When Bruce McLaren joined the Cooper team on a full-time basis in 1959, he proved a perfect partner for Jack Brabham. The two men did more than just drive they had an active input into the design and development of the cars, which then was almost unheard of. After Jack left at the end of 1961, Bruce could have, should have, made a significant contribution to Cooper design. However, Charles Cooper was so mortified at Brabham's apparent ingratitude that he kept McLaren at arms length.
Bruce, like Jack before him, started his own team to run in events which the Cooper works did not. The first sign that he intended to follow Brabham and set up his own construction company came over the winter of 1963/64. Cooper's long-time draughtsman/designer, Owen Maddock, left to freelance and his first job was to design a 'big-banger' sports racer for McLaren.
The McLaren M1 was the first of what would become a highly success line of sports cars. Lacking his own construction facility, Bruce subcontracted their manufacture to Elva, which was owned by Trojan.
At the end of 1965, McLaren left Cooper to set up his own Formula One team. He recruited Robin Herd, who had been working on systems for Concorde, and Herd penned a radical design with a monocoque made from Mallite, which was a sandwich of aluminium and balsa wood. The first two years of the McLaren F1 team were dogged by the lack of a suitable engine, but the availability of the DFV in 1968 elevated McLaren to the status of a top team. McLaren's huge success in the North American Can-Am sports racing series, helped put the fledging company onto a secure financial footing, as did success in Formula 5000 and Indycar.
After Bruce was killed in 1970, the team was run by Teddy Mayer, brother of Timmy Mayer, who had been killed driving a McLaren-entered Cooper in the Tasman series in 1964. Throughout most of Mayer's stewardship McLaren prospered. It secured sponsorship from Marlboro and won drivers' championships in 1974 (Fittipaldi) and 1976 (Hunt) and the Constructors' Cup in 1974.
By the end of 1971, McLaren had won 24 Grands Prix, but the introduction of ground effect saw it lose the plot. In 1978 and 1979, McLaren scored just 15 points each season, in 1980 it was down to just 11 points and Marlboro was losing patience.
In the meantime, Ron Dennis had commissioned John Barnard to design a new Formula One car, which would have a carbonfibre monocoque. Dennis had been running a preparation company, Project 4, which had run cars in Formula Three and Two, and which had also prepared cars for the Procar Championship. Procar was a series which used BMW M1 coupes and the races were staged on the Saturday of a Grand Prix weekend, with many of the top F1 drivers taking part.
Dennis had established a reputation second to none for his standards and had also forged close links with Marlboro. At the end of 1980, and with the assistance of Marlboro, Dennis took 50% of McLaren shares and became, with Mayer, joint managing director. Within 18 months Dennis was in sole charge.
At the beginning of 1981, the new Barnard design, the MP4 was unveiled: 'M' for 'McLaren', 'P4' for 'Project 4'. John Watson ended McLaren's drought of success by winning the British GP. Then Dennis pulled off a master-stroke and persuaded Niki Lauda to come out of retirement. Though the cars would use DFV engines until the end of 1983, the chassis was so sweet that Lauda would take two wins and Watson three.
The first turbocharged McLaren ran before the end of 1983 with an engine built by Porsche, but labelled TAG. Techniques Avant Garde, a company founded by Mansour Ojeh, had bought into McLaren International, as the company had become, both to use Formula One as a flagship for its other activities and to cooperate with McLaren on various hi-tech developments. There was some idea of using the TAG engine in helicopters, but that came to nothing.
It is, incidentally, incorrect to call the unit a Porsche engine. Porsche was a subcontractor which supplied the basic engine to a specification laid down by John Barnard. All the development work was carried out by KKK turbochargers and Bosch, the electronics company. They too, were subcontractors, employed by TAG.
With a McLaren-TAG, Niki Lauda won the 1984 Drivers' Championship, and Alain Prost won it back-to-back in 1985 and '86. McLaren took the constructors' title in 1985 and 1986.
The last year that McLaren used the TAG engine was 1987, by which time it was slipping behind and John Barnard had decamped to Ferrari. Then Ron Dennis pulled of a coup by persuading Honda to dump Williams and switch to McLaren. McLaren also fielded the two best drivers of the day, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, and embarked on a period of unprecedented success. For four straight years, 1988-91, McLaren won both drivers' and constructors' championships every year. In 1998, but for a collision on the penultimate lap of the Italian Grand prix between Senna and Williams 'stand-in' Jean-Louis Schlesser, McLaren would have won every round of the championship.
After Honda retired at the end of 1992, McLaren kept afloat first with customer Cosworth engines which, thanks to the genius of Ayrton Senna, brought five wins. McLaren signed a deal with Peugeot for 1994 and they consigned it to the status of a midfield runner.
Ron Dennis proved he had lost none of his touch when, for 1995, he announced a long-term relationship with Mercedes-Benz. The engines were actually designed and built by Ilmor, but backup and input from Mercedes-Benz. It took the new partnership until 1997 until it won a race (that year it won two) but in the summer of that year, it became known that Adrian Newey would leave Williams and join McLaren.
