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F1 Stars on McLAREN's Magic 50

To commemorate McLaren's 50th celebrations, we caught up with some of the most influential and renowned names in F1 history to find out what McLaren means to them. 


"Without McLaren and Marlboro I would never have been an F1 driver - and I will never forget that. McLaren remains a family for me and I still think it was the best team I drove for with the best ambience. Even when I had problems with Ayrton Senna, I never felt that was a problem inside the team.

"Also, looking at it from 1980 and the evolution of the team after Ron Dennis arrived, it changed F1. I remember spending a lot of time with Ron looking for sponsors and spending time discussing plans, and I always remember him in his house thinking about building a new factory, the best factory, and that was 20 years before it became the thing to do.

"McLaren put F1 in a different area, at a different level, with the precision, the details, and its cleanliness. It delivered a new standard and for me today they are still the reference."


"Ever since my childhood I have always regarded McLaren as one of Formula 1’s most passionate competitors. That respect was not diminished during my time as team principal at Ferrari, and it continues now in my role as President of the FIA.

"I have always admired the team for its organisational strength, its will to win and its ceaseless quest for engineering and sporting perfection.

"Together with Ferrari they are the most successful team in F1 and as such I do remember some tension when we were racing against each other. That, though, is only natural when you pit two great Formula 1 teams against each other and such a fierce rivalry just adds a little spice to what is a great team story.

"I am sure there are many more such tales to come and I would like wish the team a lot of success in the next 50 years."


"Ever since I was a small kid, McLaren have been synonymous with Formula 1: whether it was the Marlboro cars that were iconic or some of the legendary drivers that have driven for them in their history. Congratulations to them on their 50th anniversary. It is well deserved - and makes it even more enjoyable beating them!"


"For me, the experience I had with McLaren was one of the best experiences of my life to be honest.

"What I felt about McLaren before I came from the outside was that it was a bit cold, and you don’t know exactly what you find when you go in. But at the end of the day they were the best people I ever knew in F1. They were very nice people - and very open-minded. When you have a chance to know people like Ron Dennis, Martin Whitmarsh and Adrian Newey it is fantastic.

"When I was young my dream was to race for McLaren, and I am sure it is still the place you need to be."


"McLaren are one of the most important and traditionally rich teams in Formula 1. They have a great success story and an admirable history; and most of us are impressed with the way McLaren works. All of us, especially if you are a small team, would one day like to be there and work that way."


"The McLaren that you see here in Formula 1 in its 50th year is seen as the height of efficiency and engineering excellence. It also has a rich history of competing in F1 - and I think that is perhaps its great asset.

"It is part of the whole F1 story right from the very start. It is a really great team and a team to aim at."


"For me it was a dream come true to race for McLaren. It remains somewhere that if I ever wanted to race again for a big team, it would be my first choice. I have a lot of friends there.

"It is a shame it didn’t work out when I was there, but to me McLaren still appeals quite strongly. It has history, and when I started following F1 I remember watching Ron Dennis and Mika Hakkinen on television. McLaren always looked quite cool. The factory is amazing and it is simply a stunning organisation."


"McLaren is an iconic brand and in many aspects a role model for everyone in Formula 1. If you look at branding, corporate identity and image - it is how everything needs to be in this sport."


"McLaren goes hand-in-hand with the sport. After Ferrari, McLaren is the second name that everyone knows in Formula 1. They have been around a long time and there have been a lot of great championships too. The massive trophy cabinet at Woking is testament to that."


"McLaren are having a difficult time right now, but over the years if there has been a consistent rival to Ferrari, and if Britain has an equivalent of Ferrari, you would say it is McLaren from the world championships they have won, the races they have won and the champions they have had.

"It is part of the fabric of F1 - and unfailingly it is a friendly place to go get a coffee and a bite to eat! Everyone thinks of McLaren with great affection."


"I will have to quote the successor to Bruce McLaren - it means excellence. The whole company strives so hard to be so good all the time. It is palpable - you can see it and feel it from the personnel. And it seems to work.

"There is a great team spirit that people sometimes don’t see because of the corporate colours. I did a book on the team in 1998 and that was the most striking feature - how strongly people felt about the organisation."


"I think we tend to forget that they are the second oldest team and they have such a fantastic history - as they are a modern team in many respects.

"You hear all about Ferrari and their great tradition but McLaren’s tradition is actually immense. When you start looking into it you realise that. I suppose they been around the same time as I have, so I have an affiliation with them.

