This year marks the 50th British GP for McLaren, and my friends in Woking have asked me to pick out some memorable moments from that period. Given that McLaren has invariably been at the heart of the action – and has won the race 14 times – it's not easy to whittle it down to a round number! So we finally settled on 23, in honour of both the M23 and the MP4-23, two great cars that scored three British GP wins between them. So here are some of those highlights:
1966 (Brands Hatch): Bruce makes his point
Everyone has to start somewhere, and in the case of McLaren the team's first ever point came when founder Bruce finished sixth at Brands Hatch. The Kiwi achieved it largely through survival – he had only qualified 13th – but the car's wailing Serenissima V8 added extra variety at a time when no-one quite knew what would work under the new 3-litre rules. The race was immortalised in John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix, in which the McLaren team doubled for Yamura.
1969 (Silverstone): A four wheel drift
The '69 GP was one of the most spectacular ever seen at Silverstone, and while it was mostly about Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt, Bruce played his part and eventually finished a solid third. McLaren's other contribution to the weekend was a one-off entry for the 4WD M9A, in the hands of Derek Bell. The car retired, but its appearance demonstrated that the team was part of F1's push for innovation.
1973 (Silverstone): Jody spins, Peter wins
McLaren is inextricably tied to the '73 race, which began with Jody Scheckter's spectacular spin at the end of the first lap – which triggered a multiple accident and led to the first red flag stoppage in the sport's history. On the restart Jackie Stewart spun into the cornfields and Peter Revson saved the day for McLaren by scoring his first F1 win with the still new M23.
1975 (Silverstone): Emmo storms to victory
Silverstone has seen a few wet races, but none was more dramatic than the 1975 event, when sudden downpours sent car after car spiralling into the catchfencing. In the end the race was red flagged, and the man in front when it stopped was Emerson Fittipaldi, who had stayed safely out of trouble and changed to wet tyres. He logged what turned out to be his last victory, while most of the other point scorers had crashed just before the stoppage.
1976 (Brands Hatch): Hunt wins and loses
All eyes were on James Hunt in the summer of 1976 as the title developed into a battle between the English star and rival Niki Lauda. The Austrian took pole, but at the first corner a clash between the two Ferraris saw Hunt's car flipped up on two wheels. The race was stopped and only restarted after a long delay after officials finally deemed that Hunt was eligible to take part. He duly beat Lauda in a thrilling race, only to later be disqualified after all.
1977 (Silverstone): James on top – and this time it's official
As reigning World Champion James Hunt was on great form in 1977, although he had little luck and was struck by reliability problems. At Silverstone things finally came together and he put the previous year's disappointment behind to win after a memorable battle with Brabham's John Watson, having overcome a bad start from pole. It was also the first victory for the M26, the car that replaced the long-lived M23.
1981 (Silverstone): Watson win heralds new McLaren era
The 1981 British GP earned a place in the history books for several reasons. It was McLaren's first season under the direction of Ron Dennis, who had backed designer John Barnard's plan to build F1's first composite chassis. The car was competitive, and John Watson had finished third and second in the two races prior to Silverstone, The Ulsterman only just missed a first lap crash involving team mate Andrea de Cesaris, but thereafter he drove a perfect race and moved into the lead after the turbo Renaults failed. Watson's maiden win was the ultimate proof that composite technology was the way forward.
1982 (Brands Hatch): Lauda proves that he's back
Niki Lauda walked away from the sport at the end of 1979, but after focussing on his airline for a couple of years he was enticed back by Ron Dennis in 1982. Despite strong opposition from the turbo cars he won as early as the third race of the year at Long Beach. He second success came at Brands, where from fifth on the grid he drove a typically canny race to beat the two Ferrari turbos to the flag.
1984 (Brands Hatch): Niki takes a step towards the title
It was all change at McLaren in 1984 as Alain Prost arrived and TAG Turbo engines helped the team to dominate the season. Niki Lauda gave up the qualifying fight to focus on the race, where he often gave Prost a hard time. At Brands the pair had to contend with a strong challenge from Nelson Piquet's Brabham, and after gearbox failure stopped leader Prost his title rival Lauda assumed the lead. Meanwhile a certain A Senna finished third for the unfancied Toleman team.
1985 (Silverstone): Prost brings it home
Future McLaren driver Keke Rosberg took a record breaking pole for Williams but the race developed into a tight battle between the Lotus of rising star Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's McLaren. But it was Alain who was leading when it mattered, and Senna ran out of fuel and parked. A clumsy official then hung the chequered flag out early, shortening the race by a lap.
1988 (Silverstone): Senna's only GB win
Just as Alain Prost's arrival at McLaren had given Niki Lauda something to think about, so Ayrton Senna's move to McLaren for 1988 did the same to the Frenchman. In the last year of turbo rules McLaren and Honda were utterly dominant, and every race was about Senna v Prost. Rain added a random element at Silverstone but Senna drove a superb race to score his only British GP victory, while handling woes saw Prost withdraw early on.
1989 (Silverstone): Ayrton spins, Alain wins
It was Alain Prost v Ayrton Senna again in 1989, and Silverstone proved to be the first of a run of British GPs where fortune did not favour the Brazilian ace. He took pole but spun off at Becketts after just 12 laps when caught out by the gearbox. Local hero Nigel Mansell kept Prost honest as he charged along in the Ferrari, but in the end Alain won comfortably.