Newey was an important factor in Williams slipping down the order and McLaren returning to the fore with a constructors' title in 1998 and back-to-back Championships for Mika Hakkinen, 1998 and 1999.
There is no question, however, that Ron Dennis's eye for detail and presentation, plus his superb business acumen, has been the main reason for McLaren's success. Early into his reign, a mechanic turned up at Heathrow ready to fly to Brazil, and he was not wearing his team tie. The mechanic did not go to Brazil.
Ron would send an advance party to race circuits to paint and fettle the McLaren pit garages to an appropriate standard. This underlined the entire Dennis philosophy - he imposed his standards on the pit garages, he did not accept those of the circuit owner. In the same way, a car's bodywork is not polished between races, the paint is likely to be stripped off and the whole body painted again from scratch.
It is this insistence on standards which impresses McLaren's sponsors (sorry, corporate partners) and that in turn ensures both the team's prosperity and its continued success.
Despite an exciting driver line-up comprising David Coulthard, then in his seventh year with the Woking outfit, and Finnish charger Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren failed to live up to its promise. After just a couple of races it was clear that the MP4-17 was no match for Ferrari's 2001 car, as used in the first couple of races, far less the 2002 version.
The MP4-17 was not one of the Woking team's finest while Mercedes' FO 110M was hardly the German manufacturer's best power-plants. Put these together with Michelins that only seemed to perform when it suited them and you have a relatively poor package which explains why the Silver cars were unable even to compete with the Williams F1s
Admittedly Coulthard was one of only two non-Ferrari drivers to grab a win, while Raikkonen was desperately unlucky not to take a magnificent win at Magny-Cours, but on the whole 2002 was a season to forget for Ron and his boys.
For 2003 McLaren retained the same line-up, though the new MP4-18 wasn't expected to make its debut until Imola at the earliest. At least, that was the plan.
Things got off to a brilliant start with David Coulthard taking victory at Melbourne, though Montoya's unforced error, when he spun whilst leading, was a major contributory factor. Two weeks later Kimi Raikkonen's win at Malaysia seemed far more convincing. McLaren was shaping up as a genuine title contender.
Although Raikkonen stood atop the podium in Brazil, it was later discovered that the timekeepers had made a mistake and therefore Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella was subsequently handed the win.
This was to be the last time that a McLaren driver stood on the top step of the podium for the remainder of the year, though there were times when they came close.
Coulthard struggled with the new qualifying format, which placed the emphasis on a driver's ability to perform on one 'hot lap', while Raikkonen struggled with a car that was clearly past its sell-by date.
Both drivers eagerly awaited the arrival of the MP4-18, but it proved to be a long wait. The car finally made its test debut in mid-May, ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. But a series of unexplained crashes in testing, and the car's failure to pass the mandatory FIA crash tests, meant that McLaren had to go back to the drawing board (literally), while Coulthard and Raikkonen had to persevere with the MP4-17D.
That Raikkonen was able to take the title fight to the wire, speaks volumes for the Finn, though given the fact that he had one win to Schumacher's six, it could be argued that the new points system worked in his favour.
A difficult season for the Woking outfit was not helped by the fact that Ferrari added yet another couple of trophies to its cabinet, while WilliamsF1 and Renault both appeared to be shaping up as serious contenders for 2004.
In November 2003, McLaren confirmed Formula One's worst kept secret, namely that Juan Pablo Montoya would partner Kimi Raikkonen in 2005, a real fire and ice partnership if ever there was one. However, with the Colombian's arrival over a year away, the job was to focus on 2004.
In pre-season testing, the McLaren MP4-19 looked good, and there were many who believed that the Woking team was on course to reclaim its former glory. The car was the first of the 2004 contenders to be launched, and there was nothing to suggest that it wouldn't take the fight to Ferrari, certainly no sign of the dismal failure we were about to witness.
Along with DC and Kimi, the team retained both Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa as test drivers, Ron Dennis opting for continuity.
Although few predicted that Ferrari would be as dominant as it clearly was, come Melbourne, far less would have foreseen the McLaren being such a hopeless car.
By midway through the season the team had scored just 17 points, and were in serious danger of losing sixth place in the Constructors' Championship to Sauber. Behind the scenes the team was working franticly, as all involved tried to save face.
In France, the team introduced the MP4-19B, which in reality was a bigger progression - compared to the MP4-19 - than the name suggests. Clearly, progress was being made and in the next couple of races the team more than doubled its points tally.
If proof were needed that McLaren was making progress, it came at Spa, where Raikkonen took a well-earned victory. It was far too late to make any serious impression on the championship, but it proved that McLaren had the resources and determination to regroup and fight back.
It's difficult to know where to point the blame, in reality even Ron Dennis stands accused, the Englishman getting far too involved in his Technology Centre.
The Woking outfit headed into 2005 with its scintillating 'fire and ice' driver line-up, comprising Raikkonen and Montoya.
