The McLaren MP4/4 was a highly successful Formula 1 car that competed in the 1988 Formula One season. It was designed by American engineer Steve Nichols,
with assistance from the team's Technical Director Gordon Murray. Nichols and Murray based the design on the lowline Brabham BT55, designed by Murray for the
1986 season when Murray was chief designer at Brabham. It is one of the most dominant Formula One cars ever built, winning all but one race and claiming all
but one pole position in the 1988 season.
The situation improved immensely when Ayrton Senna signed to partner Alain Prost (at Prost's suggestion) on a 3-year contract. The McLaren chassis, the Senna and Prost pairing,
and finally the new Honda engines with 650 bhp (485 kW; 659 PS), looked like a formidable combination. However, there were concerns after the FIA introduced a fuel
regulation for the turbo powered cars of 150 litres for a race distance. Honda's engine management team worked feverishly on the fuel consumption of the RA168-E which
was especially built for the reduction in turbo boost from 4.0 bar to 2.5 bar rather than upgrading the 1987 spec engine, trying to improve it in order to avoid embarrassing
late race retirements. The team also experimented with Active suspension in early testing but this was abandoned, and the car appeared 'as-is' through the season, save for a
few aerodynamic revisions. The car appeared at the first race in Brazil with very little pre-season testing at Imola only a week before the race, but Senna was able to put
the car on pole position by half a second from surprise 2nd placed qualifier, Nigel Mansell driving the 600 bhp (447 kW; 608 PS), naturally aspirated Williams-Judd V8, with
Prost qualifying 3rd.
One feature of the MP4/4 was the driver's position. Due to the cars low-slung aerodynamics, and the FIA safety rule which stated that the top of a
drivers' helmet had to be below an imaginary straight line from the top of the roll bar to the top of the cowling, the drivers were required to be in a
'lay down' or reclining position rather than the conventional upright seating position of Grand Prix cars until then. At first Prost objected to the new
driving position, claiming it made the car uncomfortable to drive. However, the more he drove the MP4/4, the more he got used to the position. The car can
be considered a pioneer as the current F1 cars (2014) all have the lay down driving position as standard.
Perhaps the most telling example of the MP4/4's emphatic domination was seen at San Marino in just the second race of the season. Senna and Prost both
qualified the 5.040 km (3.131 mi) Imola circuit in the 1:27's (Senna 0.7 faster than Prost) while no other driver could get below 1:30. Third on the grid
was defending World Champion Nelson Piquet in his Lotus which used the same Honda engines as McLaren. Piquet could only qualify in 1:30.500, 3.352 seconds
slower than Senna and 2.581 slower than Prost. Despite both Piquet and Lotus telling the assembled media at Imola that they believed the Lotus 100T to be better aerodynamically,
and therefore more fuel efficient than the MP4/4, both McLaren-Hondas had lapped the entire field, including 3rd placed Piquet, by lap 55 of the 60 lap race. The fast Imola
circuit with its long periods of full throttle racing, was notoriously hard on fuel, especially for the turbo cars, and the McLarens lapping the field at the speed they
did proved the aerodynamic efficiency of the car as well as the work Honda had undertaken to reduce fuel consumption. Prost and Senna's fastest laps (again the only drivers
under 1:30) were 1.5 seconds faster than the next fastest, Gerhard Berger's Ferrari. Piquet's fastest lap was only the 9th fastest of the race, and some 2.8 seconds slower
than Prost's fastest lap of 1:29.685. Both Prost and Senna lapped faster than Piquet had qualified, putting an exclamation mark on McLaren's dominant weekend.
The car retired only 4 times in the season - with Prost retiring at Silverstone during a very wet British Grand Prix (handling), and at Monza for
the Italian Grand Prix (engine), along with Senna's infamous accidents at Monaco (where he totally dominated qualifying and by lap 66 of the race had built a
50 second lead over Prost who had been stuck for 54 laps behind Berger, only to throw it away by crashing into the barriers at Portier. As he lived in Monaco,
Senna went back to his home and did not contact the team until the next day when he finally returned to the pits as the team was packing up, such was his disappointment),
and Monza. Monaco was another example of McLaren's domination, Senna qualified 1.4 seconds faster than acknowledged Monaco master Prost, who himself was 1.2 seconds
faster than third placed Gerhard Berger in his Ferrari.
The McLaren MP4/5 and its derived sister model the McLaren MP4/5B were Formula One racing cars designed by the McLaren Formula One team based in Woking,
UK. The MP4/5 was loosely based on its 1988 predecessor, the all-conquering MP4/4. McLaren used the new car for half of the 1989 season using the
Weismann Longitudinal Transmission from the MP4/4, and the MP4/5B with the Weismann Transverse Transmission for the last half of the 1989 season and
for 1990, earning back to back drivers' and constructors' world titles with the type. The car was primarily designed by American engineer Steve
Nichols who had designed both of its turbocharged predecessors, the MP4/3 and highly successful MP4/4.
