McLaren, one of the most historical and successful Formula One teams and a constructor since 1966. McLaren is well-known for their enormous Automotive brand. Currently McLaren is also active in the IndyCar series and they are the title sponsor of a cycling team.
In this article, I will be digging deeper into this beautiful team by giving a historical overview, I will give my own views on this team, and I will even interview some of their biggest fans! In doing so, I hope to shed some light on what sets this team apart from the others.
“McLaren started as a British car manufacturer that was founded by Bruce McLaren in 1963.”
McLaren, a historical perspective
McLaren started as a British car manufacturer that was founded by Bruce McLaren in 1963. Bruce McLaren was a New Zealand born racer and car designer. He achieved McLaren’s first ever Grand Prix win in 1968, with the teams very first Formula One car that made its debut at the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix.
Aside from their success in Formula One, the team has also been successful in other motorsport categories like the Can-Am series. In 1970, Bruce McLaren passed away after crashing his Can-Am car at the Goodwood Circuit in England. Bruce McLaren’s death didn’t drag the team down and they continued being successful in the Cam-Am series, Formula One and the Indianapolis 500 with several important wins in the following years. Teddy Mayer took over as team boss after Bruce’s passing. He led the team to its first F1 constructors championship in 1974 and McLaren also won the drivers championship in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi. Two years later, James Hunt won the drivers championship as well for McLaren.
In 1981, the McLaren racing team merged with Ron Dennis’s Project 4 Racing team. As both teams joined forces, the start of McLaren’s most successful era in Formula One was a fact. Ron Dennis took full control of the team. McLaren took on Porsche and Honda engines, and had famous drivers such as Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, and Aryton Senna. McLaren managed to win seven drivers championships and six constructors championships. In 1988, Prost and Senna won all races except one, but high tensions between both drivers caused Prost to leave the team after 1989.
That year the team started to go into a new direction too when Ron Dennis and Technical Director Gordon Murry started the production of road supercars. Their first one was the McLaren F1. Ten years later, the McLaren F1 car claimed the record for being the world’s fastest car.
In the mid-1990’s Honda withdrew from Formula One. Ayrton Senna moved to Williams, and subsequently McLaren went through a period of little success as they continued the next three years without a win. In 1995, McLaren won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and became the only motorsport team that owns ‘The Triple Crown’. A win in the Indy 500, the Grand Prix of Monaco and the most famous 24 hour endurance race.
Afterwards, McLaren went on a winning streak for two years in 1998 and 1999 after changing to a Mercedes-Benz engine, with Mika Häkkinen behind the wheel. They also got the help of former Williams designer Adrian Newey. In the first decade of the new millennium, McLaren was a true top team in Formula One and Lewis Hamilton took the title in 2008. As of today, this is McLaren’s latest title in Formula One.
Lewis Hamilton became the youngest driver to win a title at the time and he was the first British driver to win the World Drivers’ Championship since Damon Hill in 1996. At the end of 2012, Lewis Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes, a big risk at the time. After this the team started to struggle and went through a few changes. In 2015 they made an engine supply deal with Honda, and one year later Zak Brown was announced as Executive Director of McLaren Technology Group. Besides that, they also went through a few driver changes, with Fernando Alonso returning to the team in 2016 to drive alongside Jenson Button, and Button retiring after 2016 and being replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne. Something very exciting happened as well, as the team returned to Indy 500 for the first time since 1979.
In April 2018, Zak Brown changed roles and became the Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Racing. This was all part of a restructuring of the complete McLaren Group. At the end of 2018 Fernando Alonso decided not to renew his contract and therefore would be retiring from Formula One. Carlos Sainz Jr. was signed as his replacement while their reserve-driver Lando Norris was promoted to be driving for McLaren too, making this the youngest ever Formula One driver duo.
That year, McLaren returned full-time as an IndyCar team as Arrow McLaren SP with Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew as their drivers. In 2021 Oliver Askew will be leaving the team and will be replaced by Felix Rosenqvist. As for the 2021 Formula One season, McLaren will welcome Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo to the team to drive alongside Lando Norris as Carlos Sainz Jr. decided to make a move to Scuderia Ferrari.
