McLaren MP4/5

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McLaren MP4/5
McLaren MP4/5B
Senna at the wheel of the McLaren MP4/5.
Senna at the wheel of the McLaren MP4/5.
Category Formula One
Constructor McLaren International
Designer(s) Steve Nichols (MP4/5 only)
Neil Oatley
Gordon Murray
Predecessor MP4/4
Successor MP4/6
Technical specifications[1]
Chassis Carbon fibre and Kevlar monocoque
Suspension (front) Double wishbones, pull-rod actuated coil springs and dampers
Suspension (rear) Double wishbones, rocker-arm actuated coil springs and dampers
Axle track Front: 1,820 mm (72 in)
Rear: 1,670 mm (66 in)
Wheelbase 1989: 2,896 mm (114.0 in)
1990: 2,940 mm (115.7 in)
Engine 1989: Honda RA109-E, 3,490 cc (213.0 cu in), 72° V10, NA, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted
1990: Honda RA100-E, 3,490 cc (213.0 cu in), 72° V10, NA, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted
Transmission Weismann/McLaren Longitudinal and Transverse 6-Speed manual
Fuel Shell
Tyres Goodyear
Competition history
Notable entrants Marlboro McLaren Honda
Notable drivers Brazil Ayrton Senna
France Alain Prost
Austria Gerhard Berger
Debut 1989 Brazilian Grand Prix
Races Wins Poles F.Laps
32 16 27 12
Constructors' Championships 2 (1989, 1990)
Drivers' Championships 2 (1989, Alain Prost
1990, Ayrton Senna)

The McLaren MP4/5 and its derived sister model the McLaren MP4/5B were Formula One racing cars designed by the McLaren Formula One team based in Woking, UK. The MP4/5 was loosely based on its 1988 predecessor, the all-conquering MP4/4. McLaren used the new car for half of the 1989 season using the Weismann Longitudinal Transmission from the MP4/4, and the MP4/5B with the Weismann Transverse Transmission for the last half of the 1989 season and for 1990, earning back to back drivers' and constructors' world titles with the type. The car was designed by American engineer Steve Nichols who previously had designed both of its turbocharged predecessors, the MP4/3, which was an all-new design for McLaren by Nichols, as well as its highly successful MP4/4 the following year/season.

Over the course of two seasons, the MP4/5 took 16 wins, 27 pole positions and 263 points before it was replaced by the MP4/6 for 1991.

1989: McLaren MP4/5

1989 was the first year where naturally aspirated engines were compulsory for all teams after the banning of the turbocharged units at the end of the previous season. To this end, Honda built a 3.5 litre V10 engine, developed throughout most of the latter half of 1987 and through 1988. The MP4/5 was unveiled for pre-season testing and it was instantly on the pace, as well as reliable. Developed by Neil Oatley, the MP4/5 looked like the car to beat in the new season. While the Ferrari that season was a fast all-around car particularly in the hands of Nigel Mansell, it was also chronically unreliable due to its new semi-electronic gearbox shift, giving further advantage to McLaren. The Honda-powered MP4/5 proved to have outright pace over the rest of the field, with 15 pole positions, 13 of them by Senna which equalled his 1988 record in the MP4/4. At the Mexican Grand Prix, Senna scored his 34th career pole in the MP4/5, breaking the previous record of 33 held by the late Jim Clark that had stood since 1968.

McLaren took 10 victories during the season, 6 for Ayrton Senna and 4 for Prost. This was at a time when the relationship between the two men was at breaking point, so their rivalry pushed the development of the car far ahead of the other teams as they tried to out-do each other (although theirs was a very public rivalry, both actually worked well together in testing and Prost believes neither held back any information). Although Senna won six races to Prost's four and usually finished ahead of the Frenchman in the races, accidents and car breakages meant that he had four fewer points-scoring finishes and finished 16 points behind his French rival in the championship.[2] Senna and Prost's combined points total meant McLaren easily won their second straight Constructors' Championship.

Like 1988, the Drivers' Championship was a two horse race between defending champion Senna and dual champion Prost. The championship was settled at the penultimate race in Japan. After dominating qualifying (with Senna predictably on pole), the two McLarens were evenly matched in the race and simply drove away from the rest of the field until their fateful collision at the chicane on lap 46. Prost was out on the spot while Senna was able to restart and after pitting for a new nose section, re-took the lead from the Benetton-Ford of Alessandro Nannini and went on to win the race. Ultimately though he was disqualified post-race for receiving a push start and missing the chicane after restarting which gave Prost his 3rd World Championship.

1989 was McLaren's 4th Constructors' Championship of the 1980s following on from 1984, 1985 and 1988, making the team the equal leading constructor of the decade with Williams who won in 1980, 1981, 1986 and 1987. It was also the team's 5th Championship overall having won their first in 1974.

1990: McLaren MP4/5B

Prost went on to move to Ferrari for the 1990 season, as announced during the midseason of the previous year, taking designer Steve Nichols with him. The Frenchman was unhappy because he believed that McLaren and Honda were favouring Senna.

As a result, Ferrari and McLaren swapped car numbers, giving Prost and team-mate Nigel Mansell the numbers 1 and 2, and giving Senna and Gerhard Berger, who had swapped with Prost at Ferrari, the numbers 27 and 28.

McLaren responded the following year with a modified version of the MP4/5. The wings were redesigned and the rear bodywork reprofiled around larger radiators. The engine was tweaked and Senna did much development work to ensure he would have better reliability in the new season. He and Gerhard Berger took the fight to Prost and Ferrari in 1990, winning another six races and winning the Constructors' Championship. The McLaren proved to have an outright speed advantage in qualifying and was notable for the number of times both cars were on the front row. The car appeared to struggle slightly against the Ferrari 641s in the race, particularly on heavy fuel loads with the Ferraris' race pace almost negating the McLarens' qualifying supremacy.

It was in that year's race at the Japanese Grand Prix when Senna and Prost collided in the first corner of the first lap, giving Senna the championship due to Prost being unable to continue.

Gordon Murray, the famed South African designer who had previously worked at Brabham since 1969, had designed championship winning cars for the team and joined McLaren in 1987, retired from Formula One after his work on this car. He went to work on McLaren's road car project.

There was a test mule during the 1990 season created by McLaren called MP4/5C for the new Honda V12 that was to be used by the Woking outfit for the following 2 seasons.[3]


Senna's MP4/5B was included in the 2001 video game Gran Turismo 3 under the alias "F090/S", but only in the Japanese and American versions. It was the least powerful F1 car in the game producing 700 PS (690 hp). It could be won by winning the Super Speedway endurance, the Grand Valley 300 km Endurance, the Dream Car Championship in Professional league, or by winning Formula GT. It is a random prize car in all four series.


Complete Formula One results

(key) (results shown in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine Tyres Driver 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Pts. WCC
1989 Marlboro McLaren Honda MP4/5 Honda RA109-E
Brazil Ayrton Senna 11 1 1 1 Ret 7 Ret Ret 1 2 1 Ret Ret 1 DSQ Ret
France Alain Prost 2 2 2 5 1 Ret 1 1 2 4 2 1 2 3 Ret Ret
1990 Marlboro McLaren Honda MP4/5B Honda RA100-E
Brazil Ayrton Senna 1 3 Ret 1 1 20 3 3 1 2 1 1 2 Ret Ret Ret
Austria Gerhard Berger Ret 2 2 3 4 3 5 14 3 16 3 3 4 Ret Ret 4


  1. "STATS F1 • McLaren MP4/5". Retrieved 2010-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. In the 1989 championship, only the best 11 results from the 16 races counted towards the Drivers' Championship total.
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