Having staged such an amazing fight back in 2004, all eyes were on McLaren, and of course Mercedes, to see if the team would make the job any easier for itself in the new season.
Ironically, having finished outside the Top 4 the previous season, the Woking team was able to take full advantage of the Friday test sessions, one of the little scraps that team boss Ron Dennis had previously thrown to the 'minnows'. As it happens, like Renault and BAR beforehand, McLaren was able to put these sessions to great use.
Depending on your point of view, you might say that McLaren lost the drivers' and constructors' titles in 2005, rather than Renault winning them.
On its day, the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20 was stunning, unfortunately those days were all too infrequent. For despite its pace, the car was fragile, unlike the Renault, which for much of the season appeared bullet-proof.
As a result of a problem in the first few rounds of the championship, which, amongst other things, saw the MP4-20 failing to qualify well, Renault got its season off to a dream start, taking four straight wins. With a 21 point deficit after four races, the Woking team was always facing an uphill task. Yet it persevered.
The statistics tell the story, 10 wins, 7 poles and 12 fastest laps. But then there was the half-shaft failure at Imola and numerous engine failures in practice, resulting in grid demotion, making Raikkonen, in particular, have to work that much harder and against greater odds.
To its credit, McLaren, and its drivers, rose to the occasion, but the poor start to the season meant that the Woking cars had to be pushed ever harder, and consequently paid the price.
There were other factors that probably contributed to McLaren's failure, such as, team boss, Ron Dennis' preoccupation with the new factory and the Mercedes SLR project. Then there was the mystery injury which kept Juan Pablo Montoya out of two races, not to mention the points thrown away at the Nurburgring, when Kimi, with the team's 'blessing', pushed his Michelins just a little too far.
Reading this, one might think that 2005 was a season of 'doom and gloom' for McLaren, but it wasn't, indeed the Woking outfit provided race fans with some of the true highlights of the year. With Montoya recovering from his 'tennis injury' we saw spirited performances from his understudies, Pedro de la Rosa and Alexander Wurz, while Raikkonen kept us on the edge of our seats with his 'never say die' performances, including what must rank as the move of the season, his pass on Giancarlo Fisichella at Suzuka.
If people thought 2005 was doom and gloom, 2006 was the real deal, certainly by McLaren standards.
Although the Woking outfit already knew it had Fernando Alonso under contract for 2007, the team suffered the loss of several leading technical figures with Adrian Newey and Peter Prodromou heading off to Red Bull and Nicholas Tombazis returning to Ferrari. Furthermore, despite the attempt at a 'brave face', with the recruitment of, Red Bull head of vehicle design, Rob Taylor, such to-ing and fro-ing is not a good foundation for a World Championship assault.
In the first couple of races things looked OK, and it seemed McLaren might finally have the equipment with which Raikkonen and Montoya could challenge for the title. However, slowly things began to fall apart and it was clear that the MP4-21 was not the car with which McLaren would be able to challenge Ferrari, far less Renault.
The package had run well in testing, completing a tremendous amount of miles and hovering at the top of the timesheets. However, as the season progressed, the MP4-21's weaknesses became all too apparent.
Firstly, the reintroduction of pit stops for tyres worked against McLaren, the MP4-21, like the MP4-20, being easy on its tyres. Then there was reliability, particularly when it came to the Mercedes 108S.
A lapse of concentration - he was listening to his radio - cost Raikkonen victory in Hungary, while at Monaco, where the MP4-21 appeared to be the best package, the Finn suffered a fire in his engine bay.
The incident in 2005, when Montoya missed a couple of races due to his tennis injury, had caused tension between the Colombian and his boss, and as the 2006 season developed the it was clear that matters hadn't improved. With Alonso already signed for 2007, it was doubtful whether Montoya would be retained. However, the Colombian took matters into his own hands by announcing that he was to leave F1 at the end of the season and switch to NASCAR. As the news was still sinking in, McLaren announced that Pedro de la Rosa would replace the Colombian who would; "spend the next few months in Miami with his family, while making initial preparations for his debut in NASCAR". Game, Set and Match to Ron.
As the season progressed, McLaren could only sit back and watch Renault and Ferrari battle it out for the championship(s), with the English team's third place facing a late assault by Honda.
Under the circumstances Raikkonen and de la Rosa did the best they could. However, the fact is that a season which started out with the prospect of the Woking team taking its first title since 1998 ended with the team failing to win a single race, the first time since 1996.
Following the Woking team's dismal 2006, prospects for 2007 were altogether different, with many predicting a return to the very top. An all-new driver line up, new sponsors, new part-owners (Bahrain's Mumtalakat Holding Company ) and new livery... everything appeared to be in place for a return to glory. How sad therefore that a season which promised so very much was to end so badly, with the team almost brought to its knees by events both on and off track.
Although from the outset it was clear that Ferrari's F2007 had the pace, over the course of the season the red car simply didn't have the reliability. Then again, there was the Hamilton factor.
