McLaren are one of the most famous names in Formula 1 and have the second longest continuous presence on the grid (after Ferrari). Since they first entered the sport in 1966, McLaren have expanded into sports car racing, IndyCar in the USA, and they have a prestigious automotive arm, producing some of the finest supercars in the world.
The story of this great team began when New Zealander Bruce McLaren came to Europe in the 1950s to compete in F1. When he won at Sebring in 1959 aged 22, he became the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix – a record that stood for 44 years.
He formed Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd and built his own cars, taking the wheel of his first, the M2B, at the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix. Sadly, McLaren was killed while testing in the summer of 1970 and the team had to regroup in the absence of their founder and technical brains.
Four years later, the Brazilian ace Emerson Fittipaldi scored McLaren’s first Formula 1 World Championship and the feat was repeated by the charismatic James Hunt in an epic 1976 season which saw him go up against the legendary (then) Ferrari driver, Nikki Lauda in a titanic battle.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the company was acquired by a mechanic-turned-team owner called Ron Dennis. He initiated a golden period for the outfit. At that time, McLaren were at the forefront of engineering design and they became the first Formula 1 team to utilise a new space age material called carbon fibre. Not only was this stronger than aluminium, but significantly lighter in weight and so began a revolution in F1 car production.
With backing from Marlboro, TAG and subsequently Honda power, McLaren rose to become the dominant force in Formula 1 with drivers Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna taking World Championships throughout the 1980s. As team-mates, the distrust between Prost and Senna led to one of the most bitter rivalries in the history of the sport.
Two key developments took place in the following decade. The first was a tie-up with Mercedes who provided engines. And the second was a meeting at a motor sport awards ceremony between team boss Ron Dennis and a schoolboy who was setting the pace on the UK’s karting circuits. The youngster was a confident Lewis Hamilton who asked for Mr Dennis’s phone number, as one day, he said, he would be driving for McLaren.
Fast-forward to 2008 and Lewis Hamilton won his first-ever World Championship, at the wheel of a McLaren, in only his second season racing in F1. It remains the last time the team won a Formula 1 title.
In the wake of Ron Dennis’ departure, McLaren’s form slumped. At the beginning of 2021, the team that had scored 12 Drivers’ and eight Constructors’ titles had not won a Grand Prix since Brazil 2012 – or to put it another way – over 160 races ago.
But now under the leadership of Zak Brown and with exciting racers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo behind the wheel, McLaren are edging closer to the top once more and will certainly be racing for glory in Jeddah this December.