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McLaren: Top 5 Seasons in Formula 1

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From complete domination to intense battles between past and present teammates, let’s look at McLaren’s top 5 seasons in F1 history.

The British motor racing team, McLaren, is the second-oldest active team and the third most successful Formula One team after Ferrari and Williams. As part of their iconic history, McLaren has a total of 183 race wins, 12 Drivers’ Championships and 8 Constructors’ Championships to their name.

When it comes to great moments and great seasons for the team, there is no shortage to pick from. Listed below, are a few of their best-ever seasons in F1. Where not only the car was a pure representation of sheer speed. The driver lineups were the perfect liaison for the team as a whole. These are the McLaren’s top 5 seasons in Formula 1.

5. 1998 – Mika Häkkinen triumphs over Michael Schumacher

At the opening race, the McLarens of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard lapped the entire field in Australia, starting out their season strong, declaring how dominant their package already was. However, throughout the season Schumacher looked quite strong in his Ferrari, as he put constant pressure on Häkkinen. This season was the start of the classic Schumacher vs Häkkinen rivalry that ran for 3-years.

Despite fighting against the then 2-time World Champion Schumacher, Häkkinen together with his McLaren MP4/13 was resilient and showed he had what it took to claim his first World Drivers Championship. His performance at the Nürburgring was a clear testament to the fact that he could handle the title pressure.

The pressure was well handled by the Flying Finn. He earned his first ever Formula One title by 14 points ahead of Ferrari’s Schumacher. And in a season where Häkkinen was the stronger out of the McLaren duo, the role of teamwork came to play in order to secure both titles. David Coulthard played a huge role in ensuring McLaren the Constructors’ Championship, with a win at the San Marino Grand Prix and 8 podium finishes in a season where he finished in the top 7 of every race he did not retire from.


4. 1989 – Controversy wins

1989 was a year dominated by the McLaren’s of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. In a season where the team managed to win 10 out of the 16 races, have 9 retirements shared between the drivers, and even a disqualification from a race, McLaren were still able to comfortably win both the Drivers’ Championship and the Constructor’s Championship.

The Japanese Grand Prix held that year is considered one of the most controversial races in F1 history. There was a tough rivalry brewing between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna for two years as teammates at McLaren, and the tension seemed to have reached the tipping point. A low-speed collision on lap 47 at the final chicane between the Frenchman and the Brazilian put them both off the track. Prost ditched his stalled car, whilst Senna restarted his, went into the pits to change his front wing, and overtook Benetton’s Alessandro Nannini to take the win. In the aftermath of the race, Senna was controversially disqualified for getting a push start from the marshals to rejoin the circuit. Ultimately, the Japanese Grand Prix decided the 1989 Drivers’ Championship in Prost’s favour.

McLaren remained the team to beat with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost continuing their dark but ever-so-successful partnership. Prost won the title by 16 points, and McLaren won the Constructors’ by a big margin of 64 points.

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3. 2007 – Rookie vs reigning world champion vs spygate

McLaren might have lost out on both titles in 2007, but there is no denying the excellence that resided in that team at the time. The team had signed two new drivers, the reigning 2-time world champion Fernando Alonso, and young rookie, Lewis Hamilton. McLaren also had a good car, so there was no denying the potential for greatness within the team.

McLaren had quite the competition from Ferrari. The two teams were so competitive, that there was a 4-way battle for the Drivers’ title between the McLaren duo and Ferrari drivers, Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa, till the end of the season.

F1 rookie Lewis Hamilton was able to pick up the most wins of the season (4), and McLaren and Ferrari had 6 wins each to their names. The Driver’s Championship was won by Räikkönen with 110 points, and Lewis Hamilton finished his debut season as runner-up with 109 points, with Fernando Alonso taking third on the same number of points as his teammate. Felipe Massa scored a total of 54 points by the end of the season.

Ferrari might have had the faster car that season, but McLaren’s line-up proved to be the stronger package. McLaren would have actually won the Constructors’ Championship had they not been disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship over the “spygate” controversy. The controversy involved the McLaren, Ferrari and Renault F1 teams, with accusations that confidential technical information on Ferrari had been passed between McLaren and Renault.

Had “spygate” not occurred, the Woking-based team would have walked away with at least one title by the end of the 2007 season, but there is no denying that they had a better complete package compared to their Italian rivals. For a team that didn’t have the faster car, they sure put up a big fight.


2. 1984 – Half a point!

The 1984 Formula One season gave us a record-breaking end to the season. The Drivers’ Championship result is the closest finish in all of Formula One history, with Niki Lauda finishing HALF a point above his McLaren teammate Alain Prost.

McLaren won the Constructors’ Championship by 86 points ahead of Ferrari, having won 12 of the 16 races held that season.

McLaren were in a league of their own, so much so that the entire season was just a duel between their two drivers. Prost won 7 races, with Lauda winning 5, although it was the Austrian that won the title.

What made this season even more spectacular is that McLaren were not actually expected to be in the fight for titles. The fight was expected to be between Brabham, Renault and Ferrari as it had been in the previous season, but it was McLaren that came with the perfect setup for the 1984 season. The TAG turbo engine combined with the incredibly designed MP4/2 was a force to be reckoned with.

Reigning Drivers’ Champion Nelson Piquet drove the Brabham-BMW and was typically the fastest on track. He was able to take 9 pole positions. However, reliability issues saw the Brazilian failing to score a point in the first six rounds due to numerous engine and turbo failures, which meant he was never able to challenge consistently. It was a season filled with retirements for many, not just Piquet, but the strong pairing of Prost and Lauda together with the Mp4/2 proved to be the most consistent with desirable results, earning them both titles that year.

The overall package came through for McLaren during that retirement-plagued season, and that is why the season is ranked top 2 in this list.

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1. 1988 – Dominance is the name

If there is a year McLaren would want to experience again, it’s the 1988 season. They were dominant.

For McLaren, their 1988 season was one of their most dominant if not the most. The Woking-based team won a stonking 15 out of 16 races that season, allowing them to win the Constructors’ by a jaw-dropping margin of 134 points ahead of Ferrari. They scored 199 points; that’s more than 3 times the amount of points that Ferrari scored! McLaren would have won all 16 races hadn’t it been for Jean-Louis Schlesser’s accident with Senna at the Italian Grand Prix. The incident allowed Ferrari to take their first 1-2 at the first Italian Grand Prix since the death of their founder, Enzo Ferrari.

The drivers’ title was won by Ayrton Senna – the Brazilian’s first – after a season-long duel with teammate and then double world champion Alain Prost. Prost scored more points, but since not all results counted, Senna took the title, his best eleven results handing him more points than Prost’s. Senna and Prost were separated by 3 points, with 90 and 87 respectively.

The McLaren-Honda cars had dominated the 1988 Formula One season like no one had before. With the Honda turbo, they clearly had the best engines, and with Senna and Prost, they had the two best drivers. It might have not been the most exciting and competitive F1 season for the sport as a whole or for McLaren either, but it was a season where they clearly got everything right. McLaren got the better of the rest of the grid. It is a season to be proud of.


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