Bruce McLaren, born in Auckland New Zealand on the 30th of August 1937 is the man behind the McLaren marquee. He made a far greater impact on the Formula One world than the sum of his results as a driver.
He started driving in his homeland in the mid 1950's and his advancement to single seaters was swift, winning a scholarship to race in Europe in 1958 in Formula Two. His Formula one debut came the following year with Cooper, and by the time the season was
over, he was a regularly scoring points, actually winning the final race of the season at Sebring making him the youngest ever Grand Prix driver. He was only 22. He played the role of number two to Jack Brabham in 1960, but took over the role of number one driver the following year when Brabham left the team. Unfortunately, several frustrating seasons were to follow before he formed his own team. Inspired by Jack Brabham, he formed ' Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.' and constructed his own cars. He built this company into a successful professional outfit that earned a reputation for technical excellence.
His first Formula One chassis was designed by Robin Heard and built in 1966. Unfortunately, the first year of the 3-litre formula made suitable power units extremely scarce and he had to turn to an underpowered Italian Serenissima engine and an overweight Ford. Bruce won the first point for his team in the British Grand Prix in 1966 when he finished sixth after starting from thirteenth on the grid. Herds Ford Cosworth DFV-powered M7 became a potent weapon and Bruce gave it it's maiden victory in the Race of Champions. Enticing his friend and world champion, Danny Hulme to join him in 1968, Danny and the McLaren fought a championship down to the wire, but succumbed to Graham Hill in the final races of the season.
In the North American CanAm sports cars series, the McLarens of Bruce and Danny were a formidable force, but sadly in June of 1970, Bruce was killed while testing a CanAm at Goodwood. His legacy continues to this day and although the M7 was good, the car that was to put McLaren on the map in Formula One was the M23 with which Denny Hulme and Peter Revson won three races in 1973. McLarens first Constructors Crown came in 1974 after Emerson Fittipaldi joined the team after leaving Team Lotus. He took the title after three wins and a number of consistent point scoring finishes. He didn't make it two from two as they lost out to Niki Lauda and Ferrari in 1975 and Fittipaldi left the team at the end of the season. James Hunt replaced him and after a very dramatic season, he won the drivers title by one point but Ferrari took the constructors title. Although hunt won another three races in '77, the McLaren appeared to be overtaken by the incoming ground-effect technology.
Success returned to the team in 1984 after the teams' principal, Teddy Mayer, sold part of the company to Ron Dennis, who at the time was the team boss for the Project Four Formula two team. Ron brought meticulous attention to detail to the team and combined with designer John Barnard, they brought to life one of the Formula One classics, the carbon fibre MP4. The team had been struggling with normally aspirated engines against the emerging turbos in 1983, but the debut of the TAG-badged Porsche showed promise.
In 1984 Dennis signed Alain Prost, and after urging Lauda out of retirement to join McLaren in 82, he now had all the ingredients of a super team. Together Prost and Lauda dominated that first year together, with Prost winning seven races to Lauda's five. Lauda took the title by the smallest of margins, 72 to 71 and a half. Prost got his own back, taking the title for himself and McLaren the following year, and although he won it again in '86, the Williams Honda combination of Mansell and Piquet were clearly superior. In 1988, McLaren had the ultimate team, consisting of Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Honda powered engines. They totally dominated, winning fifteen of the sixteen races that season. Senna won their first title since 1985 and Prost won it again in 1989. Things were not good between the teammates and Prost left for Ferrari at the end of the season. Senna went on to win the title two more years in a row, but Honda withdrew in 1992, leaving the team with Ford power that was comparatively poor. Senna managed five more wins with the team in 1993, before leaving for Williams.
Ford power turned to Peugeot engines in 94, and what followed was a disastrous campaign that didn't yield any wins, so in 95 they switched to the Mercedes engines they run now, but the following two seasons remained barren. David Coulthard was the one to give the team its first victory since Senna won the 1993 season finale in Australia, and fittingly, David's win was also in Australia. The team was strong, but the reliability of the Mercedes engine was poor, with several near misses for both Coulthard and Hakkinen. Coulthard won again at the Italian Grand Prix and Mika Hakkinen secured his first victory in Jerez of 97 when Jacques Villeneuve allowed him to pass his ailing Williams.
1998 saw the dominance of the team begin again. From the beginning of the season, both Mika and David were the class of the field, winning five out of the first six races with sheer superiority. Ferrari and Michael Schumacher fought to the end, but McLaren came out on top again, taking the Constructors and drivers crown once again. Mixed blessings followed for the 99 season. Although the McLaren was still clearly superior, Ferrari and Schumacher continued to eat into their dominance. Mechanical failures, driver errors and pure bad luck hampered the last season of the millennium for the team, which saw Ferrari narrowly take the Constructors crown in the last race, although Mika Hakkinen retained his crown for a second year.
Ferrari dominated from the start of the 2000 season while Mclaren struggled with poor reliability. David Coulthard took second place in the Brazilian Grand Prix, however he was later disqualified for a technical infringement. By the time the third race in 2001 was completed, the Woking outfit knew that Ferrari were going to be extremely hard to beat and although David Coulthard battled courageously against his German rival, the Scot finished a distant second. Meanwhile after what turned out to be a disappointing year, double world champion Mika Hakkinen announced that he would be retiring in 2002 after first declaring it would just be a sabbatical for twelve months. Countryman Kimi Raikkonen replaced the Finn, the young driver opting to leave Sauber for a long-term contract with the Mercedes powered outfit.
A maiden victory was ever so close for the young driver but unfortunately it fell by the wayside after his McLaren lost traction after running through oil from another car. The team dropped back a rung and finished third on the constructor's ladder behind Ferrari and Williams and the season was classed as a disappointment.
Both Raikkonen and Coulthard were forced to contest the whole of the 2003 season using a modified version of the MP4-17 as the new car failed to make its debut. Despite this setback Raikkonen claimed second place in the Drivers' battle, losing by a mere two points. McLaren, though, failed to overhaul the two who beat them in 2002 and once again finished in third place.
McLaren Mercedes looked to be a team in disarray during the first half of the 2004 season. Come the season finale, the team looked strong and very much back where they expect to be - the sharp end of the field. 2004 saw the historic team reach a new low, scoring just five points in the first seven races of the season yet the team worked hard and the results followed with Kimi Raikkonen taking a race win at Spa Francorchamps.
For 2005 the targets are much higher with Juan Pablo Montoya joining Raikkonen in what is arguably the strongest driver lineup in Formula One while the new MP4-20 is very promising