Exciting History of McLaren in Formula 1


Posted: December 6, 2023

Updated: December 6, 2023

  • McLaren is one of the most successful and iconic Formula 1 teams
  • Although the team's best days are gone, it's interesting to go through its history
Image source: Pixabay

McLaren is one of the most successful and iconic F1 teams, with a rich and storied legacy that spans several decades. It is usually considered the second-best team in the competition after Ferrari. Although most of its success was achieved in the 1980s and 1990s, it would be interesting to go through the entire history of McLaren in Formula 1 – there’s a lot to learn!

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History of McLaren in Formula 1: foundation years 

McLaren was founded by New Zealander Bruce McLaren in 1963. Initially established as Bruce McLaren Motor Racing, the team’s early years saw success in various racing categories such as Formula 2, the second-tier championship you can also follow at online sportsbooks in Ireland.

The team made its Formula 1 debut in 1966 where it quickly gained a reputation for innovation, including being one of the first teams to use a fully-skirted car to generate downforce. Bruce McLaren secured the team’s first Formula 1 victory at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix, and everyone thought that this team had great prospects in front of it. Tragically, Bruce McLaren lost his life in a testing accident in 1970 and the team’s future was in doubt without its creator and leader. Despite this setback, the team continued with Teddy Mayer taking over the leadership. 

Dominance with Emerson Fittipaldi & James Hunt 

The history of McLaren in Formula 1 records the team’s significant success in the 1970s. Drivers such as Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt secured World Championships for the team in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Hunt’s triumph was vividly presented in one of the best movies about F1, Rush, where he was played by Chris Hemsworth. Starting in 1978, McLaren’s performance started to drop off and the team settled in the middle of the pack until the early 1980s.

history of McLaren in Formula 1
Image source: Matti Blume, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Partnership with TAG-Porsche 

The mid-1980s saw McLaren form a successful partnership with TAG-Porsche. During this period, Niki Lauda and Alain Prost secured championships for McLaren in 1984 and 1985. After Lauda quit Formula 1, McLaren brought Keke Rosberg to assist Prost in winning another title. It resulted in a dramatic finish at Adelaide where, as it was believed, McLaren and Rosberg initiated a sabotage to fool the Williams team who were favourites to win the title with Nigel Mansell. Rosberg was deliberately left out longer on worn tyres to make Williams think that the tyres can withstand until the end of the race. When Rosberg’s tyres blew up, Williams were caught in no man’s land since if they pitted they would lose the race and the title to Prost. They did not pit, and the tyres blew up in two laps – Prost won the race that was crowned as the champion of 1986.

Switching to Honda – Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna era 

One of the most iconic periods for McLaren was the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were teammates. The rivalry between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna is one of the most iconic and intense rivalries in the history of Formula 1. Both drivers competed against each other during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and their battles on the track became legendary.

The rivalry reached its peak in the 1988 and 1989 seasons. In 1988, Prost and Senna were teammates at McLaren, and Senna won the championship after a season-long battle. However, their relationship soured due to on-track incidents and disputes over team dynamics. In 1989, the tension between Prost and Senna escalated, leading to controversial incidents, including a collision at the Japanese GP that ultimately decided the championship in Prost’s favour. The collision led to Senna’s disqualification, but he believed that Prost had deliberately taken him out to secure the title. The rivalry continued even after their time together at McLaren, with Senna staying at McLaren and Prost moving to Ferrari. We’ve mentioned this fact while covering the history of Ferrari.

Partnership with Mercedes-Benz and immense success

The collaboration between McLaren and Mercedes began in 1995. Mercedes-Benz provided the team with engines, and the partnership quickly became successful. In 1998, Mika Häkkinen won the Drivers’ Championship, and the team secured the Constructors’ Championship. The same feat was repeated in 1999, with Hakkinen defending his title against Ferrari’s Eddie Irvine. 

history of McLaren in Formula 1
Image source: Pixabay

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the history of McLaren in Formula 1 was filled with successful finishes, as the team was regularly competing for race wins and championships. Drivers like Mika Häkkinen, David Coulthard and Kimi Räikkönen played key roles in the team’s success during this period. Both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton joined McLaren Mercedes in 2007 and everything was great for the team until inner conflict saw them disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship and the Title slip away on the last couple of races. 

The next year, Hamilton secured his first World Championship in 2008 in one of the most dramatic finishes in F1’s history. Bet on the driver to win his eight title in 2024 at 22Bet Sportsbook.

Struggle with Honda and Renault

McLaren faced challenging times in the early 2010s. For most of the time, they have been rebuilding and aiming for a competitive position in Formula 1. However, it never came to fruition. Great McLaren chassis did not cooperate very well with an underpowered Honda engine, which was infamously quoted by Fernando Alonso as “GP2 engine”. Switching to Renault in 2018 helped very little, but the performance improved – the team managed to achieve its first since 2013 podium at the last race of 2019, courtesy of Carlos Sainz. In the 2020 season, the team took multiple podiums and secured third place in the Constructors’ Championship.

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Modern history of McLaren in Formula 1 – Back to Mercedes

In 2021, McLaren switched from Renault to Mercedes power units, renewing an old partnership. The team has been making steady progress and continues to be a competitive force in the midfield. 2023 season proved that McLaren are on the right path to success with two young and hungry-for-success drivers and a powerful car. You can bet on the team’s success in the next season at online gambling sites in Ireland.


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