Tag: Mika Hakkinen

2015: Monaco Grand Prix Preview

The Monaco Grand Prix is a race like no other on the Formula One calendar. Unforgiving Armco barriers line the street circuit and it also features a tunnel, which brings with it is own unique challenges. The race is known for its glitz and glamour, including the huge yachts docked in the harbour overlooking the track. It is an event which requires not only high downforce and good mechanical grip, but intense concentration from drivers – moreso than usual. “The best thing about coming to Monaco is that it’s a circuit where the driver has more influence on events,” Daniel Ricciardo has said ahead of the weekend. With the lowest average speed of the year – 98mph – Monaco is less about outright performance, meaning those not always finishing in the top ten could take the opportunity to score points. It is also very difficult – but definitely not impossible – to overtake on the streets of Monte Carlo.

Circuit: Circuit de Monaco
Number of Laps: 78
Circuit Length: 3.337km
Number of Corners: 19
Lap Record: 1:14.439 Michael Schumacher 2004
Previous Monaco winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: McLaren (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 1
Pirelli Tyres: Soft and Supersoft

Nico Rosberg has taken pole position and the race win on Formula One’s last two visits to Monaco. Last year his pole was tinged with controversy as he ran wide at Mirabeau, resulting in yellow flags which compromised team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s running. Hamilton said Rosberg did it deliberately, and inter-team relations continued to crumble after that. Rosberg held off Hamilton in the race to win with Daniel Ricciardo picking up third for Red Bull. It is once again Mercedes going into the race dominating proceedings. Rosberg took his first win of the year in Spain, giving him the psychological edge going into what is his ‘home’ race. His strong results in the past will also help him as he looks to cut the gap further to Hamilton.

Hamilton, on the other hand, enters the weekend off the back of securing a new three year deal with the team. With contract negotiations finally completed he will be able to give his full attention to the job in hand. Their main rivals Ferrari are a team who have performed well at the circuit in the past – second just to McLaren in terms of victories there – however, the Scuderia’s last win at Monte Carlo was back in 2001 when Michael Schumacher crossed the line first.

Elsewhere it will be a bittersweet race for Manor. The team picked up their first – and so far only – points in Formula One when Jules Bianchi took ninth place in the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. It has been a difficult 12 months for the team since then with Bianchi’s horrific accident in Japan and the team entering administration within just a couple of months of each other. The team made a valiant effort to make the Australian Grand Prix, and are still racing their ‘B’ spec car, and will no doubt be thinking of their team mate over the course of the upcoming weekend.

The Circuit de Monaco is made up of a number of iconic corners such as La Rascasse, the Swimming Pool, Mirabeau, Sainte Devote, and Tabac, amongst others. Its winners list features a number of iconic drivers including Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Gilles Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen to name a few. As the saying goes, “to finish first, first you must finish”, a phrase which takes on more meaning at a place like Monaco. In last year’s race there were eight retirements and if a car stops on track there will undoubtedly be a safety car. Just who will come out on top? Action commences tomorrow with Thursday practice.


Analysis: how would double points have changed the last 20 years? Part One

It’s the morning after the night before. The news that from 2014 onwards, the last race of the season will have double points is still being met with largely negative views. Some have said Formula One is turning into wacky races – what will happen next?

The idea behind the double points is that championship battles will be maximised and go on for as long as possible, i.e. the last race of the season. This post is the first of two which will look back at the last 20 years and see the changes, if any, double points for the last race would have made to any of the championships.

Points were awarded to the top six in the following format: 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 meaning double points in the last race would have been worth: 20, 12, 8, 6, 4, 2.

1993 – Alain Prost

In 1993 Alain Prost won the world championship ahead of Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill. Prost had 99 points and had a 26 point advantage over Senna and 30 points over Hill at the end of the season. He had already wrapped up the championship before going into the last race and so double points would have resulted in no change:

  1. Alain Prost (99) – 111 points
  2. Ayrton Senna (73) – 83 points
  3. Damon Hill (69) – 77 points

Instead, Prost would have marginally increased his deficit over both drivers, despite Senna winning the last race of the season in Australia. There would have been minor changes elsewhere, however, with  double points allowing Jean Alesi to move ahead of Riccardo Patrese, and Gerhard Berger to leapfrog Martin Brundle. The Constructors championship would have remained as it was.


