We cel­e­brate McLaren’s 50 years in F1

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - Fol­low An­thony on Twit­ter: @Rowl­in­son_F1

What might Bruce McLaren think to­day were he to take a tour of the steel-and-glass ar­chi­tec­tural ex­trav­a­ganza that is the McLaren Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre? He’d prob­a­bly be stunned that For­mula 1 has come so far, so fast, since he first led his team to a grand prix start at Monaco, in 1966 (though he would also be de­lighted that the Austin 7 in which he be­gan rac­ing still takes pride of place in the MTC’s ‘Boule­vard’ en­trance walk­way).

McLaren’s first grand prix wasn’t the most aus­pi­cious: Bruce qual­i­fied his M2B tenth, al­most three sec­onds off the pole time of Jim Clark’s Lo­tus 33, and his race lasted only nine laps be­fore he had to re­tire be­cause of an oil leak. But it was the start of some­thing very big in­deed. Within two sea­sons McLaren were race win­ners – Bruce be­com­ing only the sec­ond man to win a grand prix in a car bear­ing his own name, in Bel­gium. By the end of that year, 1968, they’d won two more and fin­ished sec­ond in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship.

Since that de­but, 50 years ago, McLaren have won 182 GPs, sec­ond only to Fer­rari, who, with an ex­tra 16 sea­sons of com­pe­ti­tion, have 224. For the record, McLaren have also won eight con­struc­tors’ ti­tles and pro­duced seven world cham­pi­ons, who have taken 12 ti­tles be­tween them. But McLaren are about much more than stats; they rep­re­sent so much of the essence of F1, that it’s im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine the sport with­out them.

As we note in our ‘great ri­vals’ fea­ture on page 62, they’re as vi­tal to the soul of F1 as are their great Ital­ian peers in Maranello. Twin but­tresses of the sport, McLaren and Fer­rari have been cen­tral to its nar­ra­tive for al­most five decades. They gave us Hunt vs Lauda; Senna vs Prost (round 2); Häkki­nen vs Schu­macher and Hamil­ton vs Massa – each of them bat­tles for the ages.

While McLaren haven’t been front-run­ners since 2012 and it’s im­pos­si­ble to over­look the tri­als of 2015 (their least com­pet­i­tive sea­son since 1980), McLaren are an or­gan­i­sa­tion “with win­ning in their DNA” as CEO Ron Den­nis might put it (for more from Ron turn to our ex­clu­sive ‘Long In­ter­view’ on page 34). And they’ve en­dured far worse than a mere loss of speed. Bruce’s death in a sportscar test­ing ac­ci­dent at Good­wood in 1970 would have fin­ished a lesser team. In­stead, those who sur­vived him, in­clud­ing Teddy Mayer, Alas­tair Cald­well and Tyler Alexan­der, dusted them­selves down and car­ried on: ‘Be­cause Bruce would have wanted it.’

So it’s with caps doffed that we ded­i­cate most of this is­sue to cel­e­brat­ing McLaren’s 50 years in F1, con­fi­dent in the knowl­edge that while form is tem­po­rary, class is per­ma­nent – and that McLaren will re­turn to win­ning ways, be­cause they have al­ways been a class act.

As an F1 team, they some­times seem im­pen­e­tra­ble, un­trust­ing of out­siders, wary of those who might seek to dam­age the in­ner cir­cle. Get to know them a lit­tle, though, and McLaren are re­vealed as a team of warm­hearted rac­ers, ut­terly ded­i­cated to com­pe­ti­tion. Safe to say, then, that while Bruce might be bowled over at what McLaren have be­come, he’d soon feel right at home.

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