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McLaren Mercedes

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The McLaren-Mercedes alliance started with the 1995 MP4/10. It was not a front-runner and Martin Brundle's replacement, former champion Nigel Mansell, was unable to fit into the car at first and departed after just two races, with Mark Blundell taking his place.[1]

1996-2006Edit

While Williams dominated in 1996, McLaren, now with David Coulthard alongside Mika Häkkinen,[2] went a third successive season without a win. In 1997, however, Coulthard broke this run by winning the season-opening Australian Grand Prix; Häkkinen and he would each win another race before the end of the season, and highly rated designer Adrian Newey joined the team from Williams in August that year.[3] Despite the car's improved pace, unreliability proved costly throughout the season, with retirements at the British and Luxembourg Grands Prix occurring whilst Häkkinen was in the lead.

With Newey able to take advantage of new technical regulations for 1998,[4] and with Williams losing their works Renault engines, McLaren were once again able to challenge for the championship; F1 Racing magazine stated that the only way to increase their championship hopes was to hire Ferrari's double champion Michael Schumacher.[5] Häkkinen and Coulthard won five of the first six races despite the banning of the team's "brake steer" system, which allowed the rear brakes to be operated individually to reduce understeer, after a protest by Ferrari at the second race in Brazil.[6][7][8] Schumacher and Ferrari provided the greatest competition, the former levelled on points with Häkkinen with two races to go, but wins for Häkkinen at the Luxembourg and Japanese Grands Prix gave both him the drivers' championship and McLaren the constructors' championship. Häkkinen won his second drivers' championship the following season, but due to a combination of driver errors and mechanical failures, the team lost the constructors' title to Ferrari.

 
Mechanics push Kimi Räikkönen's MP4-19 into the garage during qualifying for the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2004.

Year 2000 was not a repeat of recent successes: McLaren won seven races in a close fight with Ferrari, but ultimately Ferrari and Schumacher prevailed in both competitions. This marked the start of a decline in form as Ferrari cemented their position at the head of Formula One. In 2001, Häkkinen was outscored by Coulthard for the first time since 1997 and retired (ending Formula One's longest ever driver partnership), his place taken by Kimi Räikkönen,[9] then in 2002, Coulthard took their solitary win at Monaco while Ferrari repeated McLaren's 1988 feat of 15 wins in a season.

The year 2003 started very promisingly, with one win each for Coulthard and Räikkönen at the first two Grands Prix. However, they were hampered when the MP4-18 car designed for that year suffered crash test and reliability problems, forcing them to use a 'D' development of the year-old MP4-17.[10] Despite this, Räikkönen scored points consistently and challenged for the championship up to the final race, eventually losing by two points. The team began 2004 with the MP4-19, which technical director Adrian Newey described as "a debugged version of [the MP4-18]".[10] It was not a success, though, and was replaced mid-season by the MP4-19B. With this, Räikkönen scored the team's and his only win of the year at the Belgian Grand Prix, as McLaren finished fifth in the constructors' championship, their worst ranking since 1983.

Coulthard left for Red Bull Racing in 2005 to be replaced by former CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya for what was McLaren's most successful season in several years as he and Räikkönen won ten races. However, the unreliability of the MP4-20 cost a number of race victories when Räikkönen had been leading or in contention to win allowing Renault and their driver Fernando Alonso to capitalise and win both titles.

 
Kimi Räikkönen nearly won the drivers' championship in 2005.

In 2006, the team failed to build on the previous year's good form as the superior reliability and speed of the Ferraris and Renaults prevented the team from gaining any victories for the first time in a decade. Montoya parted company acrimoniously with the team to race in NASCAR after the United States Grand Prix, where he crashed into Räikkönen at the start; test driver Pedro de la Rosa deputised for the remainder of the season.[11] The team also lost Räikkönen to Ferrari at the end of the year.[12]

Steve Matchett argued that the poor reliability of McLaren in 2006 and recent previous years was due to a lack of team continuity and stability.[13] His cited examples of instability are logistical challenges related to the move to the McLaren Technology Centre, Adrian Newey's aborted move to Jaguar and later move to Red Bull, the subsequent move of Newey's deputy to Red Bull, and personnel changes at Ilmor.[13]

 
Fernando Alonso had a difficult and controversial year with McLaren in 2007.