1994 – Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher won his first of seven world championships in 1994, finishing one point ahead of Damon Hill and 51 points ahead of third placed man Gerhard Berger. Neither Schumacher nor Hill scored in the last race so double points would not have effected the order:

  1. Michael Schumacher 92
  2. Damon Hill 91
  3. Gerhard Berger (41) – 47

Double points would have seen Nigel Mansell elevated from ninth to sixth and Martin Brundle dropping from seventh to eighth, despite gaining points. Again the Constructors championship standings would have been unaltered.


1995 – Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher won his second world championship in 1995, this time with a more dominant point deficit. He finished the year 33 points ahead of Damon Hill who in turn was 20 ahead of David Coulthard. Once again Schumacher failed to score points in the final race but he already had a significant points advantage so double points would have made little difference:

  1. Michael Schumacher 102
  2. Damon Hill (69) 79
  3. David Coulthard 49

The only other changes in the top ten would have been Olivier Panis swapping places with Mika Hakkinen due to scoring six more points, and Mark Blundell moving ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.


1996 – Damon Hill

After finishing second in 1994 and 1995, Damon Hill became world champion in 1996. He finished 19 points ahead of Jacques Villeneuve with Michael Schumacher in third place. Villeneuve failed to score points in the last race so Hill’s win, with or without double points was enough to secure him the championship although he would have still won without winning:

  1. Damon Hill (97) 107
  2. Jacques Villeneuve 78
  3. Michael Schumacher (59) 65

Once again the Constructors championship would have remained unchanged with Williams winning by a significant margin over Ferrari.


1997 – Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve was crowned champion in 1997 when he finished 39 points ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. David Coulthard took third place a further six points back. Michael Schumacher had ended the year in second, just three points down on Villeneuve, but was disqualified for a collision he had with the Williams driver. Schumacher was just ahead in terms of points going into the final race but his disqualification means that double points would have made no difference:

  1. Jacques Villeneuve (81) 88
  2. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (42) 43
  3. David Coulthard (36) 42

Double points would have benefitted Mika Hakkinen in the championship, as he would have finished in fourth place instead of sixth. In the Constructors championship, McLaren would also have gained from double points in the last race. They would have moved up to third place, ahead of Benetton who actually finished in third.


1998 – Mika Hakkinen

Mika Hakkinen won the first of his two world championships in 1998, beating Michael Schumacher by 14 points and team-mate Coulthard by 44 points. Going into the last race Hakkinen had a four point advantage over Schumacher, but the Ferrari driver failed to score. Double points would therefore have done little to the standings:

  1. Mika Hakkinen (100) 110
  2. Michael Schumacher 86
  3. David Coulthard (56) 60

Damon Hill would have benefited from double points as they would have enabled him to finish ahead of Jacques Villeneuve.


1999 – Mika Hakkinen

Mika Hakkinen became a double world champion in 1999, beating off competition from Eddie Irvine and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The Finn won by just two points, and was trailing Irvine by four points as they went into the last race of the season. Frentzen finished the year a further 20 points behind Irvine. If double points at the last race had been in play, the order would not have been altered, but Hakkinen would have enjoyed a larger deficit:

  1. Mika Hakkinen (76) 86
  2. Eddie Irvine (74) 78
  3. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (54) 57

Michael Schumacher, who broke his leg at the British Grand Prix and subsequently missed six races, would have benefited from double points at the last round and would have moved from fifth to fourth. In the Constructors championship, Williams would have gained enough points to see them finish in fourth place in the standings.


2000 – Michael Schumacher

After a disappointing 1999, with a number of races spent on the sidelines, Michael Schumacher was back to winning ways in 2000. He clinched his third world championship, ending the year 19 points ahead of Mika Hakkinen, and 35 points ahead of Hakkinen’s McLaren team-mate David Coulthard. Going into the last race, Schumacher had a 12 point lead over Hakkinen so, with ten points available for a win, the championship fight was over before the last race:

  1. Michael Schumacher (108) 118
  2. Mika Hakkinen (89) 92
  3. David Coulthard (73) 79

Jacques Villeneuve would have gained a position thanks to double points but the rest of the top ten would have remained as they were. BAR-Honda would have gained a place in the Constructors championship, progressing to fourth and dropping Benetton to fifth.