Nothing, but nothing, had prepared us for quite how good Lewis Hamilton was to be in his debut season. Even though he's been in the job for as long as he can remember even Ron Dennis must have been caught off guard. Sure, we knew the youngster had been good in every other formula he'd raced but this didn't mean he'd cut it in F1, one only has to think back to Jan Magnussen.
However, it was Hamilton's 'out of the box' brilliance, coupled with McLaren's failure to designate a proper driver hierarchy that ultimately led to failure. That and the spy saga.
Fernando Alonso, a double World Champion, was clearly as surprised as the rest of us by Hamilton's ability, however he assumed he would be treated in a manner befitting his titles, i.e. as number one. He was wrong. Consequently, it wasn't long before there was all-out war between the two, the situation coming to a head in Hungary when Alonso, feeling that Hamilton had already broken the rules by refusing to allow him past at the start of the third phase of qualifying, returned the compliment by deliberately holding back his teammate at the final pit stop, thereby preventing him from a final stab at pole.
Suddenly, talk of bad feeling within the team was no longer a matter of idle speculation, it was now out in public for all to see. Ron Dennis made no secret of his anger at what happened, nor did the FIA. However, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that there was far more going on in Hungary than the driver war in qualifying, for it was in Hungary that Alonso is known to have threatened to use incriminating e-mails which showed his team's role in the spy saga, which was already beginning to overshadow on-track activities.
While Ferrari reliability, coupled by a number of hit-and-miss performances from its drivers, stifled the Italian team, the McLaren drivers were consistently climbing the podium. Alonso, in only his second outing for the Woking team, took victory in Bahrain, the first of four wins. While Hamilton, following a string of four second places, took his maiden GP win in Canada, following it a week later with another win, this time at Indianapolis.
At season end, Bernie Ecclestone said that McLaren had lost the championship(s), and while partly true, this is a great disservice to Raikkonen and Ferrari's determination never to give in.
The spy saga, which had dominated much of the season, finally put paid to McLaren's Constructors' Championship hopes - that and the Hungarian GP debacle - a few days after the Italian GP, when the Woking outfit was fined $100m and excluded from the Constructors' Championship. Now, all that remained was the drivers' title.
While Raikkonen fought back in Belgium, thereby closing the title gap to thirteen points, Hamilton hit back with a superb victory in Japan. The rest, as they say is history. Due to a combination of driver and team errors, unforgivable on McLaren's part, all was lost, with Hamilton finishing runner-up to the Finn and Woking teammate Alonso finishing third in the title race, though with the same number of points as the Englishman.
Thus, at season end, Ferrari had both titles whilst McLaren was $100m poorer, no titles, no points and consigned to spend 2008 at the 'poor' end of the pitlane.
Sadly, there was to be another twist to the sorry saga. McLaren protested the result of the Brazil GP, when BMW and Williams were found to have used 'illegal' fuel, and though the Woking team insisted that it did not want Hamilton to win the title by default, went ahead with its claim. Once again, it lost, and all that was gained was dragging out the result of the 2008 championship for a few more weeks.
It came as no great surprise, when, on November 2, McLaren announced that it was parting company with Alonso, subsequently taking over a month to name his successor, Heikki Kovalainen.
The day before naming Kovalainen as Hamilton's partner, McLaren dropped a further bombshell when it issued a statement admitting that "Ferrari information was more widely disseminated within the team than was previously communicated". Prior to this apology there was still a threat hanging over the Woking team, with the FIA scheduled to investigate its 2008 contender in February, just weeks before the start of the season. However, the public apology caused the FIA to draw a line underneath the whole sorry saga. That said, Ferrari is still continuing its investigations, and there could be further shocks to come.
The apology cast doubt on Ron Dennis' future with the team he helped build, with the British media in particular appearing to turn on the Woking boss. However, the long off-season and the prospect of the English youngster claiming the title helped repair much of the damage.
The MP4-24 had a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, however, it was in the aero that the car scored, both in terms of its front wing and the new regulations re roll-hoop dimensions.
Having worked well with Bridgestone's tyres in 2007, the Woking team was able to carry this forward in 2008, the MP4-23 being able to generate heat into its tyres far quicker than its rivals. This tyre efficiency paid off in qualifying and also meant that the drivers didn't over use their tyres in the races, other than in Turkey.
Also, being slightly more aggressive on the Bridgestone rubber than the Ferrari gave McLaren a distinct speed advantage in the wet, a fact which was clearly noticeable in Belgium.
Throughout the season the team continued to evolve the car at an alarming rate, with Engineering Chief Paddy Lowe admitting that the quest to keep pace with Ferrari was virtually open warfare.
Hamilton's aggressive driving style is said to have played a key role in the development of the car, and this might partly explain why Kovalainen was not always to match the English driver, the Finn often struggling to keep his rear tyres intact, particularly during the first part of the season.
After his excellent win in Melbourne, Hamilton struggled in Malaysia and Bahrain, claiming that he preferred the feel of the 2007 car. However, in time the car was the way he liked it, stiff at the front and soft at the rear, which not only allowed him to give some strong performances but also allowed him to look spectacular.