"One of my great regrets in life is not having met Bruce McLaren. I would have loved to have met him - as he seemed a regular guy. McLaren have fantastic strength in depth and they are just one of the great names of motor racing."


"From my personal situation, having been always a racer, and I am less Latin and more Anglo-Saxon, it has always been the reference and model in terms of ambition, performance and organisation. Sometimes it is nearly too much, but it is a team that seeks perfection."


"McLaren is for me split up into four pieces, because of the different leadership it has been under. I see it as a quartet of times - which is quite strong in my head even though I wasn’t around in the early days. I always associate Bruce McLaren with the first past, then the 1970’s, where it survived and thrived without him before dropping away, then there was the Ron Dennis era and now we are post-Ron Dennis.

"I see efficiency - that is one word that always comes up - but there is a steeliness as well. I see it as a team that is always of its era somehow. It always seems to adapt and change to suit the era that F1 goes through. That is one of its successes. It has adapted and changed, through change of leadership, management and ownership, and has done that thing we are always told to: adapt to survive."


"You can only think of McLaren as a top team, of course. It is a very, very disciplined team and Mika Hakkinen was a good example of how they wanted their drivers to be - never saying too much of what is really happening to the outsiders, but having a very good feeling inside the team and being a real McLaren driver. Kimi Raikkonen was like a rebel in his own way but managed to do well also - and probably he was not a real pupil like Mika was to Ron Dennis.

"All the Finns knows what McLaren is about: it’s about a winning car."


"When I think of McLaren I think of the word ‘precision’. There is precise engineering that boils down almost to perfection. It is very similar to the Japanese mentality - which is why the team can look forward to a bright future with Honda."


"I won four of my five races at McLaren - and when I think of the team I remember two particular situations from 1983.

"The first one was in Long Beach when Niki Lauda and I came from the back of the grid, I won and Niki was second. We got out of the cars and came back from the press conference to be met with silence from everybody in the garage! It was because they were so shocked. It was unbelievable. They could barely say, ‘fantastic, what a great job’. There was almost a silence, and that was actually the most eloquent thing that could be said.

"To contrast that, in Monaco that year when Niki and I didn’t qualify, Ron Dennis, in understandable circumstances, turned around to the pair of us and said, ‘I would rather the two of you had crashed than non qualify.’

"Those two incidents sum up the determination at the team that has been there from the start. I didn’t know Bruce McLaren, but from everything I read and heard about him, he was a brilliant engineer, manager, driver and boss. He was one of those rare animals that really stood out."


"McLaren have been an ever-present competitor during my time in Formula 1. In particular, my years at Ferrari put us in direct competition over many seasons and we enjoyed some great races against each other. Throughout my career, I have admired their racing spirit and innovative engineering and wish them a very successful 50th anniversary celebration."


"McLaren is one of the big historic teams.  When I think of McLaren I think of state of the art, history and the best team in F1 for so many years!"


"McLaren for me means quick cars and pretty cars - but especially in Brazil you also think of Ayrton Senna. Those Marlboro cars with him always meant wins and Brazilian flags flying. It is a team that I always respect."


"McLaren for me means Prost/Senna - and my first ever bed! I was a massive Prost fan when I grew up. The first races I watched were the in late 1980s, and like anyone else you remember the era when you first started following F1. Because of that I had a bed in the shape of an F1 car - and it was painted in the famous red and white Marlboro colours. My family still has that bed - but it’s been repainted now."


"There has been a Scuderia Ferrari for over 80 years and over the course of those decades we have seen teams come and go, and in some cases come back again, to the world of motor sport. McLaren have been part of this world for 50 years now and it is with great pleasure that, on behalf of the whole team, I congratulate them on this significant landmark in their history.

"Ferrari and McLaren have several points in common, but they are also different in many ways, which is down to their respective history and culture. Both teams were born out of the determination of drivers who wanted to put their name to their own racing cars and they are now both indelible parts of Formula 1 history.

"Ever since it has raced in grands prix, McLaren have very often been the Scuderia’s main rival: how can one ever forget the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, or Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen, or in more recent times, between Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa on the one hand and Lews Hamilton on the other?

"The two teams have occasionally rubbed each other up the wrong way, but we have been able to get past that, putting our shared interest in the development of Formula 1 above it all, aware of the historic role we have in this sport."