2001 – Michael Schumacher

Championship number four was not far away for Michael Schumacher. A dominating year saw him finish well clear of second place man David Coulthard and team-mate Rubens Barrichello. With the championship well and truly wrapped up before the final race of the year, double points would not have made the blindest bit of difference, even if Coulthard had taken 20 and Schumacher none:

  1. Michael Schumacher (123) 133
  2. David Coulthard 65
  3. Rubens Barrichello (56) 58

Elsewhere, the rest of the top ten would have stayed exactly where they finished if double points had been available. There would have been no movement in the Constructors table either.


2002 – Michael Schumacher

Another Michael Schumacher championship in 2002 saw him beat competition from team-mate Rubens Barrichello. As had been the case in 2001, the championship came long before the final race of the season, so Barrichello could not have closed the 63 point gap with double, triple or even quadruple points available:

  1. Michael Schumacher (144) 154
  2. Rubens Barrichello (77) 83
  3. Juan Pablo Montoya (50) 53

As was also the case in 2001, double points would not have altered the top ten at all and the Constructors championship would also have remained static.


So far, looking back at ten seasons (1993 – 2002), the double points rule would not have made a difference to any of the championships, had they finished as they did. Part two of this analysis will look at 2003 – 2013 and see what part, if any, double points would have played.

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Kimi Raikkonen

While many drivers spend years working their way through single seater championships, such as Formula 3, GP3 and GP2, Kimi Räikkonen (The Iceman) took a much more direct route. He got his debut with Sauber in 2001 with just 23 single seater races under his belt. His signing was met with concern, with many questioning whether he was ready after so few races. Peter Sauber said at the time: “We are taking a risk, but it is a controlled risk. When I see how cool Kimi is approaching Formula One racing, I do not think there is a danger. We know that it will take Kimi time to find his feet in Formula One, once the racing starts, but our expectations of his long-term potential are very high.” And he was right.

Like most drivers, Räikkonen started karting at an early age. In 1999, when fellow Finn Mika Hakkinen was winning his second world championship, Räikkonen was winning the Formula Renault UK Winter series. In 2000 he continued in Formula Renault UK and became champion for Manor Motorsport. In September of that year Räikkonen was granted a test with Sauber at Mugello, completing 29 laps on day one. Further tests in Jerez and Barcelona ensured Räikkonen had completed enough laps to be granted a superlicence, despite his lack of experience. At the 2001 Australian Grand Prix, Räikkonen made his Formula One debut, scoring a point. The story goes that he was asleep 20 minutes before the start of the race and had to be woken up. He finished the year in tenth place with nine points. Räikkonen was quickly signed up by McLaren, to replace the departing Hakkinen, and it was in 2002 he started his five year relationship with the team.

Lining up against experienced team-mate David Coulthard, Räikkonen impressed from the get-go with McLaren. Achieving his first podium at the Australian Grand Prix, he finished the year in sixth place with 24 points. This included podiums at the European, French and Japanese Grand Prix. In 2003 he went head-to-head with Michael Schumacher for the championship. Nine podiums and his first Formula One victory put him in a good position, but ultimately poor reliability cost him and he ended the year two points shy of Schumacher’s points tally. 2004 produced a mixed bag of results and he ended the year in seventh place. In 2005 Räikkonen was back in contention for the world championship but again reliability problems cost him. Seven wins and five further podiums were his reward, when the car made it to the end of the race, but he still finished 21 points behind Fernando Alonso. 2006 proved to be Räikkonen’s last year with McLaren. It was a season with no wins for the team, but he took six podiums. He departed for Ferrari in 2007 where he became champion.