Mercedes continued to do the business engine-wise, the German outfit continuing to improve power and torque despite the engine freeze. Indeed, in the second half of the season the Mercedes was widely considered to be the best unit out there. Ironically, however, it was Kovalainen who suffered the only (race) engine failure of the season, indeed, the first since 2006.
While Kovalainen never quite matched the dizzy heights of Hamilton's success he played the part of 'support' to perfection, and there was no sign of the in-house hostility that had dogged the team the previous season.
While the Woking outfit was delighted to win its first drivers crown since 1999, it lost out in the battle for the Constructors' Championship. This was partly due to the fact that the Ferrari duo was more effective than the Woking duo and also a couple of occasions when the British team slipped up on strategy. That said, they gave Ferrari a run for their money.
Sadly, once again the race stewards also played their part in the championship fight, never more so than in Belgium when a hotly debated penalty saw Hamilton forfeit his win giving it to championship rival Felipe Massa.
Going into 2009, other than the raft of new rules, the big change at McLaren saw Ron Dennis stand down as team boss, the Englishman announcing his decision at the launch of the MP4-24. While Dennis went off to focus on other aspects of the McLaren empire, the role of team principal went to Martin Whitmarsh.
Hamilton and Kovalainen were both retained, and with much more expected of the Finn in his second season with the team it was widely anticipated that the Woking outfit could be looking at its first Constructors' crown since 1998.
Given the team's dreadful start to the 2009 season, one has to say that third place in the final standings marked a significant achievement.
Once serious testing got underway, it was clear there was a problem with the MP4-24, with the car up to three seconds off the pace. To put it simply, in terms of the new regulations the Woking outfit had got its aero calculations totally wrong. This, together with the fact that the team had, like many others, gone along with the spirit of the new aero rules and stuck with a single diffuser, not to mention fully embracing KERS, meant the team struggled from the outset.
However, the traditional 'never-say-die' spirit soon kicked in and by the time of the Spanish GP the MP4-24 was running with a double diffuser. Nonetheless, the team continued to struggled, and it is largely down to the pace, efficiency and reliability of the Mercedes engine - not to mention one of the best KERS systems of the few in use - that the team was able to end the year with most of its credibility intact.
The crucial moment of the season came in Hungary when Hamilton used his KERS to full advantage, overtaking Mark Webber and giving the team its first win of the year.
The team readily admits that for much of 2009, the MP4-24 was the worst car out there, however, hardly a race went by without the former champions introducing a raft of new parts, particularly so at the Woking outfit's home race. Indeed, the team even introduced a short wheelbase version of the car, which was used with great effect at Valencia before Hamilton decided he didn't like the feel of it.
Second in Valencia, coupled with a further win in Singapore and podiums in Japan and Brazil saw the 2008 champion climb up to fifth in the final standings, with many saying the Englishman showed more mettle than in his two previous seasons.
However, despite the amazing turnaround, which saw McLaren edge out Ferrari to take third in the Constructors' Championship, the season was overshadowed by events at the season opener and what was to become 'Lie-gate'.
Having finished fourth in Melbourne, Hamilton was subsequently promoted to third following an investigation into an incident involving the English driver and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, the Italian having been adjudged as overtaking the McLaren driver under a yellow flag.
However, it subsequently transpired that Hamilton and McLaren sporting director Dave Ryan had lied to the stewards leading to the English driver being disqualified and Ryan - a long-time servant of the Woking team - being given his marching orders at the next race.
While the incident severely dented Hamilton's 'golden boy' image, the Englishman being forced into making a grovelling apology, it also put his team back in front of the FIA and, more importantly, Max Mosley.
Whether it was Hamilton's contrition, the firing of Ryan or, more likely, the fact that Ron Dennis severed all official ties with the F1 team, we do not know, but the fact is that the Woking team escaped relatively lightly having been given a three-race suspended ban.
While the MP4-24 was not a good car, this doesn't fully explain why, once again, Kovalainen was unable to cut the mustard, the Finn's best result of the year being his fourth in Valencia.
Good strategy in Brazil saw Hamilton finish third, despite having started from eighteenth on the grid, however, other than the Woking outfit's determination to close the gap to its rivals which had existed since testing first got underway earlier in the year, it was Hamilton's determination - perhaps driven in part by the shame of lie-gate - that put the Woking team back in contention.
For 2010, McLaren once again chose to ignore the sceptics and take a major risk. Despite the problems when they partnered Prost with Senna and Alonso with Hamilton, the Woking team chose to bite the bullet, recruiting 2009 world champion Jenson Button to partner 2008 champ Hamilton.
As if this wasn't enough, Mercedes sold its 40 percent stake in McLaren and headed off to Brackley to form its own team, though the German manufacturer agreed to continue supplying engines for the Woking team for the foreseeable future.
Although an improvement on the MP4-24, the 25 was not the best car that Woking has produced. Indeed, the results and the fact that the team's drivers were leading the championship mid-season was more about the unreliability of the Red Bull RB6 and the great strategy and performances of Hamilton and Button. The MP4-25 flattered to deceive.
