McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Britain

The British Grand Prix, McLaren’s home race, is another one that they have been hugely successful at in the past. Winning at both Brands Hatch and Silverstone, McLaren’s 14 British Grand Prix victories place them behind Ferrari, who have won it 15 times. McLaren’s British Grand Prix wins range from Peter Revson’s 1973 win through to 2008, when Lewis Hamilton took to the top step of the podium.

Peter Revson (1973 – Silverstone)

Peter Revson came through the incident-packed 1973 British Grand Prix to take McLaren’s first win there. The team had brought a third car to the race to give Jody Scheckter his Formula One debut. Regular McLaren drivers Revson and Denny Hulme qualified well but were out-done for pole position by Ronnie Peterson. Jackie Stewart took the lead on the first lap, but further back all hell broke loose. Scheckter tried to pass team-mate Hulme, but ran wide onto the grass, before coming back across the track and hitting the wall on the other side. No less than eight other cars got caught up and miraculously there was only one serious accident – a broken leg for Andrea de Adamich. It took the marshalls and medical team half an hour to cut him free from his car, and after an hour and a half the race was restarted, with Peterson taking back the lead. A rain shower allowed Revson to take advantage and he went on to win nearly three seconds clear of Peterson.  Hulme was also on the podium for McLaren.

Emerson Fittipaldi (1975 – Silverstone)

McLaren won the British Grand Prix again, this time at a modified Silverstone, two years later. This time world champion Emerson Fittipaldi was at the wheel. He had already won the British Grand Prix, albeit at Brands Hatch, in 1972. Tom Pryce started on pole position with Fittipaldi down in seventh while team-mate Jochen Mass lined up tenth. At the start Carlos Pace took the lead followed through by Clay Regazzoni and Niki Lauda. As can be expected at the British Grand Prix, rain made an appearance and mixed up the order. A number of drivers pitted for wet tyres, but Fittipaldi was amongst a number of drivers who chose to stay on slicks. This proved to be the right call as the rain eased off and the track started to come back to the dry tyres. James Hunt initially took the lead but, after an engine problem, it went to Fittipaldi. The rain soon returned, however, and a number of drivers slid off the track including Pace, Jody Scheckter, Hunt and Emerson’s brother Wilson Fittipaldi. The race was red flagged and Emerson Fittipaldi was declared the winner. The rest of the order was determined by positions on the previous lap, meaning Pace was classified second with Scheckter third.

James Hunt (1977 – Silverstone)

Another two year wait resulted in McLaren’s third British Grand Prix victory, and this time with a Brit behind the wheel of their car. Hunt lined up on the front row alongside fellow British driver (and future McLaren driver) John Watson who was driving for Brabham. Hunt did not make the best of starts and dropped behind Watson, Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter. By the seventh lap, however, he was up into third place. After out-braking Lauda for second, it was just Watson standing between Hunt and his first British Grand Prix victory.  A fuel problem for Watson undid all his good work as he was forced to pit for more fuel, giving Hunt the lead as a result. The McLaren driver went on to win the race ahead of Lauda in second and Gunnar Nilsson who finished third for Lotus.

John Watson (1981 – Silverstone)

Following his disappointment in 1977, John Watson won the British Grand Prix in 1981 while driving for McLaren. The Northern Irishman was the only Brit in the field, making his win even more special. Nigel Mansell, Brian Henton and Derek Warwick had failed to qualify. Watson and team-mate Andrea de Cesaris qualified in fifth and sixth for the race. It was a story of failures for a number of drivers. Alan Jones got taken out by a spinning Gilles Villeneuve, de Cesaris had a heavy crash with the barriers, and Nelson Piquet’s tyre exploded. Later on the engine in Didier Pironi’s Ferrari gave up as did Alain Prost’s a few laps later. By this stage Watson was now second with just Rene Arnoux ahead of him. His engine started to give up on him in the closing stages of the race, allowing Watson to close up and overtake to take the lead. He finished 40 seconds clear of second placed man Carlos Reutemann, and Jacques Laffite was a lap down in third.

Niki Lauda (1982 – Brands Hatch)

McLaren’s only British Grand Prix victory away from Silverstone was provided by Niki Lauda, when the won the race when it was held at Brands Hatch. It was also the first time that the team had won the race two years in a row. Keke Rosberg had taken pole position for Williams but stalled on the grid before the parade lap. Riccardo Patrese became the pole man but he too had problems getting away and was collected by Rene Arnoux off the line. Lauda, who had started fifth for McLaren, was already up to second therefore in the early stages of the race. Lauda took the lead of the race on lap ten when Nelson Piquet was forced to retire with a fuel injection problem. He led the race from there and finished a comfortable 25 seconds clear of Didier Pironi and 38 ahead of Patrick Tambay.

