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Perfect imperfect

The MP4/4 won 15/16 races. But what's so good about perfection anyway?

Fifteen wins, 15 pole positions, most successful Grand Prix car of all time.. yadda yadda. Yet, thanks to its one and only defeat at the 1988 Italian Grand Prix, the MP4/4 will never be known as the perfect F1 car.

Then again, what if Jean-Louis Schlesser hadn’t turned in on Ayrton Senna?

Would McLaren’s greatest model’s faultless record somehow be thought of more affectionately? Or does that single blot accentuate its otherwise astonishing achievements in the same way that a red wine stain on an immaculate linen tablecloth might remind you of a well-spent evening in the past?

Besides, what’s so good about perfection anyway?

You’d have ruined most of these for a start:

The Beatles

The greatest, most innovative, influential and successful pop band in history somehow possessed a drummer who, according to John Lennon, “wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.”

Then again, at least Ringo wasn’t a distraction: who needs Keith Moon to blow up his kit when the rest of the band were setting off bombs in popular culture?

Star Wars

The 1977 science fantasy classic was universally admired by pretty much everyone as the perfect popcorn movie.

All except for its creator George Lucas, who set about addressing his dissatisfaction with the saga’s ground-breaking special effects by adding a pixellated Jabba the Hutt to the Special Edition. After that, it was just a hop, skip and a jump to Jar Jar Binks.

It made you realise the space opera’s success lay just as much in its charm as its scale.

Sir Donald Bradman

It’s doubtful cricket-haters would ever have heard of Australia’s Greatest-Ever Australian if not for a final Test innings duck.

Yet his accidental failure ironically cemented a longevity far beyond the cricketing boundaries he so often smashed by finishing on a career average of 99: in perpetuity thereby becoming the mean, mode and median totem of all future statistical lessons.

Stop-motion animation

Ray Harryhausen, Aardman Animations and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox: all eschew the Pixar approach, ensuring the only fingerprints visible in the finished product are creative ones.

Sure, a computer could probably mould each of Gromit’s three fingers to be anatomically perfect, but losing the animator’s thumb-print in the algorithm would be like re-editing the perfect prat-fall because the boom was in shot: you’ve missed what made it funny.

The 'Invincibles'

Arsenal’s unbeaten 2003 - 04 team somehow avoided the usual non-partisan contempt in this most tribal of sports.

Their dizzying high-tempo aesthetic helped, but grudging affection was arguably generated just as much by comedic capitulations to such as Lokomotiv Moscow and Middlesborough (twice!) in the other competitions.

Unbeaten in 38 league matches, rival fans could more readily accept the achievement having ironically witnessed them being beaten everywhere else (unless you’re a Spurs fan, obviously).

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McLAREN Heritage Learn more about the astonishing 1988 challenger

The Lotus Esprit

Giugiaro’s Esprit drew gasps at the 1975 Paris Motor Show – whether this was from its design or the fact it had the same door handles as a Morris Marina isn’t recorded.

On the open road, the Esprit audience’s breathlessness continued; children gasped at its futuristic looks; cinema goers marvelled at its aquatic transformation in The Spy Who Loved Me; owners swooned at the latest mechanical bill.

Perfect to look at and to drive? Then it wouldn’t be a classic Lotus.


A ‘perfect’ sunset is still ultimately a poignant – if beautiful - reminder of your own mortality.

The kaleidoscopic beauty of a tropical sky’s Viking death – turquoise – to aubergine-drenched midnight blue via innumerable coppers, crimsons and fiery golds – all derived from the terrifying physics of the Earth’s relentless passage around the sun towards your inescapable march to death.

Sleep tight.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

If its builders hadn’t sunk it in a mere three-metre foundation atop the sort of soil even a cowboy builder would think twice about, the 56m tall bell tower might merely have been one of the finest Renaissance campaniles in Italy.

Instead, a mixture of hubris and architectural incompetence helped create the most visited Tuscan attraction outside Florence.

“One small step…”

Famously garbled, astronaut Neil Armstrong’s intended indicative first-person present speech, “one small step for a man” lost its indefinite article due to the final breathless leap from Apollo and 380,000 km of radio interference.

But Armstrong’s inadvertent substitution of the particular for the general arguably cemented one of the most epochal moments in human history as the epochal moment in human history

The Tyrannosaurus-Rex

Would the apex of the Cretaceous food chain ever reach its iconoclastic status as the dinosaur of dinosaurs if it were equipped with arms less useless than a supermarket individual cheesecake freebie spoon?

Could it come to the rescue in Jurassic World if it had a 10-foot reach and opposable thumbs or does its single handicap make it just borderline lizard-friendly enough to save the day?

Still the king of the dinosaurs though.