"McLaren to me is a very special team. It is driven by perfection and attention to detail, with a vision matched by no one else in my opinion. Although to many there is a cold exterior, once inside it’s a team of depth, strength and warmth. But the over-riding factor that means the most for any driver is its desire to win and, as a former test and race driver with McLaren, I gained a huge amount both on and off the track from it."


"I have only fond memories from my time with McLaren. There was never a team I drove for that made a driver feel more at home and important. You always felt they gave you everything possible to get the job done.

"There has never been a team in F1 that has continuously moved the goal posts for all the others to follow, both in terms of technology as well as it general presentation. It is pure excellence and a benchmark for everybody."


"I had a monster cool time at McLaren. I learnt a very process-driven approach to F1 while I was there and the development work we carried out was very rewarding. The 2003 season was particularly good: I drove the MP4-18, which never raced, while simultaneously developing the 17D with the engineers. It was a busy time, but a very satisfying one.

"I also had the biggest crash of my career at McLaren, at Paul Ricard. The impact was more than 300km/h, making it the fastest ever F1 crash from which the driver has walked away unhurt. That’s my record!"


"Far from being grey and cold, McLaren is one of the warmest and most passionate of all of the world's greatest race teams. The successive regimes of Ron Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh have carried the flame and built on the foundation of engineering excellence, commitment and integrity with which Bruce McLaren inspired so many to believe in the beauty of his dream."


"I’ve driven for the two biggest teams in F1 (Ferrari and McLaren) and I’ve won with both of them. That’s very satisfying.

"I enjoyed my time at McLaren and I won my most difficult championship against [Alain] Prost while I was there. The team supported him a lot, which I thought was funny – even if it made my life much harder.

"Before the last race in Portugal [in 1984], Marlboro prepared some adverts celebrating Prost’s world title. I knew this before the start of the race and I smiled at them a lot after the race, when the adverts had to be re-done!"


"McLaren gave me my best years in the sport and the best years of my life. I was with the team between 1983 and ’01, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second. I was lucky enough to be there during the most relevant and important years of the team, especially 1988. We totally dominated the sport. Everyone knew that McLaren would win, but no-one knew which driver would take the spoils. We never cheated the public. The cars were like two identical drops of water and Senna ended up winning eight races to Prost’s seven."


"McLaren means competitiveness. That’s always been the ethos of the team and that’s what has made every driver want to race for them. They’ve always been one of the big teams and if you want to win in F1, you need to be driving for one of them. I had one conversation with Ron [about a drive] during my career, but it didn’t happen."


"The team gave me a second chance to continue in Formula 1 and it was with them that I got to experience what it’s like to work for a top team.

"During the years I was there they helped me to develop into a much more complete racing driver – I grew up a lot there. I learned from some incredibly clever engineers and I feel very grateful to them because I never thought I could be that good. I have a lot of very good friends there and that friendship is based on respect from both sides."


"The team always had too fast a car during my years as a Formula One driver and I hated them! They set standards that were uncatchable because they stood for absolute perfection. They initiated the modern standard in F1."


"McLaren appear to be a very complicated and scientific team, but in many ways they are actually very simple and straightforward. That’s largely down to Ron [Dennis] and you have to take off your hat to him. I owe the team a great deal for the support that they gave me over the years and during some difficult times too. For that, the team will always have my respect."


"Since I started in Formula 1, McLaren have been one of the great teams. They’ve always been right up there and I’ve always admired how they bounce back, even if they start the season with a bad car. They always end up winning races in the end, which is pretty incredible."


"The first race that my dad did in Formula 1 was with McLaren, so the team has been very important for my family. It’s one of the few historical teams on the grid: it was started by a driver, raced by its owner and survived the test of time to turn into a true racing team. While I was building BAR in the late ’90s, I had some talks with [then technical director] Adrian Newey about driving for the team, but it came to nothing because I was busy doing what I was doing. My career might have been different if I had gone there!"


"McLaren has a great deal of history and it has achieved a huge amount. It’s definitely one of the biggest teams that there’s ever been in F1. I hope they stay in the sport for many years to come and stay at the top of what they do."


"McLaren have been a great partner for Force India because they’ve really helped us to go in a more successful direction over the last few years. They have cool road cars and some nice history. It’s one of the great teams in the history of the sport."


"In the days of Jordan Grand Prix, McLaren were our toughest competitor by far. They had a must-win attitude and they were the class leader. I hated them for it, but they made me perform better."


