McLaren is one of Formula 1’s most historic teams. Here, we are looking through their history as we pick out our top 5 McLaren F1 drivers of all time.
McLaren is one of the most successful and iconic teams in Formula 1 history. Their success is largely due to the incredible drivers that have represented them over the years.
With 12 Drivers’ Championships from seven drivers, as well as eight Constructors’ titles, the Woking-based team have experienced golden periods with legendary driver lineups.
Here, we are taking a look at the top 5 McLaren F1 drivers of all time and ranking them, while also giving a nod to some other memorable drivers.
35 Wins | 3 championships
Number one on this list is undeniably the late great Ayrton Senna, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree.
It's impossible to talk about McLaren's history without mentioning Senna. The Brazilian driver joined the team in 1988 and immediately made his mark by winning the Drivers' Championship in his first year with the team.
He went on to win two more championships with McLaren in 1990 and 1991, cementing his place as one of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history.
Senna's incredible speed and raw talent behind the wheel made him a fan favourite and helped him become McLaren’s record holder for the most wins in team history with 35.
30 Wins | 3 Championships
Alain Prost is another driver that had an incredible career with McLaren and is just as important to the team's history as Senna, especially since the two were teammates for some time (although definitely not friends).
The Frenchman joined the team in 1984 and won his first championship with them in 1985. He went on to win two more championships with McLaren in 1986 and 1989, with the last one proving rather controversial with the manner in which it was won, as well as how the season played out with his teammate Senna.
Prost was known for his incredible consistency and technical ability, and his battles with Ayrton Senna are still talked about today as some of the most legendary moments in the sport's history.
21 Wins | 1 Championship
Now recognised as debatably the greatest of all time, Lewis Hamilton’s career started with McLaren. After being signed by the team in the young driver programme back when he was just 13, he went on to repay the faith the team had in him when he got to F1 by almost winning the championship in his rookie year, missing out by just one point.
He managed to capture the title for the second time of asking, though, with the conclusion of the season in Interlagos, Brazil being remembered as one of the greatest races of all time.
Hamilton stayed with the team until 2012, winning at least one race in every season he was with the team and continuing to challenge for championships throughout. He still remains the last driver to win a World Championship for McLaren.
20 Wins | 2 Championships
The mid part of the 1990s saw McLaren drop off slightly and out of championship contention. But they returned to the top in 1998, with the pairing of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard leading the way.
Hakkinen was a brilliant driver from early on, joining the team in 1993. It wasn’t until 1998 that he had the opportunity to start winning consistently, though, as McLaren came with the Adrian Newey-designed MP4/13 - a brilliantly dominant car that helped Hakkinen win his first Drivers’ Championship, as well as the team's first Constructors’ Championship since 1991 and their last one to date.
He then followed that up by retaining his title in the 1999 season, solidifying himself as one of the sports and the team's greatest champions.
8 Wins | 1 Championship
Niki Lauda’s life and career is one to be remembered, but what sometimes gets forgotten about is his return to Formula 1 after retiring in 1979 to drive for McLaren and proving that he still had it by winning one more Drivers’ Championship.
Lauda walked away from F1 in 1979 but came back in 1982, now driving for McLaren. He won two races in his first season back, but it was the 1984 season that showed who he really was, as he beat his teammate, the young Alain Prost, by half a point to win his third championship.
Lauda was a genius with the car, and not just what he could do on the track. His knowledge and understanding of whatever car he drove brought success to every team he graced, including McLaren, and undoubtedly helped usher in their golden period in the 1980s.
Those are our top five McLaren F1 drivers of all time, but we have to take a look at some other men who deserve an honourable mention for their achievements with the team.
There simply would not be a McLaren team if it wasn’t for New Zealander Bruce McLaren, who found the team in 1963. He won just one race with the team and unfortunately never got to see the team lift their first titles in 1974, but it's what he started that makes him a true F1 legend.
Emerson Fittipaldi was one of the best drivers of his generation, winning two championships during the 1970s including one with McLaren in 1974. Fittipaldi won just five races with McLaren, including just three in his championship season.
James Hunt was unique in the way he would conduct himself, being a bit of a playboy in his prime, but that didn’t stop him from winning the championship in 1976 while driving for McLaren. He won nine races in his time with McLaren, with six in his title-winning season.
As one of the most historic teams in Formula 1, their place in the paddock has them as part of the elite sides, despite not properly being in contention for titles or wins in recent years.
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