In sitting down to design the car, and making full use of the green light that had been given to double diffusers, Paddy Lowe and his team had opted for an unusually long wheelbase and an unusually long gearbox. However, in terms of the double diffuser, which was prone to stalling when the rear ride height was increased, the team opted to run the car very stiff. This meant that unlike previous Woking cars the MP4-25 hated bumps and kerbs.
On the other hand, the MP4-25 did feature a typical piece of Woking ingenuity, the F-duct. The F-duct was a driver controlled device which, using a scoop on the front of car, channelled air through a duct in the cockpit and towards the rear. Changes in the pressure in the duct, in combination with small slots on the rear wing, caused the wing to stall at high speed, thereby reducing aerodynamic drag and increasing top speed by as much as 6 mph on straights.
As soon as the F-duct made its appearance in Bahrain, the first round of the championship, the other teams cried foul, claiming that it was illegal. However, the FIA declared that it was not a moveable aerodynamic device and therefore fully legal. Of course, even as the FIA was deliberating the issue, rival teams were working on their own versions.
While most of the other teams were to copy the device, few matched the efficiency of McLaren's version which had been built into the original design of the MP4-25.
For the record, the F-duct was officially called the RW80, or switchable rear wing (SRW), at Woking. However, the F-duct tag came courtesy of the fact that the scoop was located beside the 'F' in the Vodafone logo on the front upper bodywork of the car.
In Bahrain, the season opener, the team struggled, and in all honesty, Hamilton's podium finish owed more to Vettel's engine problem. In Australia, a typically excellent strategic call by Button gave the team a surprise win, the 2009 champion getting his McLaren career off to a perfect start.
The team had a difficult time in Malaysia, despite showing promise in the free practice sessions, while in China Button led home a Woking 1-2, the team's first since Monza 2007.
A frustrating race in Spain was followed by a similarly disappointing outing in Monaco, Button retiring after just 3 laps after a cooling duct was mistakenly left in the radiator.
Then came a string of strong performances which saw Hamilton taking back-to-back wins in Turkey and Canada, and left the Woking outfit leading the Drivers' Championship as the season entered its second half.
However, it was in the second half of the season that the team appeared to stumble. While quick in races, particularly at tracks like Spa and Abu Dhabi, the MP4-25 struggled in qualifying. Indeed, it was as if the car performed better on full fuel tanks. The failure to perform well in qualifying, particularly in Button's case, meant the team had it all to do on race day. Furthermore, the team was one of the last to run a blown-diffuser, after a false start at Silverstone the Woking outfit finally debuting its version in Germany.
In Italy and again in Singapore, Hamilton's over-enthusiasm got the better of him, however, his grim determination in the face of such opposition, especially with Alonso and Ferrari in the ascendant, was to be admired rather than frowned on.
Both drivers went into the final phase of the championship as title contenders, but in reality it was clear that, barring a miracle, it was always really going to be about Red Bull and Ferrari, though strong points finishes did at least secure the Woking team runner-up spot in the Constructors' Championship.
As far as the pre-season sceptics were concerned, the pairing of Hamilton and Button worked well, indeed, some might even say it was inspired. Both drivers impressed, for different reasons, with Jenson, in particular, silencing some of his critics.
Following a less than impressive performance in pre-season testing, the Woking team carried out some major, but much needed, changes to the car before the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, with particular attention to the exhaust system. The team had tried a number of innovative ideas but on the basis of the test results returned to a more conservative approach.
The result was almost instant, quickest in the opening practice sessions in Melbourne, though it didn't quite have the overall pace of the Red Bull, the MP4-26 was clearly the second quickest car out there. To prove the point, Hamilton qualified second, albeit off 0.766s off Vettel's pace, the Englishman repeating the feat in next day's race despite a broken undertray.
In the 'break' between Melbourne and Malaysia McLaren continued to develop the car, the team subsequently closing the gap to Red Bull to around 0.2s. While Vettel took another win, this time it was Button who brought the MP4-26 home in second.
If prove were needed that McLaren was getting things right, it came in China when the Woking duo finished second and third in qualifying. A poor start from Vettel saw the McLarens running first and second however, while poor strategy and a botched pit stop was to cost Button, Hamilton benefited from a clever strategic move that saw him pass Vettel with four laps remaining, giving the Woking team its first win since Spa 2010.
Numerous problems in Turkey, including another botched pit stop and poor strategy, coincided with a revival from Ferrari, while in Spain Hamilton pushed Vettel to the very end, crossing the finish line just 0.630s down on the German. The Barcelona event also marked the Woking team's first double podium finish of the year.
While much was expected in Monaco, a qualifying error meant Hamilton started ninth, the Englishman finishing sixth in the race after one of those mindless incidents that littered the youngster's season. Button, on the other hand, had an excellent race, and, thanks to brilliant tyre strategy, was challenging Vettel and Alonso for the lead when a late red flag meant the leading pair benefited from a controversial switch to fresh rubber.