My Views on McLaren
One of the coolest and most beautiful looking factories out of all Formula One teams has to be the one from McLaren. The McLaren Technology Centre is the headquarters of the McLaren Group. It’s located on a 50-hectare site in Woking, Surrey in England. The headquarters has two buildings: the original McLaren Technology Centre and the newer part that facilitates the McLaren Production Centre.
The main building has been designed by an architect named Norman Foster. It has a large, half-circular building consisting only of glass walls. Around 1,000 people work at the Technology Centre since it is home to the McLaren Formula One team and the Automotive part of the company. McLaren is also planning another extension of this building for the applied technology and to set up a new wind tunnel for the Formula One teams.
What are my views of this team? Well, I would really like to visit the McLaren Technology Centre myself if I get a chance. It would be really great to see all the winning cars and have some insight in such a great business and team as they are more than a Formula One team.
When I was doing research for this article I even found out that McLaren is the title sponsor of the cycling team Bahrain – McLaren and competes in famous annual road cycling races such as the Vuelta, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the Tour of Flanders.
My own experience with the team is that they really value their fans and organise a lot for them. McLaren does amazing giveaways on social media and they even have a special app where you can become a member to get discount codes for their shop. Also, you can enter competitions to win amazing prizes. The opportunity in getting insights in the team with exclusive content only available in their app is something very rare too and something I like a lot myself as well.
Another thing that fascinated me before I started writing this article is the amount of McLaren supporters. Being an active Social Media user myself, I stumble upon many McLaren fans on my timelines. On top of that, McLaren’s slogan is #FansLikeNoOther. This made me eager to find out what drives these people in being the die-hard supporters that they are, and how and when their love for the team has developed and talk with them about the future of the team.
Therefore, I found myself three very passionate McLaren fans for an interview who were happy and ready to become a big part of this article!
A McLaren fan interview
Hi guys, welcome to my interview! Introduce yourself!
I’m Nikki, I’m from the UK and I work as a pianist and piano tutor!
Hiii! I’m Charley, I’m 25 and I’m from a little town in Somerset, UK – not far from where Lando is from!
Hi there! My name is Gino. I’m a 25-year-old Spanish and Dutch linguist from the Netherlands. Aside from the wondrous world of languages and linguistics, I’m also a fan, perhaps fanatic, of McLaren.
When did you become a McLaren fan and why?
Nikki: I became a McLaren fan back in 2012, the first year I started watching F1. One of my ex boyfriends enjoyed watching F1 and I used to watch the races with him. It was Jenson Button who helped me decide to support McLaren as I loved his charisma and his driving style. The rest is history.
Charley: It was around 2012 that I really got into F1, I liked to watch it with my Brother and Dad, but Jenson Button was the reason I became a McLaren Fan. He’s always been a ridiculously likeable character on the grid, and during his partnership with Lewis at McLaren, he had some of his best drives!
Gino: My McLaren fan story is twofold and incomplete without either side. Firstly, McLaren is what I grew up with. I made my first F1 memories when I was watching my father watching Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard racing against Michael
Schumacher. Then came Fernando Alonso, my hero. After his two WDCs, he went to McLaren, and even if a Renault return and Ferrari stint came in between, seeing my hero drive for McLaren again later on made a lasting impression.
Why are there so many McLaren fans and what makes being part of the fan base so special?
Nikki: Because the team will do anything for their fans. The fan engagement is fantastic and they’re just overall a great team
Charley: I think every answer to these questions can give the reason to why there are so many McLaren fans, they truly are the best team on the grid and do so much for us. However, the fan base is so special because of the fans. The friendships gained through the mutual love for the team are amazing and having met some of them already – they are friendships I’ll treasure for life!
Gino: There are so many reasons to be a McLaren fan and usually it’s a cocktail of these which makes someone a fan: you could be appreciative of certain drivers, the team’s 54-year history in F1, the successes they’ve had, perhaps even the failures any team inevitably experiences and overcomes at some point, the McLaren family feeling (which really exists!), fan/community interaction, openness, activities outside of F1, ambitions, and being the only team in history to get the Triple Crown (Monaco, Le Mans, and Indy 500 wins)… the list goes on and on. The passion the fans of this team have is contagious. One aspect which I really like is the ‘Let’s go racing and have fun mentality’, in which I think the CEO, Zak Brown, has played an instrumental role.