2007-2014Edit

The 2007 season had Fernando Alonso, who had been contracted over a year previously,[14] race alongside Formula One debutant and long-time McLaren protege Lewis Hamilton.[15] The pair scored four wins each and led the drivers' championship for much of the year, but tensions arose within the team, some commentators claiming that Alonso was unable to cope with Hamilton's competitiveness.[16] At the Hungarian Grand Prix, Alonso was judged to have deliberately impeded his team-mate during qualifying, so the team were not allowed to score constructors' points at the event.[17] Indeed, an internal agreement within the McLaren team stated that drivers would alternatively have an extra lap for qualifying, that Lewis Hamilton refused to accept for the Hungarian Grand Prix, explaining Alonso's decision. Subsequently, the McLaren team were investigated by the FIA for being in possession of proprietary detailed technical blueprints of Ferrari's car – the so-called "Spygate" controversy. At the first hearing, McLaren management consistently denied all knowledge, blaming a single "rogue engineer". However, in the final hearing, McLaren were found guilty and the team were excluded from the constructors' championship and fined $100M.[18] The drivers were allowed to continue without penalty, and whilst Hamilton led the drivers' championship heading into the final race in Brazil, Räikkönen in the Ferrari won the race and the drivers' championship, a single point ahead of both McLaren drivers. In November, Alonso and McLaren agreed to terminate their contract by mutual consent, Heikki Kovalainen filling the vacant seat alongside Hamilton.[19][20]

 
Lewis Hamilton won 2008's season-opening race in Australia and went on to win the title.

In 2008, a close fight ensued between Hamilton and the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Räikkönen; Hamilton won five times and despite also crossing the finish line first at the Belgian Grand Prix, he was deemed to have gained an illegal advantage by cutting a chicane during an overtake and was controversially demoted to third.[21] Going into the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix Hamilton had a seven-point lead over Massa. Massa won there, but Hamilton dramatically clinched his first drivers' championship by moving into the necessary fifth position at the final corner of the final lap of the race. Despite winning his first Grand Prix in Hungary, Kovalainen finished the season only seventh in the overall standings, allowing Ferrari to take the constructors' title.

Before the start of the 2009 season, Dennis retired as team principal, handing responsibility to Martin Whitmarsh,[22] but the year started badly: the MP4-24 car was off the pace and the team was given a three-race suspended ban for misleading stewards at the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix.[23] Despite these early problems, a late revival had Hamilton win at the Hungarian and Singapore Grands Prix. McLaren signed that year's champion, Jenson Button, to replace Kovalainen alongside Hamilton in 2010.[24]

Button won twice (in Australia and China) and Hamilton three times (in Turkey, Canada, and Belgium), but they and McLaren failed to win their respective championships, that year's MP4-25 largely outpaced by Red Bull's RB6.

Hamilton and Button remained with the team into 2011, with Hamilton winning three races – China, Germany, and Abu Dhabi and Button also winning three races – Canada, Hungary, and Japan. Button finished the driver's championship in second place with 270 points behind 2011 Drivers' Champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing, ahead of Hamilton's 227 points. McLaren were second in the Constructors' Championship to Red Bull Racing.

