two years and three days younger than the team's previous youngest champion, Emerson Fittipaldi.


Number of drivers to have started a race for McLaren: 45

Drivers of 16 different nationalities have started a race for Mclaren, but none has started as many as Patrick Tambay - 28 - without winning a race. The Frenchman is one of just ten drivers to have raced for McLaren and arch rivals Ferrari. The others are: Gilles Villeneuve, Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Fernando Alonso, Jody Scheckter, Niki Lauda, Stefan Johansson, Kimi Raikkonen and Nigel Mansell.

Longest serving driver: David Coulthard

The Scotsman holds the record for the most starts by any driver for McLaren, as well as for the most number of seasons with the team. Coulthard's six-season partnership with Mika Hakkinen, meanwhile, is also the longest in the team's history.

Best opening lap: Senna at Donington

From fourth to fifth to first, all in the space of four soggy kilometres - Ayrton Senna's remarkable first lap at Donington Park will never be forgotten. “The McLaren MP4/8 that Ayrton [Senna] drove to victory in that spectacular Grand Prix at Donington in 1993 – and four other Grands Prix that year besides – was unbelievably intelligent,” says Ron Dennis. “It had the ability to reprogramme itself multiple times in a corner, memorise the best place to change gear, and calculate how much braking was needed when and where: it really was a technological masterpiece. And of course it was a joy to see Ayrton dominate that dramatic race in it. That was extremely satisfying.”



Podium finishes: 485

Only Ferrari, who had several years' headstart, have scored more podiums than McLaren. In terms of drivers, Alain Prost - with 63 - has scored the most for the Woking team, just ahead of Ayrton Senna (55). 

Most successful track: Monaco

It seems apt that Monaco, venue for McLaren's first Grand Prix start in 1966, should also be the track on which they've enjoyed the most success. In total the team have taken a record 15 wins and 11 poles in the Principality, while their tallies of 26 podiums and 17 races led are second only to Ferrari.



Worst race: Monaco 1983

Only once have McLaren failed to qualify two cars at one event, and that was in 1983 at Monaco when only the quickest 20 cars were allowed to start. A combination of tyre trouble and bad weather contributed to John Watson and Niki Lauda missing the cut.

Biggest team mate controversy: Japan 1989

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso’s bust-up during qualifying in Hungary in 2007 comes close, but there can be no doubting that the biggest team mate row in McLaren history took place at Suzuka in 1989 when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost famously clashed at the chicane. Senna went on to win the race, but his subsequent controversial disqualification handed the drivers’ title to Prost, who left for Ferrari at the end of the year. “The most challenging relationship to manage was that between Ayrton and Alain,” recalls Ron Dennis. “Of course, the relationship between Fernando and Lewis had its moments too, but it was different between Alain and Ayrton: they were older, more established, less emotional and more calculating in their rivalry.”



Number of venues raced at: 56

This year will see McLaren race at their 57th different venue - Baku. The circuits they've raced at most are Monza and Monaco.

Pole positions: 155

Remarkably, Ayrton Senna started 46 of his 96 races with McLaren from pole position, while his qualifying lap at Monaco in 1988 - which was 1.427s quicker than Prost's in an identical car - will go down as arguably the best of all time. Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton - joint second on McLaren's all-time list - have 26 poles apiece. 

Best overtake: Hakkinen on Schumacher at Spa

“I am told I was punching the air when Mika won at Spa in 2000, and I find that very easy to believe," remembers Ron Dennis. "His truly unbelievable move [passing Michael Schumacher as both men were] lapping Ricardo [Zonta] will stay in my memory as long as I live. I think there are very few people in Formula One who would not classify that manoeuvre as an amazing overtake - in fact I would rank it as the all-time absolute pinnacle of overtaking manoeuvres.”



Number of different engine partners: 8

McLaren may currently be trying to match the success they achieved with Honda in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it was with Mercedes that they enjoyed their greatest number of victories.

Smallest winning margin: 0.215s

Ayrton Senna's defeat of Nigel Mansell at Monaco in 1992 remains not only the closest margin of victory in McLaren's history, but the smallest winning margin in history in the Principality.

Best final lap: Kimi Raikkonen, Japan 2005

Few will forget Jenson Button's pass of Sebastian Vettel at Canada in 2011 - a move that earned him a remarkable last-to-first victory. But while the Englishman's overtake was brought about by a mistake from Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen's own dramatic last-lap win - at Suzuka in 2005, from 17th on the grid no less - was sealed the hard way with a determined sweep around the outside of Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault. 



McLaren’s best innovation: Carbonfibre monocoque

In 1981, McLaren - under Ron Dennis’s lead - became the first team to produce a carbonfibre Formula One car - the MP4/1. Dennis rates this as a “game-changer” and the team’s greatest contribution to Formula One racing: “It is the biggest single contributing factor to safety there has ever been. Today every serious racing car uses carbonfibre, not only in Formula One but in all major single-seater series.”

Fastest laps: 152

Nobody has picked up more fastest laps in McLaren colours than double world champion Mika Hakkinen, who bagged 25 in 131 starts. Alain Prost (24) and Kimi Raikkonen (19) are next on the list. 

Look out for an exclusive, in-depth interview with Ron Dennis on on Friday.