Do you have a favourite story about McLaren?
Nikki: I have lots of favourite stories from when I met Lando at a McLaren Shadow event in Singapore to when they retweeted my video of me playing the F1 theme on the piano, but my favourite story has got to be when I got to visit the MTC and meet Mika Häkkinen in October 2019. All thanks to my amazing friend Andy (Dinalli) for inviting me along. It was to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Mika winning his 2nd World Championship and what a night it was. Not only did I get to meet an F1 legend, I also got to see all the amazing cars and trophies the team has accumulated over the years. I also got to meet other McLaren fans whom a couple have become some of my closest friends for life.
Charley: In February at pre-season testing, I was watching cars on track for the very first time when I received a Twitter DM from McLaren inviting me into the Garage that afternoon! I was lucky enough to see Lando head out for a run in the MCL35 and then went for a cup of tea in the brand centre where Carlos walked past and gave us a little wave! It was the most amazing experience and one I will never forget!
Gino: Being at the MCL35 launch this year was thrilling, unforgettable. But perhaps this is a good moment to sneak some IndyCar in. When McLaren announced in April 2017 that Fernando would miss the Monaco GP to participate in the Indy 500, I was a bit disappointed initially. “Why do that, when F1 is the pinnacle of motorsports?” I was so incredibly wrong. That race opened my eyes for other forms of racing – I was thrilled! I haven’t missed an IndyCar race ever since. I’ve even been watching older races in the off-seasons! And even better, since this year, McLaren is back as a full-time participant in IndyCar, as Arrow McLaren SP. It’s such a competitive, pure racing sport. I love it! If I can pick one race to attend someday, then it’s the Indianapolis 500.
What is the most special thing you have done out of love for the team?
Nikki: I would probably say travelling all the way out to Singapore to support them trackside!
Charley: I tweeted before the first race of 2020 in Austria stating that if Carlos of Lando got a podium this year then I would get a tattoo. We all know what happened at that race – Lando got his first F1 podium and I got my first tattoo, the McLaren speed mark at the back of my ankle.
Gino: I think the most important thing is unconditional support. Isn’t that what really makes someone a fan? Another thing is that I’ve created a ‘Dutch McLaren Fans’ group with two other friends. It’s on a small scale, but we’ve been able to organise some pretty impressive things, like watching a race together at Louwman Exclusive, the Dutch McLaren dealer, with 25 fans. Hopefully, that’ll spark and extend the flame!
Who’s the greatest McLaren driver in the history of the team and why?
Nikki: This is a difficult question, in my opinion they’re all great in different ways so I cannot choose a specific driver!
Charley: Personally, I would say Ayrton Senna – the man who is remembered for the unforgettable moments he has brought to the sport. His overtakes were effortless, a true sportsman and an absolute inspiration to drivers even now – as well as incredible wet weather skills!
Gino: This is a tough question. McLaren’s history is filled with legendary drivers. The great man himself, Rutherford, Lauda, Senna, Prost, Alonso, Hamilton… How is it possible to pick one? As biased as I am, I have to say Mika Häkkinen, for emotional reasons. To me, when I hear the name ‘McLaren’, Mika Häkkinen is the first driver I think of, and that undoubtedly is linked to those early childhood memories.
Can you tell me when it was the hardest time to be a McLaren fan and why?
Nikki: The years 2015 – 2017. The car just did not work well with the Honda engine and the team was lucky to get through to Q1 in qualifying and even finish a race. It was a frustrating time but it did not stop me losing faith that the team will become great again!
Charley: The McLaren-Honda days.. these years will haunt me for as long as I love F1. From the first test in 2014, it appeared to be cursed from the get go
Gino: I think most who answer this question will go for 2015-2017, the years with the Honda engine. That’s why I will single out 2007, the year of ‘what might have been’. Alonso. Hamilton. McLaren. A top car, a race-winner, two drivers which, in hindsight, are among the very finest of their generation, and no prizes at the end of the year. The reasons we still talk about this year are obvious. Perhaps I’ve got a romantic view of this year, in hindsight I am appreciative of the legendary rivalry which we got between both drivers.