There were no such mistakes in Canada however, where Button took a superb victory, thereby making McLaren the first team to see both its drivers take a win. The Englishman's victory, which saw him pass race leader Vettel on the last lap, survived a clash with teammate Hamilton, not to mention having to make five pit stops and serve a drive-through, came at the end of the longest race in F1 history - the event having been stopped and delayed due to the dreadful weather conditions.
A difficult race in Valencia, where the MP4-26 struggled in the heat, left Vettel with a 77 point lead in the championship having taken 6 victories from 8 races.
A temporary restriction on blown diffusers at Silverstone played into the hands of Ferrari, and while Hamilton was able to take fourth, Button suffered his first retirement of the season, the Englishman the victim of poor pit work which meant a rear wheel had not been correctly fitted during a pit stop. The 2009 champ suffered another retirement in Germany, this time a hydraulics failure, but at least the team had the consolation of a win courtesy of Hamilton.
Despite the two previous retirements, in Hungary Button celebrated his 200th Grand Prix in style, the Englishman using his silky smooth driving skills and tyre strategy fully to his advantage.
At Spa, Hamilton qualified third and Button thirteenth following a miscommunication with the team. In the race, Hamilton collided with Kamui Kobayashi, whilst Button fought back to take third behind the Red Bull duo.
Despite the fact that many felt the Red Bulls would be weak at Monza, Vettel took a convincing win, Button finished second for the third year in a row and Hamilton finished fourth after the mother of all battles with Michael Schumacher.
Taking second in Singapore saw Button take second in the championship, thereby becoming the only man who could mathematically stop Vettel winning the title. Hamilton however, having previously tangled with Felipe Massa at Monaco and Silverstone, had another coming together with the Brazilian, the Englishman receiving a drive-through for making a wild move on the Ferrari which punctured its right-rear tyre. This followed an incident in qualifying when Hamilton lunged down the Brazilian's inside, attempting to pass on an out-lap, which led the Ferrari driver to publicly criticise his English rival.
After the race the two were involved in an incident which was to set the tone for the remainder of the year. The Brazilian approached Hamilton in the post-race TV interview area of the paddock as he was conducting an interview. Patting the McLaren driver on the shoulder, Felipe said: "Good job, well done." The Englishman spun around and warned the Ferrari driver not to touch him.
In Japan, Button, having qualified second, just 0.009 seconds behind Vettel, got past the German in the second round of pit stops having conserved his tyres through his second stint and staying out longer before pitting. Ironically, it was the Englishman's first win for McLaren in dry conditions. Elsewhere, Hamilton and Massa had collided yet again. The Brazilian, who damaged his front wing endplate but managed to finish seventh, subsequently called on the FIA to take action against the McLaren driver.
In Korea, Hamilton became the first driver, other than a Red Bull driver, to take pole position in 2011 - McLaren's first pole since Canada 2010 - the 2008 champ and his teammate going on to finish second and fourth.
In India, Button finished second, unable to match the pace of Vettel, whilst Hamilton collided with Massa again, though this time it was the Brazilian who was handed the (drive through) penalty.
In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton and Button qualified second and third, while on race day, Vettel's first lap retirement allowed Hamilton to take victory after controlling the race from the lead. Button finished third after losing his KERS for a large proportion of the race.
In the season finale, in Brazil, Button finished third behind the two Red Bulls, the Englishman, having been overtaken by Alonso at the start, re-passed him in the final stages of the race. Hamilton ran in fifth for much of the race before retiring with a gearbox problem.
While the history books will show McLaren as having finished runners-up to Red Bull, 153 points down on the Austrian team, the fact is that the Woking outfit was the only team to take the fight to Vettel and Webber on a regular basis. Indeed, considering how good the Vettel/RB7 package was, six wins for the British team was pretty impressive going.
Ignoring the clashes with Massa, the fact is that in 2011 Hamilton messed up on a number of occasions, not least the joke at the expense of the stewards in Monaco and his (self admitted) failure to prevent what was happening in his private life interfering with his day job.
Meanwhile, Button had proved to be a revelation, driving better than at any other stage in his career.
It was hoped that the mistakes would have been learned from and that the MP4-27 would be good straight out of the box. However, while it was clearly on the pace to all intents and purposes 2012 was a disaster for the Woking team as it continually appeared to shoot itself in the foot.
If it wasn't strategy it was sloppy pit work, if it wasn't pace it was unreliability. Seven wins makes it clear that when it was good the 27 was very good, sadly, however, there were too many days when it wasn't.
Bad enough that the Woking outfit lost out to Red Bull, but to lose out to Ferrari also, who for much of the season only had one driver, was unforgivable.
While the season got off to the best possible start with Button winning in Melbourne, and Hamilton coming home third, there was the sequence of races beginning in Bahrain where things appeared to fall apart.
At a time when some were questioning the fact that Williams improvement coincided with Sam Michael's departure, the Australian having moved to Woking, the team was clearly hurting.
Hungary witnessed the beginning of another sequence of wins which put Hamilton, in particular, back in the title hunt, though things fell apart in Korea where the team scored a solitary point, its worst result of the year.
