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  McLaren MP4/1B Cosworth

  Article Image gallery (19) MP4/1B - 6 Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1982
Numbers built:3
Designed by:John Barnard for McLaren
Predecessor:McLaren MP4/1 Cosworth
Successor:McLaren MP4/1C Cosworth
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 13, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionConsidering the late start and the complicated construction, it was no surprise that new McLaren Formula 1 car was not ready in time to start the 1981 season. Drivers Watson and Andrea de Cesaris had to make do with the hapless M29 for the first races. Breaking with tradition Barnard's new McLaren was referred to as the MP4 (Marlboro Project Four) and in retrospect the MP4/1. Its debut was far from spectacular, qualifying 11th and retiring with gearbox problems during the Argentine Grand Prix. Steady progress was made and John Watson eventually scored McLaren's first win since 1977 in the all-important British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Watson also proved Barnard's critics wrong by crashing one of the cars heavily at Monza and walking away unharmed. As it turned out carbon fiber tubs were actually safer.

For 1982 Barnard's original design was modified in detail only to create the MP4/1B. The tub was further stiffened as was the suspension to make the most of the new Michelin tires. Carbon ceramic brakes were also tried that season but with mixed results. A further change was the arrival of two-time World Champion Niki Lauda, who replaced De Cesaris. Lauda and Watson both won two races that season and at one point Watson and McLaren led the driver's and constructor's standings. Unfortunately they finished second in both championships. Watson was beaten by the very consistent Williams driver Keke Rosberg, who had only won one race. The constructor's crown went to Ferrari, who had lost both their original drivers halfway through the season. McLaren was nevertheless clearly on the way back.

Extensive rule changes meant that the changes for 1983 were more extensive. Ground-effects were banned and flat-floors mandated. In anticipation of the TAG-Porsche turbo engines, Barnard modified the Cosworth engined MP4/1 once more. The full length side-pods were replaced by 'coke bottle' shaped side-pods that tapered inwards aft of the radiators. Due to its naturally aspirated engine, the MP4/1C was not expected to challenge for victories. Watson and Lauda clearly had other plans and scored a very impressive 1-2 victory at Long Beach after starting from the back of the grid. The final hurrah for the Cosworth engined MP4/1 came at the Dutch Grand Prix where Watson finished third. That same race Lauda debuted an interim MP4/1 powered by the new turbo engine, which heralded a new era of great successes for McLaren.

With six victories in three seasons, the MP4/1 has certainly not gone into history as one of the most successful Grand Prix cars. Its importance for McLaren in particular and Formula 1 as a whole can however not be underestimated. Dennis' management skills and Barnard's ground-breaking design brought McLaren back to the front of the grid. With its revolutionary carbon fiber tub, it also paved the way for a whole new generation of much safer Formula 1 cars. On the other hand it is not surprising that it is overshadowed in the history books by the subsequent TAG-Porsche, Honda and Mercedes engined machines that brought so many victories and championships to the team. The MP4/1 formed the foundation for all these successes.

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  Article Image gallery (19) MP4/1B - 6 Specifications