|Chassis||Carbon fibre honeycomb monocoque|
|Axle track||Front: 1,803 mm (71.0 in)
Rear: 1,651 mm (65.0 in)
|Wheelbase||2,794 mm (110.0 in)|
|Engine||TAG-Porsche TTE PO1, 1,499 cc (91.5 cu in), 90° V6, turbo, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted|
|Transmission||McLaren / Hewland 5-speed manual|
|Weight||540 kg (1,190.5 lb)|
1985 / 1986: Goodyear
|Notable entrants||Marlboro McLaren International|
|Notable drivers|| Alain Prost
|Debut||1984 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|Constructors' Championships||2 (1984, 1985)|
|Drivers' Championships||3 (1984 Niki Lauda,
1985, 1986 Alain Prost)
The McLaren MP4/2 was a Formula One car designed by John Barnard of McLaren for the 1984 season. An iteration of it, the MP4/2B, was used in the 1985 season, and a slightly updated version, the MP4/2C, raced in the 1986 season for McLaren. It was closely based on the MP4/1E model that was used as a test car, used in the final races of 1983.
Like the majority of its competitors, the car used an all carbon fibre chassis. The car was powered by a 90° V6 TAG-Porsche Turbo engine, which was first used in the final few races of 1983, at the insistence of Niki Lauda, who felt that the new engine required race testing before a championship challenge could be mounted. The existing chassis, the MP4/1 was modified and strengthened to take the new engine and in the final race of the 1983 season, Lauda proved the car was competitive, running at the front of the field and challenging for the lead of the race.
Lauda was joined for 1984 by Alain Prost who had narrowly lost the 1983 championship to Brabham's Nelson Piquet. Prost was openly critical of Renault's failure and was fired, before Ron Dennis snapped up the young Frenchman in place of John Watson (who reportedly asked for more money than Dennis was prepared to pay). Prost and Lauda proved to be a formidable combination. Both were excellent development drivers, and both gave technical feedback on the car and the engine which pushed the car's development far further than the other teams.
The MP4/2 was one of the few F1 cars to use carbon brakes at the time, giving it another major advantage over most of its rivals on all bar street circuits or when conditions were hot and dry; notably, the carbon brakes weren't as good as the steel brakes at tracks like the Detroit and Dallas street circuits due to the steel brakes lasting longer in the heat. That, combined to superior fuel consumption of the allowed 220 litres and the driving skill of Lauda and Prost saw the MP4/2 score 12 wins in 1984, at the time the highest number of wins in a season by a single team. Lauda beat Prost to the championship by a measly half point in the final race, even though Prost had 7 wins to Lauda's 5. Often the MP4/2's were the only cars to finish on the same lap, such was their domination. Their superiority was more obvious on high-speed circuits, particularly the Österreichring, where all 3 variations of the MP4/2 won in successive years, including Lauda's only ever win in his home Grand Prix in 1984. McLaren comfortably won the constructors' championship from Ferrari. Although the MP4/2 was not the fastest car in qualifying (since they were the only top team not using special engines for qualifying)— often beaten by the Brabham BT53-BMW turbo of Piquet who scored 9 pole positions for the season — it was the most reliable and most consistent, attributes which helped it be so successful throughout its career.
On the official FIA video review of the 1984 season (produced by the Formula One Constructors Association), narrator Clive James summed up the year with the words "Anything as fast as the McLarens fell apart, anything as reliable finished later". Even though the comments were made for Round 2 of the championship in South Africa where Lauda and Prost scored the first of four 1-2 finishes for the year and had lapped the entire field, a feat even more remarkable since Prost was forced to start from the pit lane, it proved to be an accurate summary for McLaren's season long dominance. Ironically, it was lucky that both McLarens actually started the race at Kyalami. Due to a massive race morning warm up crash to the Osella-Alfa Romeo of Piercarlo Ghinzani, McLaren were gifted extra time to fix a misfire that had developed in Lauda's TAG-Porsche which required a complete electrical system replacement. Had Ghinzani not crashed Lauda would have been forced to start in the spare car which would have left Prost a non-starter as his own MP4/2 suffered a mechanical fuel pump failure as the grid went away on their final warm up lap. Prost was able to start in the spare from the pit lane (hurriedly converted to his settings as it had been Lauda's for the weekend) and put in one of his trademark drives to be the only other driver to finish on the lead lap with his team mate.
