McLaren Won Its Last F1 Constructors' Championship 19 Years Ago Today
Can the team break this streak in 2018? Emerson Fittipaldi thinks so.
McLaren's storied team legacy in Formula 1 was last celebrated at Suzuka on Nov. 1, 1998, a race where both the Constructors' Championship and the Drivers' Title was sealed by Mika Hakkinen. After the fabled Senna-Prost era ended in 1990, the Woking-based crew faced an unusual eight-year drought that finally ended at the season finale Japanese Grand Prix. It's been 19 years since then and despite multiple Drivers' Championships by McLaren team members, the British outfit is yet to return to its former glory from the 20th century.
Battling with Ferrari to the season's end, McLaren was able to best the Maranello team in the long haul. An especially competitive fight between Hakkinen and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher kept tensions up throughout the year, but it was the "Flying Finn" who eventually won his first of two titles in 1998. McLaren was also the last manufacturer to win the championship before Ferrari's tear through the 2000s when it won five consecutive championships during the decade.
Since then, heroes such as Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, and Fernando Alonso have piloted McLaren-built cars to victory without winning another Constructors' Title. This drought has continued through to today as the team will soon complete its 20th season without adding to its running tally of eight championships.
A rough three-year partnership with Honda has plagued McLaren since 2015, but a switch to Renault next season has the team in good hopes. The talent is there with double-world champion Fernando Alonso behind the wheel and a young Stoffel Vandoorne accompanying him in the second car. Sport legends such as Emerson Fittipaldi have high hopes for 2018, however, as he recently claimed that Alonso has a shot at the title in the coming year.
"I think it will be much better,” Fittipaldi told the Spanish newspaper AS. “I think Fernando is the best and I also think McLaren has a great car. As Alonso said the other day, it is a great car in the corners. So if they continue with that quality of chassis and aerodynamics with the Renault engine next year, they can fight for podiums, victories and even the title.”