Räikkonen left McLaren with nine wins – joint fifth in McLaren’s all time wins list, ironically with his favourite driver James Hunt. He also left the team with 26 podiums. Räikkonen has established himself in Formula One as quite a character. The story of him being asleep 20 minutes before his first race gives an insight into him. Reports of his karting career describe his steering wheel breaking in the middle of a race, but him continuing. In 2006, when Schumacher was receiving a presentation from football legend Pele on the grid in Brazil, Räikkonen reported to Martin Brundle at ITV that he missed it because he was “having a shit”. Räikkonen has always been one for saying it as it is. If he retires from a race because of a mechanical problem, his explanation will usually never be more than “the car was broken”. He has won an allegiance of fans for telling it as it is. Winning his first title in 2007, and challenging since his return with Lotus, Peter Sauber has been proven right by taking a risk on Räikkonen!


McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Hungary

Of the 19 races in 2013, McLaren have won 16 of them at one stage or another. Wins in Bahrain, Korea and India have as yet alluded them. In terms of number of wins, Hungary ranks in the top five, behind the big guns of Monaco, Belgium, Great Britain, and the US. First held in 1986, McLaren are the most successful team at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with 11 victories to their name. The first of these came in 1988 and the most recent was in 2012 when Lewis Hamilton won for the third time.

In the early days of the race it was a happy hunting ground for Williams, with the team securing a number of front row lock-outs in qualifying, getting numerous podiums and winning seven races in 12 years. From the late 90s, however, McLaren started to edge ahead in the statistics and are now the most successful constructor there, in terms of wins and podiums. They have 22 podium finishes in Budapest, including their 11 wins, as well as eight pole positions and five fastest laps. Ferrari and Williams are not far behind, however, with seven and six podiums respectively, with Williams leading the fastest laps tally with nine in total.

Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton are the most successful drivers for McLaren around the Hungaroring. Senna won the race in 1988, 1991 and 1992 while Hamilton was successful in 2007, 2009 and 2012. Hamilton’s 2007 victory came under a shadow, however, after he refused to let team-mate Fernando Alonso through in qualifying. The Spaniard retaliated by staying in the pit-box longer than he should and subsequently ruining any chance Hamilton had of completing another lap. Alonso was demoted on the grid and Hamilton started from pole and went on to win. Another McLaren driver with more than one Hungarian Grand Prix victory is Mika Hakkinen (1998 & 1999), as he won the race on the way to his two world championships. Kimi Raikkonen won it in 2005 while fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen took his one and only Formula One victory there in 2008. Last, but by no means least, is Jenson Button who won in 2011.

Both Button and Hamilton are also race winners at the Hungaroring for other teams. Button’s maiden Grand Prix victory came in 2006, driving for Honda while Hamilton took his first win with his new team – Mercedes – at this year’s race. The Hungarian Grand Prix could well be on the calendar through to 2020, so who knows how much more success McLaren and its drivers can enjoy there!


McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Brazil

With 12 victories to their name and 31 podiums, more than any other constructor, Brazil has been a happy stomping ground for McLaren over the years. First held in 1973 as a Formula One World Championship race, Brazil has firmly established itself on the F1 calendar.  Originally held at a longer, 4.9 mile long, Interlagos, the race was moved in 1981 due to safety concerns. The Brazilian Grand Prix had been held at Jacarepaguá in 1978, and it was there that the race took place from 1981 until 1989. Interlagos was shortened considerably and renovated and Formula One returned there in 1990, when local star Ayrton Senna was riding high.

Championships won and lost

Since its move to the end of the calendar, Interlagos has also played host to a number of tense title deciders. The race was previously held at the start of the season but in 2004 moved to the end. McLaren have seen titles won and more often lost in Brazil. In 2005 Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso arrived at the Brazilian Grand Prix fighting for the title – Alonso on 111 points and Raikkonen on 86. With three races left, including Brazil, Raikkonen needed to win the race with Alonso finishing lower than fourth to keep himself in contention. It had been a difficult year for the Finn, losing a number of potential points due to car unreliability. In the end Juan Pablo Montoya led home a McLaren 1-2, after Alonso started on pole with Raikkonen in fifth. Alonso finished third and became, at the time, the youngest ever Formula One world champion.