1991 (Silverstone): Ayrton hitches a ride
The '91 event was not McLaren's greatest home race, but it created one of the most iconic moments. Not for the first (or last) time Ayrton Senna was a retirement at Silverstone, dropping out of second with a lap to go when misled by a faulty fuel readout. He was still classified fourth, but what caught everyone's imagination was the lift back to the pits he received from winner Nigel Mansell. It became an iconic image of the era.
1997 (Silverstone): Heartbreak for Hakkinen
McLaren faced a few years of struggle after the golden Senna years, but a partnership with Mercedes that began in 1995 signalled a new beginning. By 1997 the package was competitive, and David Coulthard won the opening race in Melbourne, despite strong opposition from Ferrari and Williams. A first win for Mika Hakkinen thus seemed on the cards. At Silverstone Michael Schumacher retired and Jacques Villeneuve was delayed, and Mika took the lead. It seemed that his time had come, but alas with just seven laps to go his engine failed. That first win had to wait for another day.
1998 (Silverstone): Rain washes away Mika's hopes
In 1998 Mika Hakkinen proved that he was a bone fide title contender as the championship developed into a fight between the Finn and Michael Schumacher, the latter still searching for his first Ferrari title. At Silverstone Mika took pole and led in the wet, but as conditions grew worse he spun off. Schumacher took over but was handed a stop and go penalty for passing under yellows – which he absurdly took after the chequered flag. The controversy left Mika still stranded in second.
1999 (Silverstone): An emotional victory for Coulthard
Every driver dreams of winning his home race, and for David Coulthard, that dream came true twice. The '99 race is best remembered for Michael Schumacher's crash at the first start. At the second attempt Mika Hakkinen led comfortably before a lost wheel shortly after his stop led to his retirement. A pit stop glitch for Eddie Irvine's Ferrari helped DC to secure the lead, and the Scot stayed there to the flag.
2000 (Silverstone): Two on the bounce for DC
A move to an April Easter date didn't go down well with fans, and the inevitable bad weather didn't help. Rubens Barrichello led for Ferrari, but a mistake allowed David Coulthard to get past, shortly before the Brazilian retired. David then faced gear selection problems of his own, but he was still able to see off a strong challenge from Mika Hakkinen as McLaren secured a popular one-two.
2001 (Silverstone): Mika wins at last
By 2001 Mika Hakkinen had won two World Championships, but his CV was still missing a win in the country where he did a lot of his early racing. Given that he came to the 10th race of the season having scored only nine points he was hardly a favourite for Silverstone that year. But he quickly passed leader Michael Schumacher, and using a superior two-stop strategy he pulled away from the one-stopping German. Unfortunately for McLaren outside title contender David Coulthard was an only retirement.
2005 (Silverstone): Montoya makes it count
It's fair to say that Juan Pablo Montoya's tenure at McLaren didn't work as well as either party had anticipated, but at Silverstone in 2005 everything fell into place for the colourful Colombian. Fernando Alonso was on pole, but from third on the grid Montoya forced his way into the lead, and he led the Renault driver to the flag in some style. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen started only 12th after engine problems in qualifying, but he worked his way into third, making it a double podium for McLaren.
2007 (Silverstone): Hamilton the new Silverstone hero
The 2007 season represented a new start for McLaren as Fernando Alonso and rookie Lewis Hamilton joined the team. No one expected the Briton to be a title contender, but he quickly proved that he was. He came to Silverstone as championship leader, after scoring his first wins in Indianapolis and Montreal. To the delight of the British public, he took pole position. However his strategy of qualifying and starting with a low fuel load didn't pay off, and he slipped to third. Meanwhile Alonso pushed leader Kimi Raikkonen hard, but he couldn't quite get the better of the Ferrari driver, and had to settle for second.
2008 (Silverstone): A first home win for Lewis
One year on from his British GP debut Lewis Hamilton arrived at Silverstone fourth in the championship, and he qualified in the same position – while McLaren team mate Heikki Kovalainen took a surprise pole. It was wet come the race, and Hamilton put in a virtuoso performance as he charged into the lead and won by over a minute.
2011 (Silverstone): Pit stop nightmare for Jenson
Sebastian Vettel dominated the 2011 season, but McLaren led the chase of the Red Bull man, and indeed Jenson Button arrived at Silverstone second in the championship. A last minute FIA clampdown on exhaust blowing mixed things up a bit. Jenson qualified fifth, but put in a charging performance in the race, and looked to be heading for a podium – only for a miscommunication at his stop see him leave with a loose front wheel, which led to instant retirement. Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton struggled with brake issues but kept the crowd entertained by holding off Felipe Massa for fourth.
2013 (Silverstone): Sergio's deflating experience
The 2013 season was not McLaren's best by any means, and hopes for a strong home race at Silverstone appeared to be dashed when Jenson Button and Sergio Perez qualified only 11th and 14th. However the Mexican proved to be one of the stars of the race as he put in a storming performance, only to retire after a tyre failure – one of several that turned the race upside down and led to an investigation of what went wrong for Pirelli. Jenson finished an unlucky 13th.