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McLaren Mercedes: Chapter one recap

McLaren Mercedes: Chapter one recap

F1 News

McLaren Mercedes: Chapter one recap

McLaren Mercedes: Chapter one recap

McLaren and Mercedes will again join forces this year, renewing one of the most successful constructor-engine supplier partnerships in Formula 1's history.

McLaren-Mercedes. Some things just sound right don't they? With four world titles, 78 wins and 76 pole positions, the Anglo-German pairing ranks as the third most potent combination.

Mercedes re-enters F1

In 1993, Mercedes made its first tentative footsteps back into F1 since it had guided Juan Manuel Fangio to championship success in the 1955 season. Although best known for partnering McLaren, the marque initially returned with Sauber.

In the early days, Mercedes did not want to risk its reputation with a failed bid to compete and partnered with Ilmor Engineering to supply Sauber, the team entering the sport for the first time after enjoying a relationship with Mercedes in sportscars.

The engine covers read "concept by Mercedes-Benz" but after a successful first year, this was changed to "powered by Mercedes-Benz" for 1994.

McLaren Mercedes is born

Through Ilmor, Mercedes had hoped to supply both Sauber and McLaren for the 1995 season but Peter Sauber, the founder and owner of his eponymous team, elected to switch to Ford engines.

This left Mercedes alone with McLaren, a situation that would remain unchanged until the end of 2008.

There was no immediate success, however, as the team scored only 30 points - its worst tally for 14 years - and finished fourth in the constructors' standings in 1995.

Although McLaren only managed fourth again in 1996 and 1997, the latter was a breakthrough year for the partnership as David Coulthard took victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The British driver followed up with another win in Italy whilst team-mate Mika Hakkinen rounded out the year with a win of his own in the European GP in Estoril.

The titles begin to flow

That '97 campaign merely served notice of what was to come the following year.

Five wins from the first six races - four for Hakkinen and one for Coulthard - got the team off to a flying start. The fact three of the results were one-two finishes added to the early advantage in the constructors' championship.

Seven podiums and four more wins - all for Hakkinen - followed across the 16-race calendar, delivering McLaren-Mercedes its first drivers' and constructors' titles.

For Mercedes, this was the first time the manufacturer had won a constructors' crown as the concept was first introduced in 1958, three years after it had walked away from the sport.

Unfortunately, this would be the only success in the constructors' standings for the pairing although they did register seven runner-up finishes.

It was in the drivers' championship, however, the success continued.

Hakkinen and Hamilton maintain title form

Driving for the first time as a world champion, Hakkinen immediately backed up his 1998 success.

The season went down to the wire, with Eddie Irvine the Finn's surprise rival after Michael Schumacher had been ruled out of the championship fight after missing races due to a broken leg suffered at the British GP.

Hakkinen's fifth win of the year in the Suzuka finale proved enough to topple the Irishman, who had entered the weekend with a four-point lead.

McLaren then had to wait until 2008 for its next, and final champion. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso both fell one-point short of Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 as internal politics caused on-track problems, but this would change in '08.

With Hamilton partnered by Heikki Kovalainen, the Finn, whichever way you looked at it, was not a driver of the calibre of Alonso. This unquestionably positioned the Briton as the team leader.

Still, drama followed as Hamilton won the title thanks to a last-lap pass on Timo Glock at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. Felipe Massa had crossed the line and for 20 seconds was world champion until Hamilton's manoeuvre gave him fifth place he required to steal the crown.

A gradual decline and 'customer' status

The 2009 regulation changes shook up the order in a way few predicted. Red Bull were no longer midfield runners but race winners, Ferrari and McLaren struggled badly, and out of the ashes of the Honda factory team, Brawn GP emerged as champions.

Brawn, a scratch team with very little budget, became Mercedes first engine customer other than McLaren since 1995 and, after its championship-winning year, the team was bought by Mercedes to become the manufacturer's factory team.

As Mercedes edged into the sport as a factory outfit, then McLaren Group CEO and chairman Ron Dennis decided no customer team could win a title in the modern era.

Although wins had continued to roll in, the rate of success had slowed considerably and, by the end of 2014, McLaren had gone two years without a race victory.

It still remains that the last win for McLaren came under Mercedes power in the 2012 Brazilian GP, with - with Jenson Button the winner that day.

McLaren brought Honda back to the grid, evoking memories of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and the all-conquering MP4-4, but this relationship quickly soured with results failing to match expectations due to shocking reliability.

The latest chapter of the McLaren-Mercedes story has now started.

McLaren has been on the rise in recent years, finishing third last season with Renault power units, but can the team return to its championship-winning best? Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo will certainly hope so!

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