Who will drive for McLaren in Formula 1?
Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris are the dream duo of every Formula 1 fan. The two drivers both have a great sense of humour and are not afraid to show it in the paddock. However, the two jokers will have something else on their minds than having fun, as McLaren looks to make the step up to the top teams more and more.
Norris is now an experienced driver at McLaren. He starts his fourth year in Formula 1 and looks to continue his push towards a Grand Prix victory. Ricciardo, meanwhile, has already had quite a career. The former Red Bull Racing driver drove for Renault in 2019 and 2020. He completed his mission to get the French team back to the podium in 2020. Although he started 2021 moderately, he climbed his way up in the final months.
The birth of McLaren
Despite excellent results at Cooper's team, young Bruce McLaren decided to appear at the start of the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix in a car from his own team, McLaren. It was not until the switch to Cosworth engines that McLaren took their first victory. The New Zealander was also credited with the Canadian GP, but the team finished just short of the title.
McLaren did not win any titles in Formula 1, but the team did excel in other classes. The Can-Am class was a regular outing for Bruce and his team. In 1970, McLaren was testing the new Can-Am car for the upcoming season, but part of the car broke off. It caused the car to spin and crash into the wall. The New Zealander did not survive the crash, but the McLaren name remained linked to the team.
Four years after McLaren's death, the racing team of the same name won their first championship. The team signed Emerson Fittipaldi after two successful years at Lotus. He also won the title with the British team. The party was short-lived, as Niki Lauda and his Ferrari team made their move the year after McLaren's first championship. In 1976, James Hunt took the title with McLaren, but the constructors' title went to Ferrari once again.
McLaren at the top
With Ron Dennis at the helm, there was a big change in 1983 after years of not too good results. McLaren traded in the engines of Ford for those of Porsche. With the Lauda-Prost duo, McLaren had all the ingredients to achieve success. They took the title in 1984, as they did in 1985: the first time with Lauda, the second time with Prost.
Although the Porsche engine seemed to provide a boost for McLaren, the fun was already over in 1986. Williams, with an engine from Honda in the back of their cars, achieved better results. McLaren therefore decided to also race with a Honda engine. The decision led to one title after another from 1988 with Senna and Prost as the driving duo. Although the two drivers did not get along well, the successes for McLaren was more dominant than ever. Even after Prost left the team (after yet another clash with Senna), the Brazilian continued to rake in the victories.
It wasn't until 1992 that the tide turned and Honda's engine proved to have been overtaken by other manufacturers. In 1994, Senna also left the team to join the better performing Williams. It was a career change that would eventually lead to his death during the San Marino GP.
Return to the top
The Woking-based team drove from 1996 with the duo of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, while a Mercedes engine growled in the back of the cars. Although McLaren managed to score podiums and the occasional victory with the Anglo-Finnish driver duo, it was not until 1998 that they won the constructors' title again. That year Hakkinen also won his first drivers' title, with number two a year later.
In 2001, one Finn left the team and another came on board. Kimi Raikkonen replaced Hakkinen, but it did not bring better results. Despite some victories, it was Fernando Alonso who won both titles with Renault in 2005, closely followed by Raikkonen in his McLaren. Two years later, Alonso tried to do the same with Mclaren by switching to the British team. However, the season would not turn out as the Spaniard had hoped.
A scandal over detailed plans for the 2007 Ferrari meant a strike against the constructors' title. The championship also went the way of Raikkonen at Ferrari in the final race. Alonso left McLaren after one year, while rookie Lewis Hamilton had to settle for P2.
One year later, Hamilton won the championship with McLaren. The constructors' title went to Ferrari, but the Briton had his first title in his pocket. 2009 was the only year that Brawn GP competed, but it was also the year that Jenson Button won both titles. The Brit would sit alongside his compatriot a year later at McLaren, but the return of the glory days was not forthcoming: Red Bull Racing dominated Formula 1 from 2010.
Honda-Alonso era 2.0
Hamilton's departure to Mercedes in 2013 began another period of musical chairs at McLaren. First Sergio Perez took his seat. Then it replaced the Mexican with Magnussen. The Dane was allowed to leave after one race in 2015 due to the recruitment of Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard would stay longer this time, but again left disappointed.
In the same year that Alonso returned to McLaren, the team switched from engines from Mercedes to those from Honda. After selling the factory team to Ross Brawn (who renamed it Brawn GP, which later became Mercedes' factory team again), the Japanese manufacturer turned its back on Formula 1, until 2015 when Honda returned as a supplier. However, McLaren did not achieve any major successes. 2017 was a low point for McLaren and Honda. Team boss Eric Boullier also failed to turn the tide in 2018 after it sidelined Honda and brought in Renault as a supplier.
After a number of promising seasons, the question is whether McLaren can live up to fans' expectations this calendar year. With the new regulations it certainly seems possible to fully catch up with Mercedes and Red Bull. McLaren seems to have the perfect car to fight for the world title, but practice will show if the team is really able to do so.
Which engine will McLaren use?
McLaren have changed engines three times in the last five years. In 2017, the team drove with the Honda engine, after which it signed a four-year deal with Renault. For 2022, however, McLaren will drive with a strong Mercedes engine. This should ensure that McLaren can take the final step towards competing for the world championship.