In 2007 the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton arrived at the Brazilian Grand Prix with the possibility of coming away as champion. Hamilton was leading the way with 107 points, Alonso had 103 and Ferrari’s Raikkonen had 100. A fifth place was enough to secure Hamilton the championship but after a problem filled race he slipped to seventh after starting from second. Alonso finished in third, behind Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, meaning it was another lost opportunity championship wise, this time by just one point for both drivers. 2008 was a different story, however. Hamilton arrived at Brazil, the last race of the year, with a seven point advantage over Massa. A win or second place would be enough to secure him the championship, regardless of where the Ferrari driver finished. If Massa won the race, Hamilton would need to finish at least fifth to be champion. Massa qualified on pole position while Hamilton lined up in fourth. It looked like another title was slipping from his clasp when, in the final stages, as Massa was charging for the finish line in first, Hamilton was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel, dropping him down to sixth. It was Timo Glock who proved to be the turning point, however, after staying out on the wrong tyres, and struggling to control his car in the wet. Hamilton overtook him at the final corner on the last lap to take fifth place. It was McLaren’s first championship since 1999 when Mika Hakkinen won.

Race wins

As mentioned earlier, McLaren have more wins than any constructor in Brazil. They won at the original Interlagos, Jacarepaguá and then again at updated Interlagos. Their first Brazilian Grand Prix came courtesy of their Brazilian driver (and champion) Emerson Fittipaldi. He had won the first race in 1973 and did it for McLaren in 1974. They had to wait a whole ten years until another Brazilian Grand Prix victory came their way, and this time it was with Alain Prost behind the wheel in 1984. He took back-to-back victories when he won again in 1985. Prost won the race again a further two times for McLaren in 1987 and 1988, making him their most successful driver there.

Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna won the race on two occasions – 1990 and 1993. Back-to-back wins for Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999 brought McLaren’s win tally to nine in Brazil. David Coulthard won it in 2001 and Juan Pablo Montoya secured victory in 2005, following his win for Williams there a year previously. Between 2006 and 2011 it was all Ferrari or Red Bull wins. Hamilton qualified on pole position for the 2012 edition of the race, with his team-mate Jenson Button making it a front row lock-out. Later in the race, Hamilton was hit by Nico Hulkenberg while they battled for the lead of the race. This resulted in Hamilton’s last race for McLaren ending with a DNF. Button went on to win ahead of Alonso and Massa.

Race drivers

A number of Brazilian drivers have raced or driven for McLaren, in one form or another, over the years. Of course there are the obvious drivers such as their first world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, multiple race winner and champion Ayrton Senna, and Nelson Piquet who drove for the works McLaren team BS Fabrications. Ricardo Zonta, who currently races in the FIA GT Series, was a McLaren test driver back in 1998.

Raul Boesel was awarded a test drive with McLaren after impressing in British F3 in 1981. He finished the year in third place, behind Jonathan Palmer and Thierry Tassin. Following his test with McLaren, where he impressed with his times, Boesel was signed up to drive for March. He moved to Ligier for 1983 but that proved to be the end of his short F1 career as he moved to America to compete in CART. Mario Haberfield is another Brazilian driver associated with McLaren. He won the British F3 championship in 1998 by quite a margin, beating fellow Brazilian drivers Enrique Bernoldi and Luciano Burti. In 1999 he moved to Formula 3000, driving for West Competition alongside Nick Heidfeld. West Competition was a team ran by the McLaren Formula One team, as part of their young driver development programme. Heidfeld was their test driver at the time.

What next?

The Brazilian Grand Prix is going to be on the calendar until at least 2020. Interlagos have recently signed a new contract which includes rennovations to the existing circuit and facilities. This year has been a difficult one for McLaren so a win or podium will probably not be on the cards for them in Brazil this year. Saying that, anything can happen at Interlagos, and it normally throws up an appropriate amount of drama. So who knows…


McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Japan

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will line up tenth and eleventh for the Japanese Grand Prix. The race first made its Formula One World Championship debut in 1976 but was not held between 1978 and 1986 (inclusive). It rejoined the calendar in 1987, meaning this year will be its 29th running. McLaren are the most successful constructor at the race, with nine wins – two more than Ferrari. They also have more podiums than any other constructors – 25 in total.