"McLaren are a part of Formula One’s fabric. I can’t see the sport without them and you have to respect what they have achieved. They are one of the reference teams."


"McLaren are an outstanding representative for all that F1 stands for. They are a genuine version of a top team."


"When I started in racing, McLaren were absolutely at the top of their game in terms of winning championships and fighting for every race victory. In fact, they won 15 out of 16 races in 1988 when I was coming through the junior ranks. It was an unbelievable record.

"It was the closest you could get to complete perfection: the two best drivers, the best car in the world by a margin and no-one else got a look in throughout a complete racing year. The team had a great history, but it was taken to new heights under the guidance of Ron Dennis."


"McLaren has a winning mentality and it’s spotlessly clean at all times. I’ll never forget when I first drove one of their cars at Silverstone in 1983; every time the car came in – whether it was [Ayrton] Senna, [Stefan] Bellof or myself – it was cleaned and the name on the side was changed. And that was just for three kids to have a go.

"It’s a whole lot warmer on the inside than you’d imagine from the outside. A lot of people think it’s a grey and cold team, but it’s the friendliest team I drove for in my career."


"In my view there are two McLarens: pre-Ron Dennis and post-Ron Dennis. I worked at the pre-Ron Dennis McLaren, between 1977 and ’80. They were a great bunch of people and true racers. They gave me lots of experience and a good grounding in all aspects of designing and building racing cars."


"For a young aspiring driver in the last millennium, McLaren were the team where the greatest drivers in the world became even greater. This was the team that had discovered the secret of success, the winning formula.

"No other team has come so close to the perfect score in F1 as McLaren, but they were audacious enough to aspire to perfection, and strong enough to carry that load. They have a record and a reputation admired even by Ferrari."


"McLaren are one of the teams that inspired me to become a racing driver. I watched them as a kid and who can forget the glory days of [Ayrton] Senna and [Alain] Prost battling it out? They are one of the teams that makes F1 what it is."


"When you think of McLaren, you think of Bruce. He had so much damn charisma, he didn’t know it, but it oozed out of him. When Bruce died, Eoin Young wrote a letter to Bruce’s mother and father and there was a sentence in that letter, which I spoke to Eoin about, and it summed up everything about Bruce. Eion said we didn’t work for Bruce McLaren, we worked with Bruce McLaren. You didn’t need to say any more. There was nothing better to say."


"As a professional photographer working in Formula 1, I need to have a certain amount of impartiality when it comes to favouring one team over another. But, as first and foremost a fan of the sport, McLaren represent so much of what I strive to achieve: high standards, a commitment to success, dedication, drive, discipline and focus. If I were a paying spectator they’d be the team I'd support. And I can't give higher praise than that!"


"My first experience of McLaren came in 1981 when, as the winner of the Marlboro British F3 championship, I had my prize of driving a McLaren MP4 at Silverstone.  It was an amazing day – going from a 160bhp F3 car to not just any F1 car, but a McLaren MP4!  I adapted well and was quick, setting a time that would have put me on the second row of the grid for the Grand Prix that year.  Ron Dennis was impressed enough to drive me back to Woking that evening to meet John Barnard.

"From those early days Ron and I have always got on very well. When I left Tyrrell in 1989 I joined McLaren as test/reserve driver and apart from loving developing a great F1 car, I also hoped for a chance to race and boost my F1 career – though that opportunity never came.

"However, I was heavily involved in the McLaren F1 road car project for three years, firstly as development driver and then marketing director. It was a privilege to be involved in such an awesome project and since then I’ve always had a very close affinity with McLaren.

"Through Ron and now Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren has a remarkable history of setting the standard for achieving outstanding success through obsessive commitment to quality, and that is a philosophy I share and admire.  Bruce McLaren would have been astounded and immensely proud to know what a remarkable organisation and achievements he spawned by forming his fledgling team in 1963."


"McLaren are a great team, with a great history. I feel honoured to have been a part of that history and I wish the team well for the future. They gave me my opportunity as a racing driver and for that I’ll always be grateful."


"When I think of McLaren, I think of the Senna-Prost era in the late ’80s. Ron Dennis was at the helm and they were F1’s powerhouse, especially the 1988 season when they won 15 of the 16 races. That was pretty awesome."


"McLaren was always my dream team in Formula 1. It’s special to me for many reasons: the history of my uncle Ayrton racing there, plus the history of success and professionalism of the team all add together to make it the team I support in F1."