The 1981 Formula 1 World Championship heralded the arrival of the McLaren MP4/1 which came about as a result of a collaboration between McLaren and Ron Dennis’ ‘Project 4’ Formula 2 team—hence the model specification. Various other models the took part at one stage or another over the following two championships up until the end of 1983. Notable drivers over those three years were John Watson, Andrea de Cesaris and Niki Lauda.
The MP4’s main designer was John Barnard. Most notably, the car was revolutionary in the designing of its carbon-fibre composite monocoque – a concept so much in evidence today.
In 1982, the MP4/B nearly secured Watson the world championship but he finished third in the end. This proved the most successful season in the Constructors’ Championship, however, with McLaren finishing second.
For the first two seasons and the early part of 1983, the MP4/1 was powered by a Ford-Cosworth DFV V8 engine. And with that engine the two MP4/1C cars driven by Watson and Lauda achieved a 1-2 finish at Long Beach. What was remarkable though was they had started 22nd and 23rd back on the grid respectively — an unprecedented performance. Later that season various ‘political machinations’ resulted in the adoption of Porsche’s turbo-charged TAG V6 engine and the car raced latterly under the guise of MP4/1E. The unfortunate speed at which this transition had taken place with its consequent re-design builds and under-testing (as the MP4/1D), the MP4’s final incarnation was a sad finale with its many non-finishes.
Nevertheless from 43 races in total, the MP4/1 and its various models brought McLaren six wins, 11 other podium finishes and a total of 131 points.
The Club is delighted to be hosting an evening with John Barnard this week as he talks about his great success in Formula 1 car design, aerodynamics and engineering. He was also lauded particularly for his construction of the semi-automatic gearbox introduced with Ferrari in 1989.
Car displayed courtesy of McLaren Racing from Wednesday 20 to Monday 25 June 2018.