James Hunt (1977 – Fuji)

The James Hunt/Niki Lauda 1976 rivalry came to a head in Fuji, with the Japanese Grand Prix staging the last race of the season – the title decider. The weather condiitons were treacherous and Lauda made the decision to retire to the pits during the race due to safety concerns. Hunt was in the lead of the race but, as the track started to dry, he started losing positions and slipped to third place. It was enough to win him the championship and in 1977 he went two places better, winning the race ahead of Carlos Reutemann and Patrick Depallier. He built up a dominating lead of over a minute and was not challenged after taking the lead from pole sitter Mario Andretti.

Ayrton Senna (1988 & 1993 – Suzuka)

After a nine year hiatus, the Japanese Grand Prix returned in 1987 at Suzuka. Ayrton Senna was the first McLaren driver to win there when he did so in 1988. He won it for a second time five years later. It played host to another title showdown in 1988 this time between team-mates Senna and Alain Prost. Senna out-qualified Prost and the pair both lined up on the front-row. It was a race where Senna was forced to prove himself by driving through the field. He stalled on the grid but, due to the hilly nature of the starting grid, he got the car going but had dropped right down the order. In order to win the race he needed a win and with his team-mate in the lead it looked like Prost could be becoming champion. Prost battled with Ivan Capelli before eventually succombing to Senna’s attack, as he nurseda gearbox problem. Senna headed a McLaren 1-2, with Theirry Boutsen in third, subsequently becoming champion. The 1993 race was a different story – it was not the title decider, with Prost already having it wrapped up. It was also common knowledge that Senna would be leaving McLaren to join Williams at the end of the year. Senna started second on the grid, behind Prost, and briefly took the race lead. When the rain fell and drivers had to take on wet tyres, Senna had the better pit-stop and emerged in the lead. He spent the rest of the race battling with Prost but kept the lead and went on to win ahead of the Frenchman. Future McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen finished in third.

Gerhard Berger (1991 – Suzuka) 

Gerhard Berger is a two-time Japanese Grand Prix winner, although only one – his second – was for McLaren. He started the race from third place, with team-mate Ayrton Senna on pole and Nigel Mansell second. Berger took the lead at the start and pulled out a gap. With Mansell needing a race victory to stay in championship contention, Berger being in the lead was doing his team-mate a favour. Senna re-took the race lead on lap 18 and he and Berger continued trading fastest laps as they established themselves at the front. Towards the end of the race Berger started to develop an engine misfire and dropped back from Senna. However, due to a gentleman’s agreement between the pair, Senna let Berger through to take his first McLaren victory. Senna still won the world championship.

Mika Hakkinen (1998 & 1999 – Suzuka)

By the late 90s, when Mika Hakkinen was on the way to his two world championships, the Japanese Grand Prix was still hosting the last race of the season. It was once again host to a decider in 1998 when it came down to Michael Schumacher V Hakkinen. Schumacher took first blood in qualifying when he secured pole by a tenth of a second. Jarno Trulli stalled on the grid causing the first start to be aborted. On the second attempt Schumacher stalled and suddenly Hakkinen saw his title challenger drop to the back of the grid. Hakkinen led the field away on the third attempt and built up a solid lead while Schumacher charged through the field. Unfortunately for the German, one of his tyres exploded after contact with debris, causing him to retire. Hakkinen went on to win the race (and championship) finishing ahead of Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard. Another showdown faced Hakkinen in 1999 – this time with Eddie Irvine, who had a four point advantage over the Finn going to Japan. Hakkinen qualified second, behind Schumacher, with Coulthard and Heinz-Harald Frentzen slotting between the Finn and his rival in fifth. Hakkinen took the lead at the start and pulled away, driving a faultless race to beat Schumacher and Irvine to the lead. Ferrari took the constructors’ championship but Hakkinen retained his drivers’ title by two points.

