We are the Champions

Atlas F1

We are the Champions

by Marcel Schot, The Netherlands

McLaren - The Seven Years Itch

After seven years, McLaren has won both the drivers and constructors title again. With ten drivers championships and seven constructors championships, the team stands out as one of the best ever, only surpassed by Ferrari. One fact makes McLaren's success even more impressive than Ferrari's: McLaren was founded in only 1963, when young Bruce McLaren established McLaren Motor Racing Ltd.

Three years after the team's beginning, the highest level of competition was reached: in the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix the McLaren team made its debut in Formula One. In only the team's third season, Bruce McLaren drove the car to victory at Spa.

A Champagne Spray for RonEven though founder Bruce McLaren died in 1970, the team gradually improved, until the ultimate in Formula One was reached in 1974, when Emerson Fittipaldi gave the team its first World Championship and also contributed largely in the team's first Constructors Championship. James Hunt claimed the drivers' title again two years later, after Ferrari driver Niki Lauda pulled out of the Japanese Grand Prix and Hunt finished third, ending up with a one point victory.

After those two titles, a dry spell of seven years followed, during which the current company - McLaren International - was formed in September 1980 as a result of a merger between Team McLaren and Project Four, a British company owned by the current Managing Director, Ron Dennis.

With the new company maturing over the years, 1984 marked the beginning of a dominance rarely seen in motor racing. From 1984 until 1991, McLaren won six constructors championships and seven drivers championships. The first titles were the direct result of the cooperation with the TAG ("Techniques D'Avant Garde") Group, which started in 1982 when it financed the development of a new Grand Prix Turbo engine. The engine was built by Porsche to McLaren's specification and gave Niki Lauda and Alain Prost world titles in 1984 and 1985 respectively.

After Prost won the title again in 1986, the next year was the only one in that "seven good years" period in which McLaren did not win the drivers title. 1988 however, saw an almost perfect McLaren season, with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna taking fifteen of the sixteen wins and both titles. In the years that followed, Prost and Senna twice scored another three titles. With these titles and the constructors titles in all of those four seasons, McLaren stands alone in winning both titles in four consecutive seasons.

Mika Rules!After another dry spell of six years, McLaren finally saw the deal with Mercedes, which started in 1995, pay off with a pair of championships this year. Mika Hakkinen became only the third World Champion with 100 or more points (Michael Schumacher in 1995 and Nigel Mansell in 1992 being the other two) and McLaren scored its highest number of points since 1988.

Hakkinen - The Numbers of Success

Mika Hakkinen's Formula One career embarked after his remarkable performance in the British Formula 3 championship in 1990, having finished 7th in his first season there. He won the Championship with a 23 point lead over fellow Finn Mika Salo, while completely dominating his teammates Christian Fittipaldi and Minoru Tanaka.

When looking at Mika Hakkinen's grid and race positions in Formula One through the years, it becomes clearly visible why McLaren wanted him in the first place. After years of working together, all pieces fell into place this season.

                                average      best      average        
Year  Races Team               Grid  Race  Grid  Race  Points/race    

1991  16    Lotus-Judd         23.6  12.0   13     5     0.133        
1992  16    Lotus-Ford         14.2   6.3    7     4     0.733        
1993   3    McLaren-Ford        3.7   3.0    3     3     1.333        
1994  15    McLaren-Peugeot     6.3   4.5    2     2     1.733        
1995  16    McLaren-Mercedes    7.9   4.7    3     2     1.133        
1996  16    McLaren-Mercedes    6.6   4.8    4     3     1.938        
1997  17    McLaren-Mercedes    6.1   4.7    1     1     1.588        
1998  16    McLaren-Mercedes    1.7   1.9    1     1     6.250        
  • The average race position is taken from the races he actually finished.
  • In both 1991 and 1992 Hakkinen did not qualify for 1 race. In 1995, Hakkinen qualified as 24th and last for the Adelaide Grand Prix because of his accident. Had this score not be taken into account, his average grid position would have been 6.9.

A comparison to Hakkinen's teammates show he's very dominant in qualifying, even beating Ayrton Senna in his first race for McLaren. The only ones to out qualify Hakkinen on a seasonal basis were Senna and Johnny Herbert in 1992. However, Hakkinen showed his best race record in that same year.

Year  Teammate        Qualifying  Race                                 

1991  Julian Bailey      4-0      1-0 (Bailey 3 DNQ)                   
      Johnny Herbert     3-5      3-3 (Hakkinen & Herbert 1 DNQ)       
      Michael Bartels    4-0      0-0 (Bartels 4 DNQ)                  
      ================= 11-5      4-3                                  
1992  Johnny Herbert     7-9     11-4 (Hakkinen 1 DNQ)                 
1993  Ayrton Senna       1-2      1-2                                  
1994  Martin Brundle    15-0      9-6                                  
1995  Mark Blundell     12-1      6-7 (Adelaide not taken into account)
      Nigel Mansell      2-0      2-0                                  
      ================= 14-1      8-7                                  
1996  David Coulthard   12-4     10-6                                  
1997  David Coulthard   11-6      7-10                                 
1998  David Coulthard   13-3     12-4                                  
                       84-30    62-42                                  

Taking a look at Hakkinen's race performances reveals a remarkable number, perhaps the tell-all of Hakkinen's career until this season - he had 31 mechanical retirements, more than one out of every four races he started. Another significant number - nearly half the races Hakkinen started in Formula One, he finished in the points. Considering the fact that for many years he drove not quite a uncompetitive vehicle, this no doubt can be attributed to Hakkinen's sheer talent.

Race presence          115                                    
Wins                     9 ( 7.8%)                            
Poles                   10 ( 8.7%)                            
Front row               15 (13.0%)                            
Podiums                 27 (23.5%)                            
Points finishes         49 (42.6%)                            
Championship points     218 (1.9 points average per race)      
Races finished          67 (58.3%)                            
Not qualified            2 ( 1.7%)                            
Not started              1 ( 0.9%)                            
Disqualified             1 ( 0.9%)                            
Banned                   1 (not included in the 115 GPs count)
Spun off                 5 ( 4.3%)                            
Collision                8 ( 7.0%)                            
Mechanical failure      31 (27.0%)                            
  • 19 of Hakkinen's mechanical failures were due to engine failure

Marcel Schot 1998 Atlas Formula One Journal.
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all Statistics used in the article are taken from the Forix website database at http://www.forix.com