The origins of McLaren-Honda's greatest racer

The origins of McLaren-Honda's greatest racer

As McLaren and Honda renew their partnership, Gary Watkins looks back at the all-conquering MP4/4, which famously won all but one race in 1988. Can its origins really be found in the disastrous Brabham BT55?

There can be no argument with the stats: 15 wins from 16 grands prix, 15 poles, 10 fastest laps and 1003 laps led from a total of 1031 make the 1988 McLaren-Honda MP4/4 the greatest one-season Formula 1 car of all time. Yet there is disagreement, an increasingly bitter one, about who should take credit for the all-conquering design that gave Ayrton Senna his first world title.

F1 design legend Gordon Murray and Steve Nichols, respectively technical director and chief designer at McLaren in the late 1980s, have both been described as the designer of the MP4/4 over the past 23 years. That can't be the case, and in truth the term should probably be given to neither of them. F1 technical directors, then as now, don't usually design racing cars, while Nichols describes himself back then as someone "leading a team of people better than me".

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