McLaren are one of the oldest and most iconic names in Formula 1, competing in and winning more races than all but one team.
1960s and 70s
The British outfit, founded by Bruce McLaren, joined the grid in 1966 with the man himself at the wheel.
They began to make their mark in 1968 when he picked up their first win at the Belgian Grand Prix. Two further victories courtesy of team-mate Denny Hulme gave them P2 in the final standings.
That was as good as things got for a while with the team winning just once in the next three campaigns. In that period, McLaren himself also tragically lost his life, crashing while competing in the Canadian-American Challenge Cup.
His legacy lived on through his team though, and in 1972, they started to enjoy some real success again, finishing P3 in the championship that year and the next, regularly claiming podiums.
Emerson Fittipaldi was signed in 1974 and won the title as he did two years earlier, becoming McLaren’s first World Champion, also helping them win the Constructors’ Championship.
The Brazilian left after finishing second to Niki Lauda the following year and was replaced by James Hunt, who was able to prevail over the Austrian in 1976.
That was the last title McLaren would win in the 70s, with the last two years of the decade in particular being poor ones.
The team started the 80s in poor form, finishing down in P9 in the standings in 1980 and P6 in 1981, only standing on the podium on four occasions in those two years.
Former rival Lauda was signed for 1982 and his arrival coincided with an upturn in fortunes with he and team-mate John Watson putting McLaren second to Ferrari in the championship.
The 1984 season was a disappointing one for the Austrian and co, but after that, the team would reach new heights.
Alain Prost, who drove for the team in 1980, was brought back to partner Lauda in 1985 and the pair were given a car worthy of their talents, allowing them to dominate. Both scored more points than any other team, with Lauda beating Prost by half a point in the closest title fight ever.
The Frenchman made up for that a year later, winning his first championship with ease as McLaren secured their second straight title double.
They weren’t able to make it three from three in 1987, being beaten by Williams, but Prost did retain the Drivers’ Championship, narrowly beating Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.
He and the team were comfortably second best to Williams in 1988, but Ayrton Senna joined after that and what followed was one of McLaren’s best ever periods. The Brazilian and Prost dominated the next two years, winning one title each and forming one of sport’s greatest rivalries.
Prost left before the 1990 campaign, being replaced by Gerhard Berger but McLaren’s reign at the top of the sport continued.
Both that year and the next, Senna won the title while Berger did enough to ensure the team scored more points than any other. At that time, their four year run as champions was the longest ever.
It would end in 1992, with Williams once again being the team to deny them, and that was the start of a title drought that lasted seven years, but neither McLaren nor any of their drivers were able to claim a championship.
In that time, Mika Hakkinen was their only constant when it came to drivers, but didn’t have a good enough car to achieve much, winning only one race. In 1998, that finally changed.
The Finn fought the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher for the title and came out on top, while his team-mate, David Coulthard, scored more points than Schumacher’s, Eddie Irvine. At last, both titles were back in McLaren’s hands.
They didn’t stay there for long though with Ferrari scoring four points more in the final year of the 20th century. On the bright side, Hakkinen managed to win the Drivers’ Championship again.
Ferrari winning the Constructors’ Championship in 1999 was very much a sign of things to come, with the Italian team and Schumacher dominating McLaren in the early 2000s.
After finishing second to the Scuderia in the first two years, matters got even worse with them falling behind Williams in the pecking order in 2003.
It wasn’t until 2007 that the team were genuinely in the mix for both championships again. They entered the year with a top car and an all-new lineup, putting rookie Lewis Hamilton alongside reigning champion Fernando Alonso.
Both spent all season at the front, creating a fiery intra-team battle, but former driver Raikkonen took the title ahead of both at the final round. To make matters worse, McLaren were disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship for illegally possessing Ferrari technical documents.
Having fallen out with the team, Alonso was replaced by Heikki Kovalainen, and while he didn’t do well enough for the team to beat Ferrari in 2008, Hamilton brought home the other title on the final lap of the final race.
He wasn’t able to come close to retaining it in 2009 though, in what was a poor year for the team.
Jenson Button was put alongside Hamilton in 2010 and the two both competed for the title that year, but they and their team were ultimately beaten by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, and they’d get rather accustomed to that in the years to come.
They didn’t have an answer for the German and his team for the next two years, picking up podiums and the occasional win but nothing more. Concerned with the direction they were going in and in need of a new environment, Hamilton left for Mercedes at the end of 2012.
It proved to be a good move as the German team became the best of the rest behind Red Bull in 2013 while McLaren dropped down to P5 where they would stay in 2014, being closer to the midfield than the frontrunners.
Those struggles were nothing compared to what followed though as a switch from Mercedes to Honda engines worked out catastrophically. For the two of the next three years, even with Alonso returning, they were one of the backmarkers of the grid, severely lacking both pace and reliability.
The team switched to Renault engines in 2018 and began to move back up the field, finishing that year in P6 before moving to the top of the midfield in 2019 with a lineup of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
Good progress continued to be made in 2020, with Norris and Sainz giving the team their first top-three finish in the final standings for eight years and multiple podiums for the first time in six.
Sainz was lost to Ferrari after that and replaced with Daniel Ricciardo for the 2021 campaign. While the Aussie struggled to find his best form, often being outperformed by the increasingly impressive Norris, he did give McLaren their best race in a long, long time.
After taking the lead of the Italian Grand Prix at the start, he kept his cool to claim victory while his team-mate crossed the line just behind him in P2. It was the first McLaren win since 2012 and the first 1-2 since 2010.
Their resurgence has seen them become arguably the most popular team in the sport, and with such strong progress being made in recent years and an excellent young driver in Norris leading them, their future looks as bright as their papaya cars.
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