McLaren officially marked their 50th anniversary with celebrations in the paddock at the Italian Grand Prix. Both of their cars were branded with the McLaren 50 logo and, on Sunday, the team wore special “retro” shirts and flat-caps in rocket red. Their Brand Centre, was decorated with a mural celebrating 50 years of the team. The occasion was also celebrated at the McLaren Brand Centre in the paddock on Saturday evening, where rival team principals, members of the media, and current and former drivers were in attendance. Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda, Pedro de la Rosa and Alexander Wurz were amongst the former drivers who were there. Ron Dennis was also there.
Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh delivered a speech at the event, highlighting McLaren’s history but also looking to their future. He said: “Many great McLaren names have starred in that glorious story – you can see some of their faces on the mural on the front of our Brand Centre this weekend – our founder, Bruce, and the seven drivers who’ve won world championships for us so far – Emerson [Fittipaldi], James [Hunt], Niki [Lauda], who’s with us this evening, Alain [Prost], Ayrton [Senna], Mika [Hakkinen] and Lewis [Hamilton], who’s also with us this evening.
“Birthdays should provide a milestone at which one should pause for thought, take stock, and plan for the future with the advantage of having assimilated and analysed what’s gone before.
“And that’s what we at McLaren are doing right now.
“So, yes, 2013 hasn’t been a great year for us, we know that, and no-one minds that more than I do. But throughout this difficult year I’ve been massively impressed by the undiminished ambition of all my colleagues, at all levels and across all disciplines, and that’s why I can say with confidence – no, with certainty – and most of all with great pride – that McLaren’s next 50 years will be greater even than our first 50 years.
“And I think all of you here today, whether you’re from other teams or from the media or from wherever else, recognise McLaren’s burning passion to win – a passion shared by everyone who’s ever worked for McLaren, everyone who works for McLaren now, and everyone who’ll ever work for McLaren in the future.
He also invited the crowd to join him in commending Ron Dennis for his integral role in the team by providing a standing ovation.
McLaren had been hoping to continue their celebrations on the track but, despite a positive qualifying which saw both drivers make it through to Q3, they were lucky to salvage a point on Sunday. Perez was lucky to continue after contact with Kimi Raikkonen at the first corner. Jenson Button was lucky to make the grid at all after his team had to work frantically to ensure they fixed a fuel problem before the pit-lane closed. Both drivers ran solidly in the top ten but were hunted down by a fast paced, out of position, Hamilton in the closing stages. Button held onto tenth but Perez lost out, eventually finishing 12th behind Raikkonen.
Tomorrow’s ’50 in 50′ post will look at iconic brands and names McLaren have been associated with over the years.