The start of the 2007 formula season has seen the spotlight fall firmly on the McLaren Formula One team with the arrival Lewis Hamilton on the scene. With his incredible success so far in his debut season and a few controversies along the way, McLaren has barely been out of the sports news pages.
However this success is not new for the team. During its history the team has won 8 constructors championships and 11 drivers championships with motor sport legends such as Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Ayrton Senna and more recently Mika Häkkinen. In fact they are the second most successful formula one team after Ferrari, with more Grand Prix wins under their belt than any other constructor other than Ferrari.
The team was founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren and was at that time know as Bruce McLaren Motor Racing limited. They spent their first three years building a formula one car and were finally ready to make their debut at the Monaco Grand Prix of 1966 with the team founder at the wheel The first race ended in failure as a result of a serious oil leak however the team went on to score their first championship point later that year. !968 saw the team score their first race win as Bruce piloted the McLaren Ford to victory in Belgium. They then went on to record further wins in Italy and Canada later that year.
The 1970s started in tragedy for McLaren as Bruce McLaren lost his life in a testing accident at Goodwood. Although the team continued his legacy they wouldn’t see another race win for two years. Finally at the South African grand prix in 1972 Denny Hulme, former world champion, recorded his first race win for McLaren since Bruce’s death..
1974 saw a turnaround in the teams fortunes. Emerson Fittipaldi joined the team and with his driving managed to win their first world constructors title as well as the world drivers title. They even managed to win the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. The team’s next championship win came in 1976 with James Hunt taking over from Fittipaldi and taking the drivers championship.
By the 1980’s McLaren were back on form. The McLaren team merged with Ron Dennis’ Formula 2 team to from the current McLaren F1 team and they began their dominance of Formula one. A succession of top drivers over the next few years, the likes of Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna brought great results with McLaren taking the championship in 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1989. Team mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost achieved the highest number of double race wins of any pair in F1, notching up 14 wins between them in 1988 and 1989. This partnership holds the record for the most wins in a season, winning 15 out of the 16 races in 1988. 1988 was seen as the pinnacle of their success to date. The winning combination of Senna & Prost together with class leading new Honda engine meant that not only did they win all but one race, they also led all but 27 laps of the season, a record still unbeaten today.