Where is the team standing right now in contrast to that period? How did they improve?
Nikki: They have improved vastly. I cannot describe how happy I am to see that they are on the up. With achieving 3 podiums since 2017 and also getting at least one of both cars through to Q3 every qualifying, the team have really come on in leaps and bounds and this is all thanks to the hard work of the team members. Us fans appreciate that so much.
Charley: Honestly, I could not be prouder of the improvements McLaren has made over the last two seasons especially! The heartwarming feeling it gives me to see our boys get through to Q3 most weeks and achieve double points (and some unbelievable podiums!) is incredible and the team has worked ridiculously hard to get where they are now.
Gino: Nowadays I’d say the team has a totally different dynamic: the drivers share a friendly rivalry instead of a ‘rivalry at all costs’. We might not get eight wins like in 2007, but we’re currently on the back of a few tough years and working our way up again. The cooperative dynamic we’ve got now is the key to move forward, which will make us race winners once again. I am convinced of that. We’ve got real professionals at the helm like Zak Brown and Andreas Seidl who know what they are doing.
How do you feel about the future of McLaren, what are your thoughts on Daniel Ricciardo joining the team next year?
Nikki: I am so very excited as I am also a Daniel Ricciardo fan and have been for as long as I have been a McLaren fan. Also with the cars getting Mercedes engines, I do believe the team is going to do great things in 2021.
Charley: As a fan, I’m really excited for McLarens future. Daniel Ricciardo is a fantastic driver and will be a great asset to the team, and he will bring both experience and some extra humour I’m sure. As well as gaining Mercedes power units, I have glistening hopes for the future!
Gino: McLaren’s got a great future ahead of them with the new driver pairing! Of course, I’m sad to see Carlos go, but we’ll get a proven race winner. This honey badger knows how to drive! In addition to that, Lando has made so many steps since his rookie season. I’m optimistic! We’ve got two great drivers with a good chemistry!
Last but not least a special question for Gino: I know that you are one of the lucky people who can call themselves a ‘Papaya Member’, how did this happen and tell me the story!
Since 20 August this year… I still cannot believe it (pinch me)! I’ll try to keep it brief. I won an Indy 500 Zoom call competition with Arrow McLaren SP, which allowed me to be present in an Q&A session with Pato O’Ward, Oliver Askew, and… Fernando Alonso, in possibly his final race for the McLaren brand!
I wanted to be well-prepared, so I prepared six (!) questions, in case other people would ask five of them first. I never got round to asking a question, so we were nearing the end and I thought: “I haven’t been able to ask anything, but it’s okay. I am sincerely grateful for being here.” That’s when the host said: “We have another question from Gino from the Netherlands.” At this point I thought, “But I haven’t handed in a question!”, the host continued: “Gino asks, how do you become a Papaya member?”, which only added to my confusion. I thought: “But I didn’t ask this!”. “Fernando… Can you take this question?”, and then something incredible happened.
Fernando Alonso, live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, told me: “Gino, from now on, you are a Papaya member. Thank you for the many years of supporting McLaren, always with the team, so, congratulations!” We’ve talked for about five minutes, and I ended it with: “¡Muchas gracias por todo, siempre contigo!”, “Thanks for everything, always with you!”.
In doing so, Arrow McLaren SP has fulfilled two dreams for me: talking to my hero (in his final race with the team!), and becoming a Papaya member. It’s incredible. I still want to find out who I’ve got to thank for this, because this was simply unforgettable and total perfection. How I held it together? I really don’t know!
McLaren, a team with fans like no other
My goal for this article was to find out more about McLaren, and I really did! The history of McLaren is so big and something I never knew before. Also, I often forget that some of the greatest Formula One drivers ever have all driven for McLaren. I cannot imagine the team leaving Formula One, they are truly iconic, historical and simply belong in the sport.
By owning an IndyCar team, a cycling team and their large automotive branch McLaren is focusing on other branches too and that makes the team stand out from any other Formula One team. The way McLaren engages with their fans is amazing and really changes people’s lives. The people I interviewed have some of their most valuable memories and moments thanks to McLaren.
Therefore, I can safely say that McLaren is A Team Like No Other.