Kimi Raikkonen (2005 – Suzuka)

After a string of Ferrari wins in Japan, Kimi Raikkonen took a dramatic last lap lead in the 2005 race to put McLaren back on the Japanese Grand Prix winners list. Rain mixed up qualifying with Ralf Schumacher starting from pole position while the likes of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, and Raikkonen started right down the order – 17th in Raikkonen’s case. It was warm and sunny on race day. Raikkonen lost out after making a mistake and running wide early on but an early safety car, thanks to his team-mate’s escapades, closed the order up and Raikkonen had the restart to regain positions. He stormed through the field and with just a handful of laps remaining he was right up with race leader Fisichella. He had a couple of laps following the Renault, with backmarkers getting into the mix. The McLaren driver enjoyed a tow from the Renault and closed right up at the final chicane. He eventually passed him on the final lap and went on to win the race with a one and a half second advantage. Alonso finished a distant third.

Lewis Hamilton (2007 – Fuji)

When Formula One returned to Fuji in 2007, it was Lewis Hamilton who conquered the wet conditions to win the race. Hamilton went into the race weekend with a slim two point advantage over his team-mate, which was extended due to Fernando Alonso crashing out. Hamilton qualified on pole and led the field behind the safety car, which the race was started behind due to the weather. It stayed out until lap 19 and they finally got racing. While a number of drivers crashed out, Hamilton kept it on track to take another race win, by eight seconds. Heikki Kovalainen got his first podium position in Formula One when he finished second for Renault, with eventual world champion Kimi Raikkonen in third place.

Jenson Button (2011 – Suzuka)

The Japanese Grand Prix remained in Fuji for 2008 but returned to Suzuka for 2009. Sebastian Vettel took another pole position but it was McLaren’s Jenson Button who took victory. Button made a quick start and tried to pass Vettel, but was squeezed off the track and subsequently lost a position to his team-mate. Button looked after his tyres and closed in on Vettel at the end of the first stint and when Vettel pitted, Button stayed out longer. His quick in-lap coupled with a fast stop from McLaren saw Button emerge in the lead. After a safety car period, Button stayed out longer again when Vettel pitted and increased his advantage. In the closing stages of the race Fernando Alonso started to gain on the McLaren but Button won with a one second advantage. Vettel eventually finished third.


McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Australia

McLaren have won the Australian Grand Prix eleven times in its 29 year Formula One World Championship history. This is more times than any other constructor. Five of these wins came in Adelaide while the rest were at Albert Park in Melbourne, where the race is currently held.

Alain Prost (1986 & 1988 – Adelaide)

The 1986 Australian Grand Prix played host to the decider of the championship. Nigel Mansell went into the weekend with a six point advantage over Alain Prost, who was just one ahead of Mansell’s team-mate Nelson Piquet. Mansell and Piquet occupied the first two grid positions, while Prost started the race from fourth place. At the start of the race Mansell dropped behind Ayrton Senna, Piquet, and Prost’s team-mate Keke Rosberg. Piquet and Rosberg exchanged the race lead and Prost started to hunt down Piquet, who was running in second, behind Rosberg. Unfortunately for the McLaren driver he picked up a puncture and had to pit while Piquet spun. With 25 laps of the race remaining, Rosberg led with Piquet second, Mansell third and Prost in fourth. Disaster struck at the front when Rosberg’s tyre failed with the same happening to Mansell two laps later. Williams pitted Piquet, leaving Prost on a clear run to the chequered flag where he would not only become the race winner, but also world champion. He finished four seconds clear of Piquet at the end, with Stefan Johansson in third. He won the race again in 1988, this time starting in second to his team-mate but finishing in front of him. By the race’s end, Prost was 36s ahead of Senna with Piquet finishing in third.

Ayrton Senna – (1991 & 1993 – Adelaide)

Ayrton Senna kickstarted a hatrick of victories for McLaren at Adelaide when he won the race in 1991. He took pole position ahead of team-mate Gerhard Berger. There was a delayed start to the race due to rain. Senna and Berger maintained station at the start of the race, with Senna ahead of his team-mate. While Senna kept his car on the track, Berger was not so lucky and spun out. As the rain continued to fall harder, Senna signalled that the race should be stopped and it eventually was and half points were awarded. Senna won again in 1993 after knocking Williams off pole position for the first time all season. He qualified ahead of former team-mate Alain Prost. It took three attempts for the race to get going after two drivers stalled on the grid, but when it did eventually start Senna maintained his lead. He built up such a lead that, when the Williams duo pitted, Senna had enough of a lead to pit himself and still come out ahead. It was Senna’s last race for McLaren and he left the team in style. It also turned out to be his last ever victory. He was joined on the podium by rival Prost and Damon Hill.

