Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Jenson and Lewis get a little nostalgic about McLaren - A new video from the team show the boys looking at a bit of F1 history

Published by Gavin Brown

Lately, McLaren have been doing a great job of using social media to get in touch with fans of the team and of the sport. The latest viral video from McLaren is an absolute gem - Lewis and Jenson in a warehouse full of McLaren F1 cars, no script, and hidden cameras filming their interaction. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out here:

I mean, how cool is that? Lewis and Jenson look like two kids in a candy shop - like many of you I watched that in awe and envy that they get to touch and sit inside one of the greatest F1 cars ever made - the McLaren MP4/4.

Ayrton Senna's '88 championship winning MP4/4
Ayrton Senna's '88 championship winning MP4/4Credit:

This video also struck a chord with me personally too. I am a year younger than Jenson and about 3 years older than Lewis, so I started watching F1 about the same time they did. So like me, they probably started watching in this dominant era of McLaren, when Senna was battling with Prost in those beautiful Red and White machines. This is my earliest memory of the sport and I sure it can't be much different for these guys either.

So to be able to sit in one, play around with it (Lewis made some great engine noises) and reminisce on how they feel about the car, the team and the legacy they have to uphold as McLaren drivers must have been pretty special. The guys talk about Senna driving around Monaco, how things were pretty different back then, and how much they would give to drive it themselves around the Monte Carlo Circuit (another gem when Button pretends his radio isn't working!)

The guys really goof off and have fun and yet there is a brief moment after Lewis plays around inside the cockpit where he suddenly goes quiet... and for just a brief moment, space and time contort and twist and the boy who painted his helmet yellow and green because he grew up watching the man wrestle his red and white beast around the mean streets of Monte Carlo is himself. He's there. He's Senna. He's driving around Monaco. He's destined to be the World Champion in a McLaren. Then he snaps back to reality, in a shed somewhere in England, and realises that he did all of these things in his own way. He smiles and carefully gets out of the car, knowing that Jenson and himself are creating a new chapter in the long and illustrious history of one of F1's most successful teams...

Yet again, the interaction between the two drivers is fantastic - you really believe they actually like being in each other's company and are having fun making the video. It speaks volumes for the team that they have this dynamic - unlike some other teams - and I really believe that this is why McLaren have been so successful this year.

Incidentally, they refer to onboard footage of Senna qualifying at Monaco. Now, I have been told that footage does exist on the 1988 season review film, but I can't find it anywhere on the internet. More well known and just as good however, is this video of Senna in 1989 in a McLaren-Honda V12 qualifying at Monaco.

But why do they focus on this car? As Jenson points out, most of the cars McLaren have made have been very successful.

The rear of the MP4/4
The rear of the MP4/4Credit: Chris Wevers

But this one was very different.

The McLaren MP4/4 was conceived at the end of an era. Since 1983, the only kind of engine to have in F1 was Turbo power. Turbo power was only allowed because of a long-forgotten loophole in the engine rules, which once exploited, spawned a whole decade of fire-breathing, wheel spinning, flame spitting monsters. When engines topped 1,000 horsepower (more than today's formula), the FIA announced that 1988 would be the last year Turbo power would be allowed. So while other teams chose to focus on designing a car more aligned with the next year's rules, McLaren decided to design a car that exploited the last of the Turbo era in F1.

And boy, did it do that! The car completely outclassed the entire field, often qualifying a whole second ahead of everyone else. It won 15 out of the 16 races of the 1988 season, with the only blemish being Monza, where Prost retired with engine failure and Senna tripping up over a back marker. In fact, the car was so reliable that McLaren only had 4 retirements in the whole season - and two of those were from crashes!

So it's a pretty special car and understandably one which is worth seeking out, even in a room full of special cars like the McLaren warehouse.

A final footnote: Senna became a master of Monaco and arrived at the race in 1988 as a hot favourite having won the first of his six victories there the previous year. He qualified far ahead of Prost and the rest of the field, and was cruising to an easy win... until he made a rare mistake and crashed out from the lead, handing the race win to his rival, Prost.

Sometimes a sense of Nostalgia can be a little ironic too...

MP4/4 at the Formula 1 Expo held at Te Papa, 2009.
MP4/4 at the Formula 1 Expo held at Te Papa, 2009.Credit: mattdwen

[Images licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 license]