McLaren MP4 (MP4/1), competed in the 1981 Formula One season
|Chassis||Carbon fibre monocoque|
|Engine||1981-1983: mid-engine, longitudinally mounted, Cosworth DFY, 2,993 cc (182.6 cu in), NA, 90° V8
1983: mid-engine, longitudinally mounted, TAG-Porsche PO1, 1,499 cc (91.5 cu in), turbo, 90° V6,
|Transmission||McLaren / Hewland FGA 400 5-speed manual|
|Notable entrants||Marlboro McLaren International|
|Notable drivers||7. John Watson
8. Andrea de Cesaris
8. Niki Lauda
|Debut||1981 Monaco Grand Prix|
|n.b. Unless otherwise stated, all data refer to
Formula One World Championship Grands Prix only.
The McLaren MP4/1 (initially known as the MP4) was a Formula One racing car produced by the McLaren team. It was used during the 1981, 1982 and 1983 seasons. It was the first Formula One car to use a carbon fibre composite monocoque, a concept which is now ubiquitous.
Design and construction
The main engineer for the MP4 was John Barnard. The chassis itself was built by McLaren using carbon supplied by Hercules Aerospace (U.S.A.) and quickly revolutionised car design in Formula One with new levels of rigidity and driver protection and its Carbon-Fibre-Composite (CFC) construction, a first in Formula One. Within months the design had been copied by many of McLaren's rivals.
Hercules Aerospace keeps the car of Watson which was destroyed in the 1981 Italian Grand Prix and shows it off to visitors after allowing them to view footage of the accident, highlighting how it was possible for him to survive in a carbon fibre car.
In 1982, the updated MP4B nearly brought Watson to the World Championship, but he finished third behind Keke Rosberg and Didier Pironi, with 39 points. In that same year however, it did take second in the Constructors' Championship, collecting 69 points.
For the 1983 season, the car was then updated into the MP4/1C, and the season started well with a 1–2 finish for the MP4/1C at Round 2 in Long Beach, in which Watson won from 22nd on the grid – the farthest back on the grid a driver has won from in Formula One – and Lauda finished second from 23rd despite suffering from a worsening leg cramp. This car was used throughout most of the season.
Later in the season at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort the Cosworth-powered MP4/1C was replaced by the TAG-powered MP4/1E, which was essentially also a test mule that competed in only 4 races; according to Watson in an interview given in 2009 this was a car that was forced into appearing at the Dutch Grand Prix by some very risky political maneuvering by Lauda. He went to the Marlboro executive Aleardo Buzzi (the man responsible for giving McLaren their primary sponsorship money), behind the back of the entire McLaren team and complained extensively to Buzzi about the uncompetitiveness of the team without a turbo engine, and then Buzzi took back the money that was initially given to McLaren to develop the TAG/Porsche turbo engine, which Lauda wanted to do himself with race testing. This infuriated Dennis and designer John Barnard- who had designed the MP4/2 just for the new turbo-charged engine, now had to re-design his MP4/1 to "E" spec just for the TAG engine. The MP4/1E was first driven by Watson, not Lauda- at the Porsche proving ground was competitive, but the new engine was, thanks to Lauda's political maneuvering, underdeveloped and had teething troubles, which expectedly made it very unreliable, and did not win any races. But this car was not really expected to win or even finish races.
In total, the MP4/1 brought McLaren 6 wins, 11 other podium finishes and a total of 131 points.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1981||Marlboro McLaren International||MP4||Cosworth DFV
|Andrea de Cesaris||Ret||Ret||11||Ret||Ret||8||DNS||7||Ret||12|
|1982||Marlboro McLaren International||MP4B||Cosworth DFV
|1983||Marlboro McLaren International||MP4/1C||Cosworth DFV
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