Mika Hakkinen drove for the McLaren team from 1993, two years after he moved into Formula 1. The team is based in Woking, England and was headed by Ron Dennis during Mika’s tenure. The company Bruce McLaren Motor Racing Ltd was formed by Bruce McLaren in 1963 and they made their F1 debut at Monaco in 1966. The death of Bruce McLaren in 1970 was untimely and occurred while he was testing a a CanAm race car.
In 1980, a merger between the Project Four racing team and Team McLaren formed McLaren International. Ron Dennis, the managing director of Project Four then became Managing Director of the new company. It was not until 2017 that Dennis resigned and sold his shareholdings.
The team has won many championships and many race wins, coming second only to Ferrari in terms of number of race wins.
In 1995, McLaren entered into a long term partnership with Mercedes-Benz, who supply badged engines to the team, which were in fact constructed by Ilmor Engineering in the UK ( a company founded by Mario Ilien and Paul Morgan). In 2005, Mercedes took full ownership of Ilmor and it was renamed Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines and later renamed again to Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. McLaren ceased using Mercedes supplied engines and moved to Honda engines in 2015, and then to Renault engines in 2018.
The team has been renowned for its technical developments and attention to detail – even down to extracting performance from the paint on the car! McLaren worked with Akzo Nobel who developed paint for the successful West sponsored car, which used colours of chrome, flourescent red, grey metallic, black and white. Whilst a spray gun might typically lay down a paint layer 25µm-50µm thick, the chrome paint applied to the McLaren was extremely thin – less than 5µm thick. The car’s other colours were then painted on top of the chrome. Managing paint thickness is important to keep the car’s weight down and can be measured with a paint thickness gauge.
The driver line up for the team from 1995-2001 was Finn Mika Hakkinen and Scot David Coulthard. The drivers, who raced everywhere from the famous casino city of Monte Carlo to down under in Melbourne were considered equal in the team and there were no team orders “whilst it is mathematically possible for either driver to win the driver’s championship”. This was an often quoted line by Ron Dennis and an unusual arrangement in comparison to other F1 teams.
From 1997 to 2005, well regarded engineer and aerodynamicist Adrian Newey was technical director of the team. It was in Newey designed cars that Mika Hakkinen won his world championship titles.
In 1998, the team won the Constructor’s Championship. In 1999, however, Ferrari managed to beat them into second place and take it for themselves.
The team has had a range of sponsors throughout its history, including Marlboro, West, Vodafone and Hugo Boss. From the beginning of the 2014 season, it ran with no title sponsor. The phasing out of tobacco sponsorship, as a result of an EU directive, had impacted some teams and narrowed the possibilities for big money deals. This led to a broader range of companies becoming more prominent in their sponsorship of teams (from banks to software companies to casino operators).