Memorable McLaren Moments :: Europe
The European Grand Prix has been part of the Formula 1 World Championship since 1954, but it only became a standalone race in 1983 – prior to that, the title was used as an honorary one assigned to various grands prix held in European countries.
Our first European Grand Prix successes came through James Hunt, who won the 1976 Dutch Grand Prix and the 1977 British Grand Prix, which were known as the European Grand Prix in those years’ world championships.
In the Dutch race, Hunt inherited the lead from John Watson in a Penske. Towards the end, Hunt fended off Clay Regazzoni’s Ferrari to ensure he took victory after starting second on the grid.
Hunt took the European Grand Prix lead from John Watson, now driving an Alfa Romeo, for the second year running in 1977. Hunt made a bad start from pole position during the race, and dropped to fourth off the line. He chased down Jody Scheckter and Niki Lauda before Watson’s fuel system failed.
We won our next European Grand Prix in 1984. Alain Prost, who started second alongside Nelson Piquet in a Brabham on pole, snatched the lead at the start and would stay there until the chequered flag, finishing over 20 seconds clear of Michele Alboreto’s Ferrari.
In 1993, Ayrton Senna took one of his most famous wins in a race at Donington Park. He was blocked off the line by a fast-starting Michael Schumacher, but he overtook four cars in a single lap to sit in first the end of lap one. He dominated the rest of the race and finished an enormous one minute and 23 seconds ahead of second-placed Damon Hill in a Williams. Senna and Hill were the only two drivers on the lead lap of the race.
Podium spots would follow for the team at the 1994 race at Jerez through Mika Hakkinen, and the 1996 race at the Nurburgring through David Coulthard. Both drivers finished third.
The 1997 race at Jerez was that year’s season finale. It’s mainly remembered for Michael Schumacher’s infamous failed attempt at punting off Jacques Villeneuve to win the world championship, but it was also the setting for our first-ever European Grand Prix one-two.
Hakkinen won his first race in the sport, while Coulthard brought his car home in the runner-up spot to complete the result.
Three years later in 2000, Hakkinen and Coulthard finished second and third at the Nurburgring. Coulthard managed another third in 2001, as did Kimi Raikkonen in 2002.
Fernando Alonso won for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes in 2007, beating Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in a straight fight in changeable conditions. Alonso drove off into the distance after his sublime overtake at turn five to take the chequered flag 8.1 seconds clear.
Last year, Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of team-mate Jenson Button at the Valencia street circuit to extend his and the team’s world championship lead.