Alain Prost (1985, 1989 – Silverstone)

The first driver to win the British Grand Prix more than once for McLaren was the highly successful Alain Prost. He won the race five times in total – twice for McLaren, and once for Renault, Ferrari and Williams. Keke Rosberg was once again on pole, becoming the first man to complete a 160mph lap of Silverstone. Prost started the race from third place alongside Ayrton Senna, who made a lightning start to take the lead at the start. Later on in the race Senna and Prost were locked in a tight battle for the race win. With just 12 laps to go, Senna’s engine started playing up, and with eight laps remaining Prost took the lead. Senna soon had the place back but again Prost overtook him. Senna then, unfortunately for him, retired from the race due to running out of fuel. Prost finished a lap up on Michele Alboreto in second and Jacques Laffite in third. Prost won the race again in 1989, having started the race just behind his team-mate Senna who took pole. Senna spun out of the lead and Prost went onto win after a close battle.

Ayrton Senna (1988 – Silverstone)

Ayrton Senna won the British Grand Prix in 1988 in adverse weather conditions. Gerhard Berger qualified his Ferrari on pole position, with team-mate Michele Alboreto alongside him. Senna started the race from third, just ahead of his McLaren team-mate Alain Prost in fourth. Senna got himself into second at the start, just behind Berger and by lap 13 he was in the lead. He put in a wet masterclass which included lapping his team-mate by as early as lap 25. While others faltered because of accidents or mechanical failures, Senna put in a dominant performance to win the race and be over 20 seconds clear of second placed Nigel Mansell at the flag. Third was Alessandro Nannini in his Benetton, who was over 50 seconds back on the race winner.

David Coulthard (1999, 2000 – Silverstone)

Following Alain Prost’s win in 1989, McLaren had to wait ten years for their next home victory. This time it was David Coulthard who won it. Coulthard qualified third for the race, behind team-mate Mika Hakkinen and his main championship rival Michael Schumacher. Schumacher’s poor start allowed Coulthard to pass him along with Eddie Irvine, Schumacher’s Ferrari team-mate. It was while trying to regain positions that Schumacher had his infamous crash in which he broke his leg, and this led to the race being red flagged. At the restart, Coulthard lost out to Irvine while his team-mate continued to lead. During pit-stops Irvine was held up and Hakkinen’s wheel became loose. The Finn later retired due to safety issues. Coulthard went on to win the race, his first victory of the year and at home, ahead of Irvine and Ralf Schumacher. He would repeat the feat just a year later. Rubens Barrichello secured pole position in a wet/dry qualifying with Coulthard starting the race in fourth. He passed his team-mate early on and fought with Barrichello, who was fighting a hydraulics problem, for the lead. In the end it was a McLaren 1-2, with Coulthard ahead of Hakkinen. Schumacher ended up finishing in third place with Barrichello’s car succumbing to its problems and retiring just over half way through.

Mika Hakkinen (2001 – Silverstone)

After retiring from the race in 1999, and being beaten by his team-mate in 2000, it was Mika Hakkinen’s turn to win in 2001. It was also McLaren’s third victory on the trot at Silverstone. Michael Schumacher took pole but was only under a tenth of a second faster than Hakkinen. Due to differing strategies – Schumacher trying a one-stop, with Hakkinen on a two – the Finn was able to catch and overtake the Ferrari early on in the race, and build up an advantage as well. He lost the lead after his first stop to Juan Pablo Montoya, but soon passed him again and by the end of the race he had a dominating half a minute advantage over Schumacher, and even more over Rubens Barrichello.

Juan Pablo Montoya (2005 – Silverstone)

Champion elect Fernando Alonso started the 2005 British Grand Prix from pole position, but it was McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya who won. Montoya’s team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had qualified just 0.027s down on the Renault driver but received a 10 place grid drop for an engine change. This promoted Montoya to third on the grid, behind Honda’s Jenson Button and the pole-sitter. Montoya passed Button at the start and set about chasing Alonso. He took the lead on the opening lap but a safety car was quickly deployed as Takuma Sato had stalled on the grid and his car was being moved away. At the restart Montoya maintained his lead and started to pull away. Montoya was the first to stop of the two of them, but Alonso pitted just a lap later. Alonso got caught up in traffic as Montoya pitted for the second time, and after they were both out on track, it was advantage Montoya. Alonso put up a fight but in the end the McLaren driver won by nearly three seconds, with Raikkonen completing a double podium for McLaren in third.

Lewis Hamilton (2008 – Silverstone)

McLaren’s last win at Silverstone came back in 2008, when Lewis Hamilton won en route to his world championship. McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen qualified on pole position by over half a second with Hamilton lining up in fourth. It was a wet race day and Hamilton had a storming start to get into second and challenging his team-mate by the end of the first lap. Kovalainen held him off until lap five when he eventually got through. While other drivers had problems keeping their cars on the track, Hamilton had a dominating drive up at the front. When he crossed the line to win the race he was over a second clear of Nick Heidfeld in second and nearly a minute and a half ahead of Rubens Barrichello. Last year fans voted Hamilton’s race win as their favourite McLaren British Grand Prix moment!


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