 
Sergio Pérez driving for McLaren at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

In 2012, McLaren won the first race of the year in Australia with a 1–3 finish for Button and Hamilton, while Hamilton went on to win in Canada, but by the mid-way mark of the season at the team's home race at Silverstone, the McLaren cars managed only eighth place (Hamilton) and 10th place (Button), while the drivers' and constructors' championships were being dominated by Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, whose cars occupied the first four places of the British Grand Prix, this was partially due to pit stop problems and Button's loss of form after not working as well with the new car as Hamilton and the car not adapting to the Pirelli tyres. The car also suffered reliability problems which cost the team and its drivers numerous potential points, most notably in Singapore and Abu Dhabi, where Hamilton had been leading from the front in both races.[25]

Sergio Pérez replaced Hamilton for 2013, after Hamilton decided to leave for Mercedes.[26][27] The team's car for the season, the MP4-28, was launched on 31 January 2013.[28] The car struggled to compete with the other top teams and the season had McLaren fail to produce a podium finish for the first time since 1980.[29]

Kevin Magnussen replaced Pérez for 2014, and Ron Dennis, who had remained at arm's length since stepping down from the team principal role, returned as CEO of the operation.[29] McLaren were the first team to officially launch their 2014 car, the MP4-29, which was revealed on 24 January 2014.[29] They had a largely unsuccessful 2014; their best result was in Australia where – after Daniel Ricciardo's disqualification from second place – Magnussen finished second and Button third. Button subsequently finished fourth in Canada, Britain, and Russia. Their highest grid position was in Britain with Button's third place on the grid.[30]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Allsop, Derick (24 May 1995). "Mansell faces retirement after McLaren exit". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Henry 1999, p. 104
  3. ^ "Newey's magic touch". BBC Sport. 2 June 2001. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Wright, Peter (8 March 1998). "The 1998 Formula 1 cars". grandprix.com. Retrieved 13 April 2010. 
  5. ^ F1 Racing. December 1997.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Bishop, Matt. "Pedal to Metal". The Best of F1 Racing 1996–2006. p. 66. 
  7. ^ Tremayne, David (29 March 1998). "Motor Racing: No brake in McLaren routine". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  8. ^ Tremayne & Hughes 1998, p. 232
  9. ^ "Hakkinen announces retirement". BBC Sport. 26 July 2002. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Benson, Andrew (23 December 2003). "Bold new dawn for McLaren". BBC Sport. Retrieved 6 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "McLaren agree to release Montoya". BBC Sport. 11 July 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  12. ^ "Ferrari reveal Raikkonen signing". BBC Sport. 10 September 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Matchett, Steve (June 2007). "No-catch 22". F1 Racing. Haymarket Publishing. pp. 58–63. 
  14. ^ Moffitt, Alastair (20 December 2005). "Alonso to make shock switch from Renault to McLaren". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 12 April 2007. 
  15. ^ "Hamilton gets 2007 McLaren drive". BBC. 24 November 2006. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  16. ^ "How Hamilton drove Alonso to the edge". BBC Sport. 16 September 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  17. ^ "Hungarian Grand Prix 2007". BBC. 5 August 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2010. 
  18. ^ "McLaren hit with constructors' ban". BBC Sport. 13 September 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  19. ^ Benson, Andrew (2 November 2007). "Alonso secures exit from McLaren". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2 November 2007. 
  20. ^ "Kovalainen to partner Hamilton at McLaren for 2008". Formula One. 14 December 2007. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2007. 
  21. ^ Smith, Ben (8 September 2008). "World media bemused by Lewis Hamilton decision". The Times. UK. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  22. ^ Eason, Kevin (16 January 2009). "Ron Dennis leaves McLaren in safe hands". The Times. UK. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "McLaren given suspended race ban". BBC Sport. 29 April 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  24. ^ Benson, Andrew (18 November 2009). "Button joins Hamilton at McLaren". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Abu Dhabi GP: Lewis Hamilton says McLaren not good enough". BBC Sport. 4 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  26. ^ Benson, Andrew (28 September 2012). "Lewis Hamilton to leave McLaren after signing Mercedes contract". BBC Sport. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  27. ^ "Lewis Hamilton: Sergio Perez joins McLaren from Sauber". BBC Sport. 28 September 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  28. ^ "McLaren set to launch MP4-28 on January 31". ESPN F1. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c Benson, Andrew. "BBC Sport – McLaren unveil MP4-29 car for 2014 Formula 1 season". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  30. ^ "Data Search Results". chicanef1.com. Retrieved 31 January 2015.