Gerhard Berger (1992 – Adelaide)

Gerhard Berger won the Australian Grand Prix for McLaren in 1992 – between Ayrton Senna’s 1991 and 1993 victories. He started from fourth place and stayed there for the early stages of the race. Nigel Mansell and Senna, who started on the front row, pulled away at the front but a mistake when Mansell slowed saw both cars retire after Senna drove into the back of him. This left Berger and Riccardo Patrese at the front of the field. Patrese retired with an engine problem and Berger got through to lead and eventually win. He finished ahead of Michael Schumacher and Martin Brundle, both driving for Benetton.

David Coulthard (1997 & 2003 – Melbourne)

The 1997 Australian Grand Prix was the first race of the year, and the second held at Albert Park. Jacques Villeneuve qualified on pole position with David Coulthard in fourth place. There was attrition before the race properly got going after Damon Hill stalled and retired. Eddie Irvine tried to take the lead into the first corner but hit Villeneuve and Johnny Herbert as a consequence, causing all three to retire. There were a number of other incidents but Coulthard kept himself out of trouble to take McLaren’s first win since Ayrton Senna’s 1993 Australian Grand Prix victory. He finished ahead of Michael Schumacher and McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen. He repeated the feat in 2003 with an impressive drive from 11th on the grid. Only 11 of the 20 race starters finished, with Coulthard leading home Juan Pablo Montoya (who had led much of the race but spun towards the end), and Kimi Raikkonen. This proved to be Coulthard’s last victory in Formula One.

Mika Hakkinen (1998 – Melbourne)

Mika Hakkinen won the 1998 Australian Grand Prix en route to his first world championship. He came out on top in a close qualifying between him and his team-mate, his time just four hundredths of a second faster than David Coulthard. Both McLarens had strong starts and pulled away from the rest of the field. Confusion reigned later in the race when Hakkinen misheard a radio call and entered the pits when his crew were not ready for him. He effectively took a drive through penalty and lost the lead to his team-mate. Later in the race Coulthard was asked to let Hakkinen through, and he did – resulting in the Finn winning. The McLaren duo lapped the entire field, with third place man Heinz-Harald Frentzen a lap down.

Lewis Hamilton (2008 – Melbourne)

Following David Coulthard’s 2003 Australian Grand Prix victory, McLaren’s next winner was also a Brit. Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole position ahead of Sauber’s Robert Kubica. He kept a cool head in the middle of three safety cars and led home only six cars – the rest retiring due to accidents or reliability problems. It was Kubica’s team-mate Nick Heidfeld who joined Hamilton on the podium, along with Nico Rosberg in third.

Jenson Button (2010 & 2012 – Melbourne)

Jenson Button is the man who has done the business most recently for McLaren in Australia. He won the 2010 race – his second race for the team – and the 2012 edition. In 2010 Sebastian Vettel qualified on pole with Mark Webber alongside, making it a Red Bull lock-out. It was declared a wet race and drivers changed to intermediate tyres. Vettel maintained the lead at the start but Webber lost out to a fast starting Felipe Massa. As the track started to dry Button, who had tangled with Fernando Alonso earlier in the race, decided to change to slicks before anyone else. By the time everyone else pitted he was up to second from sixth. Vettel later retired from the race and victory was Button’s, finishing 12 seconds clear of Robert Kubica and 14 seconds ahead of Felipe Massa in third. His 2012 victory was different after starting from pole and maintaining his lead throughout the race. It was a McLaren front row lock-out, with Button just edging his team-mate, but by the race end they had Vettel between them. Button contended a safety car during the race but made a good restart to pull away quickly and avoid being overtaken.