McLaren in profile
Last Updated: 08/02/16 4:01pm
Despite failing to win a race since 2012, Surrey-based McLaren remain a heavyweight of the F1 paddock, playing a leading role in the sport for over 40 years and winning eight Constructors' Championship.
After such a miserable 2015, a ninth is unlikely to follow in 2016 when the team will be targeting the first green shoots of recovery after reforging their iconic partnership with Honda.
Jenson Button will continue to drive for the team in an all-world champion partnership with Fernando Alonso, the man still widely heralded as the grid’s most complete driver and who made a spectacular return to Woking eight years after his ill-fated previous stint with the team ended in an equally-spectacular implosion.
It is a line-up which according to team boss Ron Dennis is “by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team” but will the team have the car - and more importantly - the engine to match their talents in 2016?
The first incarnation of the McLaren-Honda partnership certainly delivered world titles by the bucket load: four consecutive Drivers’ and Constructors’ followed on from the inception of the relationship in 1988 with the battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost the defining ones of that era.
The team that Dennis took over and revitalised at the turn of the '80s was founded by Bruce McLaren in 1963 and had already won one constructors' title - in 1974 - and two drivers' titles, courtesy of Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974 and James Hunt two years later. But McLaren's strike-rate subsequently became more impressive, particularly during a golden era between 1984 and 1991, when they plundered seven Drivers' and six Constructors' Championships with all-time F1 greats Niki Lauda, Senna and Prost.
After a relatively fallow period in the mid-1990s, they then struck back with Mercedes power and Mika Hakkinen in 1998-99, although were subsequently toppled by the Schumacher/Ferrari juggernaut as the new century dawned.
Incredibly, the first of Hakkinen’s title-winning years also represents the most recent of McLaren’s eight Constructors’ Championships, the length of the subsequent drought representing something of a mystery in F1 given the Woking outfit’s pedigree and resources. Only Lewis Hamilton, winning the Drivers' Championship in 2008, has delivered any other silverware to the team.
Certainly there were titles that got away: McLaren would almost certainly have won both crowns in 2007 had the team not become embroiled in the damaging Spygate saga and the management’s relationship with then new signing Alonso not imploded. That Hamilton’s era at the team also yielded just a solitary drivers’ title also probably represented underachievement, particularly during the three years in which the team’s protégé was paired with fellow Brit world champion Button.
Since Hamilton departed for unexpected success at Mercedes in 2013 much has changed at his former employers – not least the dramatic departure of ex-team boss Martin Whitmarsh as part of Dennis’s internal coup to return to power in early 2014 – and the reunion with Honda.
Its a partnership which, second time around, has yet to bear fruit, but McLaren's faith remained unwavering all the way through a wretched 2015 season in which only Manor finished below them in the Constructors' Championship.
Expect better, much better in 2016 - after all, it could hardly go any worse for the sleeping giant of Formula 1.
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