Constructors’ titles: 8
Drivers’ titles: 12
2012 Championship position: 3rd
Team principal: Ross Brawn
Technical director: Bob Bell
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez
Heading into their 50th year as a race team the big beast of Formula One is looking a little bruised and battered.
The sight of Lewis Hamilton pulling on the Mercedes helmet before each race will become no-less jarring as the season unfolds, and there is a lingering sadness at McLaren that the nine-year-old they nurtured and developed into a world champion has severed ties with the team.
That wound is made ever saltier by the experience of a barren decade, which has yielded just that solitary drivers’ title win by Hamilton. The fact that one of the most famous teams in motor sport has now gone 14 years without claiming a constructors’ championship must be the source of great anxiety for the team’s hierarchy.
By way of a fightback, Martin Whitmarsh and his team of engineers have erred on the side of ambition for this season. Dropping out of the running for the 2012 title as early as they did gave plenty of time to work on a brand new car, the MP4-28, which has posted impressive times in testing.
The main problem for McLaren last season was their car’s inconsistency and, as such, starting the season with an entirely new machine represents something of a risk. Even lead driver Jenson Button has admitted it’ll take time for him to “understand” his new wheels.
But perhaps McLaren had no real choice. Faced with the prospect, and subsequent embarrassment, of another clean sweep by Red Bull, the Woking based outfit had to take a chance to avoid getting lost in their rival’s slipstream permanently.
Whether it pays off will be one of the talking points of the season, and if everything clicks a tilt at both titles is a real possibility. It’s a big if, but it would never be wise to bet against an F1 giant as big as McLaren.
This could be the year the beast wakes up, licks its wounds and roars back into contention.
Did you know?
Executive chairman Ron Dennis’ sprawlingly elaborate style of conversation has been given its own name by his peers in the paddock. Expect to hear plenty of ‘Ronspeak’ throughout this season.
Since 1981, McLaren have had five world champions. Niki Lauder, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen – what a mouth-watering line-up that lot would make on the starting grid.