One of the absolute highlights of last year’s Rétromobile was a stage brought together by Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille to honor its racing partner, McLaren. The show took the visitors on a journey through the finest hours and defining moments of the iconic British racing team and automaker McLaren.
This year, the organisers build on that tradition, but they focussed more on the racing successes of the team than the story of the founder. Basically, there was only one car piloted by Bruce McLaren, the 1969 M7C Cosworth (it is the yellow “biplane” in the middle of the stage).
The rest of the cars were delivering championship titles, apart from the black car, that stemmed from the recent and not so fortunate adventure with Honda.
Like the McLaren MP4/2 that dominated the 1984 season finishing a 1-2 for the two pilots Prost and Lauda. In total, the MP4/2 won 22 Grands Prix (mainly by Prost taking 16 gold home, while Lauda earned 6), took 7 pole positions, and scored 327.5 points throughout its three-year career. It brought two Constructors’ titles to McLaren and 3 Drivers’ championships for its Pilots and remains the most successful chassis in F1 history.
A title I always thought would go to the other car in the row, the MP4/4, that is also among the most successful Formula One car designs of all time. I fact, the Honda-powered MP4/4 is among the top candidates for the most dominant Formula One cars title, losing only one race and a single pole position in the 1988 season. In fact, the only loss (in Monza) was also due to the oversized ego of the two champion drivers, Prost and Senna, while the closest rivals remained some 30 second behind for much of the race.
The McLaren M23 was designed by Gordon Coppuck and marked another period of success. It took pole position at its very first race, and brought two drivers (Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974, and James Hunt in 1976) the World Championship (under Hunt, the design served its fourth year).
Moving to the epoch of the new age silver arrows, the MP4 13/04 garnered another double gold in 1998, with Hakkinen reflecting the brilliance of star designer Adrian Newey.
The McLaren MP4-25 was developed by McLaren for the 2010 season. While the team secured the reigning 2009 World Champion Jenson Button and 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, the car was not so competitive against the emerging Red Bull, but remained ahead of the factory teams.
The royal set of drivers is no guarantee for success, as proven by literal the black sheep of the stage, the McLaren MP4-31 that competed in the 2016 Formula One season. Although competing would not an accurate description. The two world champion drivers managed to secure a 6th place for the team with less than half the points of Force India.
The stage showcased all epochs, livery and both record highs and some lows. Although I can not imagine how McLaren could take this further, I hope we get to see something equally impressive from Richard Mille next year.