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On The Grid: McLaren Mercedes

The second oldest team in the world championship

Posted Jul 05, 2011 by Chris White

The team has Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at the wheel in 2011

Founded back in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren, a former works driver for the British Formula One team Cooper, set up McLaren racing using modified versions of his Cooper car. The team is currently the second oldest team competing in the Formula One World Championship, after Ferrari, and they have won 171 of their 691 completed races, winning 12 drivers’ championships and 8 constructors’ championships along the way.

The first race victory came at the Belgian Grand Prix of 1968, but progress was halted two years later when McLaren was killed in a testing accident. Teddy Mayer took over as Team Principal and lead McLaren to their first constructors championship in 1974, with Emerson Fittipaldi winning the world championship, followed in 1976 by James Hunt.

Ron Dennis bought out McLaren in 1981, taking over as team principal and starting the most successful period in the team’s history. The team moved from their original base at Coinbrook to Woking as Dennis tried to install his own philosophies on the McLaren racing team.

Alain Prost joined Nikki Lauda behind the wheel at McLaren in 1984 in one of the tightest seasons of all time, with Lauda winning by just half a point. The next year, a third constructors’ championship followed as Prost got his own back on his team mate by winning the drivers’ championship. Prost made it back-to-back championships the next year, as world championship leader Nigel Mansell suffered a puncture, allowing Prost through to take the win and title.

The great Ayrton Senna joined the team in 1988, and went on to win all but one race, only failing at Monza, as he clinched the drivers’ title. Prost won the title back in 1989, but in 1990, Senna won the title again and lead McLaren to yet another constructors’ championship.

After a period of being relatively uncompetitive in the championship, Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen won the title in 1998 and again in 1999 but Ferrari then took over as the dominant force at the turn of the millennium.

In 2007, as teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso did their best to put each other out of the Championship at whatever cost, McLaren were kicked out by the FIA for obtaining the information from a rival team.

2008 was much better as Brit Lewis Hamilton clinched his first drivers’ title, despite championship rival Felipe Massa taking victory at the final race of the season.

Ron Dennis retired as team principal prior to the 2009 season, with Martin Whitmarsh taking over at the helm. Jenson Button joined the team in 2010 as part of an all British lineup but rumours have circulated ever since about whether or not the two drivers actually get on or not. Lewis won in China and Jenson in Canada, but Sebastian Vettel has won every other race in the 2011 season so far.

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