A brief history of the McLaren F1 team, including the team's origins, past drivers and its racing record in the F1 world championship
When it comes to Formula One seniority, only Ferrari can boast to have been involved in the sport for longer than McLaren which has been in continuous operation since 1966. Over its five decades in the sport, the team's driver roster has become the ultimate who's who of some of the greatest talent in the sport, and along the way McLaren has picked up 12 drivers championships and eight constructors titles.
The team is named after its founder, New Zealand racing driver Bruce McLaren, who was already a three-time Grand Prix winner with the Cooper Car Company by the time he decided to set up Bruce McLaren Motor Racing. McLaren himself scored the new team's first race win in Belgium in 1968 while his team mate Denny Hulme picked up two more, which helped the team to second place in that year's constructors championship.
McLaren died in a testing accident in 1970 and didn't live to see the team which still bears his name win its first driver and team titles in 1974 with Emerson Fittipaldi clinching the world championship. The epic 1976 season culminated with James Hunt winning that year's title, but after that a lean spell followed. Ron Dennis took over as team principal in 1981, and a change of engine providers from Ford to TAG reenergised the team with Niki Lauda becoming champion in 1984 followed by back-to-back successes for Alain Prost in 1985-6.
Two years later saw the start of the McLaren-Honda glory years. Fierce competition between team mates Prost and Ayrton Senna resulted in four consecutive constructors titles, three world championships for Senna and one more for Prost. Soon afterwards the end of the Honda collaboration meant McLaren once again struggled for direction, but a new engine partnership with Mercedes propelled Mika Hakkinen to the title in 1998 and 1999, while over the course of 15 seasons from 1998 to 2012 the team finished outside the top three in the constructors championship only twice.
One of those times proved to be among the team's lowest and most controversial moments in its history, when it was fined $100m by the FIA and disqualified from the 2007 championship over the 'Spygate' affair after it was found that McLaren personnel were in possession of detailed technical blueprints of the rival Ferrari car.
Despite this setback, McLaren rebounded and promptly won the following year's world championship with their new racing prodigy, Lewis Hamilton, although they still narrowly missed out on taking the constructors title which had now eluded them since 1998. The 20-year partnership with Mercedes was also souring after Mercedes set up its own works team in 2010 and which later poached Hamilton to drive for them. McLaren wanted to be a works team and opted for a reunion with Honda in 2015 - but so far that has proved far less successful than had been hoped for. 2016 was another dismal year for the team, performance issues continuing to hamper them and at the close of the season Jenson Button made way for Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian youngster impressed in Bahrain in 2016 but it looks like the car performance will again not be there in 2017, both drivers will be hoping that pre-season testing is not a sign of things to come in 2017.