Button had his moments, however, he, more than almost any other driver had problems getting to grips with the 2013 rubber.
While the season concluded with convincing wins in Austrian and Brazil, the team was now reeling following Hamilton's defection to Mercedes.
The news that the Englishman had opted to leave the McLaren family, though predicted for much of the summer, still came as a shock when it became official. At Pitpass, editor Chris Balfe, Mike Lawrence and Mat Coch each saw it differently.
The news of Hamilton's departure came just days after gearbox failure cost the Englishman almost certain victory in Singapore, and while this is unlikely to have had an affect on his decision it might well have played a part. A subsequent fuel pressure failure which robbed him of the win in Abu Dhabi is hardly likely to have helped the situation.
Whatever the whys and wherefores, the fact is that Hamilton has gone, leaving Button as team leader and the precocious Mexican Sergio Perez as his number two.
Just weeks before the first of the 2013 launches, fingers were still being pointed, with Ron Dennis suggesting the team could have kept Hamilton if it had wanted to, whilst others suggested that since securing the Woking gig Perez' had been somewhat disappointing.
2013 will be a make or break year for McLaren, and much like at Maranello, if things go wrong heads are sure to roll. Under Whitmarsh's 'captaincy' the team has not only failed to win a single title, it has lost its favourite son.
Statistics - at the end of the 2012 Season
Drivers' Titles: 12
Constructors' Titles: 8
Seasons in F1: 47
Grand Prix: 723
Fastest Laps: 153
Best result in 2012: 1st (7 times)
Best qualifying 2012: Pole (8 times)
Worst qualifying 2012: 24th (Hamilton - Spain)
2012: Hamilton out-qualified Button 16 times
2012: Button out-qualified Hamilton 4 times
2012: Completed 2150 out of 2384 laps (90.2%)
2012: Finished 33 times from 40 starts (82.5%)
Chairman: Ron Dennis
Team Principal: Martin Whitmarsh
Managing Director: Jonathan Neale
Technical Director: Tim Goss
Operations Director: Simon Roberts
Sporting Director: Sam Michael
Design and Development Director: Neil Oatley
Head of Vehicle Engineering: Mark Williams
Cheif Aerodynamicist: Doug McKiernan
Team Manager: Dave Redding
Principle Race Engineer: Phil Prew
Test Team Manager: Indy Lall
Race Engineer Car No 5: Dave Robson
Race Engineer Car No 6: Andy Latham
Chief Mechanic: Pete Vale
Head of Communications: Matt Bishop
Commercial & Financial Director: John Cooper
Race Press Officer: Steeve Cooper
Race Press Officer: Silvia Hoffer Frangipane
Monocoque: McLaren-moulded carbonfibre composite incorporating front and side impact structures, and survival cell
Front suspension: Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pullrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement
Rear suspension: Inboard torsion bar/damper system operated by pullrod and bell crank with a double wishbone arrangement
Electronics: McLaren Electronic Systems. Including chassis control, engine control, data acquisition, dashboard, alternator, sensors, data analysis and telemetry.
Bodywork: Carbon-fibre composite. Including engine cover, sidepods, floor, nose, front wing and rear wing.
Driver-operated drag reduction system
Lubricants & Fluids
Mobilith SHC 1500 Grease – lubricates the four tripod joints on the drive-shafts resisting the high temperatures generated by the
exhaust and braking systems
Mobilith SHC 220 Grease – minimises rolling resistance in the car’s ceramic wheel bearings to help maximise speed
Mobil SHC™ Hydraulic Oil – running at over 200 bar and 100° C this fluid is an essential part of the hydraulic system which controls gear shift, the throttles and operation of DRS and steering systems
Tyres: Pirelli P Zero
Race wheels: Enkei
Brake calipers: Akebono
Master cylinders: Akebono
Batteries: GS Yuasa Corporation
Steering: McLaren power-assisted
Instruments: McLaren Electronic Systems
Paint solutions: AkzoNobel Car Refinishes using Sikkens products
Mercedes-Benz FO 108F
Capacity: 2.4 litres
Maximum rpm: 18,000
Bank angle: 90°
Piston bore: maximum: 98mm
Number of valves: 32
Fuel ExxonMobil High Performance Unleaded (5.75% bio fuel)
Spark plugs NGK Formula 1 specification racing spark plugs
Lubricants Mobil 1 Engine Oil – for long engine life, protection and cooling combined with improved fuel economy
Weight 95kg (minimum FIA regulation weight)
e-Motor Engine-mounted electrical motor/generator
ESS Integrated energy storage cells and power electronics
Power 60 kW
Gearbox: McLaren-moulded carbon-fibre composite. Integral rear impact structure
Gears: Seven forward and one reverse
Gear selection: McLaren seamless shift, hand-operated
Clutch: Carbon/carbon, hand-operated
Lubricants: Mobil 1 SHC Gear Oil – provides reduced fluid traction losses improving gearbox efficiency and delivering more power to the rear wheels