McLaren took 10 victories during the season, 6 for Ayrton Senna and 4 for Prost. This was at a time when the relationship between the two men was at breaking point,
so their rivalry pushed the development of the car far ahead of the other teams as they tried to out-do each other (although theirs was a very public rivalry,
both actually worked well together in testing and Prost believes neither held back any information). Although Senna won six races to Prost's four and usually
finished ahead of the Frenchman in the races, accidents and car breakages meant that he had four fewer points-scoring finishes and finished 16 points behind his
French rival in the championship. Senna and Prost's combined points total meant McLaren easily won their second straight constructors' championship.
Over the course of two seasons, the MP4/5 took 16 wins, 27 pole positions and 263 points before it was replaced by the MP4/6 for 1991.
The McLaren MP4/6 is a Formula One racecar that was designed by Neil Oatley for the 1991 F1 season. It was the first McLaren to be powered by a Honda V12 engine. The car was
tested by Gerhard Berger in the off-season, but he was unimpressed with the new engine, feeling it was underpowered for what it was, especially compared to
Honda's V10 engine in the previous year's car. When Ayrton Senna returned for pre-season testing, he knuckled down to try to solve the engine's problems.
McLaren's domination in the early part of the year was mainly due to the lack of reliability of the Williams FW14.
The MP4/6 raced throughout 1991 with a manual "H" pattern gearbox. A semi-automatic transmission was tested during the season, but was never regarded as good
enough to be used in a race. Ferrari and Williams were the only teams using semi-automatic gearboxes during 1991. This makes the MP4/6 the last Formula One car
to win a World Championship, either drivers or constructors, using a manual transmission or a V12 engine.
Senna won the first four races of the season, in the USA, an emotional victory in Brazil, San Marino and Monaco before Williams and Nigel Mansell
found their feet with their remarkable FW14 car, which dominated in the mid season. Consistent podium finishes throughout the year helped McLaren,
but Senna insisted that Honda step up their engine development programme and demanded further improvements to the car before it was too late. Honda
responded with an updated version of the V12 engine, while Oatley redesigned various features of the car, especially the sidepods and wings. Failed
electronics and a botched pitstop scuppered Williams' chances in Belgium and Portugal when in the lead allowing McLaren to take their fourth straight
constructors' championship and Senna his third and last drivers' championship.
The McLaren MP4/7A was McLaren International's Formula One entry for the 1992 season, and a follow-up to their successful MP4/6 from 1991.
The Williams-Renault combination was getting faster and more reliable, and became a formidable challenger to McLaren's dominance.
McLaren used the MP4/6 chassis, designated MP4/6B for the slightly modified Honda RA122E engine, for the first two races of 1992.
The all-new MP4/7A was expected for the Spanish Grand Prix, the fourth race of the year. Due to Williams' speed in pre-season testing,
McLaren team principal Ron Dennis made the decision to bring the car out one race early, at the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, this was
one month earlier than expected.
This was the first McLaren to use a semi-automatic transmission; it was a McLaren-designed electro-hydraulic unit
with semi-automatic activation. The team's technology partner Techniques d'Avant Garde (TAG) helped with development.
This system allowed the driver to keep his foot on the pedal, without lifting from it, since the throttle cable was
replaced with an electronic sensor. It also controlled engine speed automatically during gear changes.
The McLaren MP4/8 was a Formula One racing car which competed in the 1993 season. It raced in all sixteen Grands Prix, scoring five wins.
The engine was a Ford HBD7 3.5 V8. The car was designed by Neil Oatley around advanced racecar technology, including a semi-automatic transmission,
active suspension and traction control systems.
Initially, Ayrton Senna was so unconvinced by the car and the engine that he demanded a race-by-race contract at $1 million per Grand Prix,
though others suggested that this was a marketing ploy between Senna and Ron Dennis to keep sponsors on edge and interested.
However, the MP4/8 was competitive enough to achieve some remarkable successes. Even though rival Alain Prost was in the superior
Williams FW15C, Senna's skill enabled him to lead the championship during the first weeks of the season. The MP4/8 was known for having
a considerably shorter wheelbase (length) than the FW15C and was a noticeably smaller car in length than Prost's Williams. Later in the season,
the Frenchman asserted the dominance of his Williams to take the lead for good, while Senna fell off pace during the second half of the schedule
and dropped to third place. While Prost clinched the championship with two races to spare, Senna went on to win the last two races.
The Brazilian had five wins in total, including one of his greatest drives in the 1993 European Grand Prix, and finished second
in the drivers' championship to Alain Prost, whilst McLaren finished runners up to Williams in the constructors' championship.