For 1985, the MP4/2 was updated with cleaner aerodynamics and redesigned wings (to comply with new regulations which banned the "winglets" on the rear wings of the cars which had been in use since 1983), while TAG refined the engine and was dubbed the "MP4/2B". The suspension had to be redesigned after McLaren were forced to switch from Michelin to Goodyear tyres when the French company pulled out of Formula One. However, the competition had more or less caught up. Michele Alboreto (Ferrari) fought Prost for most of the season, until McLaren's greater reliability and their superiority in the high-speed circuits that followed told in both championships. Prost won his first championship with 5 wins and wrapped up the title with two rounds still to run by finishing a calculated 4th in the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch (Prost admitted that he didn't like 'driving for points' like he had at Brands and the previous race in Belgium, but after losing the last two championships by only 2 and ½ a point respectively, didn't want to risk losing for a third time). McLaren claimed their second successive constructors' championship, scoring 90 points to Ferrari's 82, with Williams-Honda and Lotus-Renault tied on 71 points. Lauda retired from F1 at the end of the season, but not before adding a final victory to his tally in the 1985 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort where he finished only 0.232 seconds in front of Prost.
Lauda's win in the Netherlands also showed that McLaren had no team orders as to who should finish in front, despite the fact that a win would have been more beneficial to Prost's championship challenge. Going into the race Prost and Alboreto were tied at the top of the table on 50 points. With Prost finishing 2nd and Alboreto 4th, it gave Prost a three point lead in the championship, a lead he would not relinquish to become the first (and so far only) French driver to ever win the World Drivers' Championship.
The MP4/2 was virtually unchanged in 1986, with the exclusion of some tweaking in aerodynamics which saw it dubbed the "MP4/2C", while Prost was joined by Finn Keke Rosberg, the 1982 World Champion when driving for Williams. Rosberg was expected to not only be faster than Prost, but also to push for Prost's championship. However, the Finn's style of driving wasn't suited to the MP4/2C and his task was made difficult by John Barnard's refusal before mid-season to allow him to change the set up to suit. It was only after Rosberg announced his retirement from F1 prior to the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim that Barnard allowed Rosberg to change how his car was set up. Ironically this was also Rosberg's only pole position for the year (Barnard himself would leave the team late in the season to join Ferrari).
By 1986 the Williams FW11 had overtaken McLaren as the best car; notably, the MP4/2's mileage was not as good as it was in 1984 even though the fuel tank size remained the same as in 1984 when the FIA mandated a 220 litre limit (the TAG's fuel mileage was hurt by the increased speeds). Nelson Piquet left Brabham to join Nigel Mansell at Williams and the two fought a fierce internal battle, while Prost cleverly built up his points total and snatched 4 wins from under the Williams teammates' noses. His second world championship was won more by stealth than speed as by now it was clear the TAG Porsche engine was past its best. The TAG-Porsche V6 engine was producing some 850 bhp (634 kW; 862 PS) in race trim by 1986 compared to the over 900 bhp (671 kW; 912 PS) of the Honda, Renault and BMW engines.
Prost won his second championship in dramatic circumstances at the season ending Australian Grand Prix. Going into the race, Prost trailed Mansell by 7 points with Piquet a further 2 behind Prost. Rosberg, in his last ever F1 Grand Prix, cleared out early and built up a 30 second lead before suffering a tyre failure on lap 62 (he later admitted he wouldn't have won anyway as he planned to give best to Prost who needed to win to be able to win the title). Just one lap later Mansell suffered the same, but a much more spectacular tyre failure at some 180 mph (290 km/h) on the high-speed Brabham Straight which ended his race. Piquet, who had inherited Rosberg's lead then pitted for tyres to avoid a repeat of Mansell's problem and handed the lead to Prost (himself having stopped on lap 30 to replace a puncture). Prost went on to win from Piquet and Ferrari's Stefan Johansson (who would replace Rosberg at McLaren for 1987) to secure his second World Championship and become the first driver to win back-to-back championships since Jack Brabham had won in 1959 and 1960.
The MP4/2 won 22 Grands Prix (Prost, 16; Lauda, 6), took 7 pole positions (Prost, 6; Rosberg, 1), and scored 327.5 points throughout its three-year career. It contributed to 2 constructors' titles and 3 drivers' championships, and remains the most successful chassis in F1 history.
Complete Formula One results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|TAG Porsche TTE PO1
|TAG Porsche TTE PO1
|TAG Porsche TTE PO1
Racing Car Of The Year