The McLaren MP4/1 was the start of two F1 revolutions

2y ago


Despite great success all along the 70s, McLaren was but a shadow of itself by the 1980 season. Poor results and poor funding despite Marlboro sponsorship pushed the team to merge with a succesful Formula 2 team, Project Four. Project Four, also sponsored by Marlboro, was lead by none other than a young Ron Dennis, who then promptly took the lead at McLaren. He would only let it go for good 35 years later, with some of the best results any team had gotten in the mean time.

As such, the 1981 McLaren MP4, later named MP4/1 (and MP4B in the 1982 season, which is the one I chosed to build), was the first to bear the legendary Marlboro Project 4 acronym, that only disappeared for the 2017 season.

But perhaps more importantly than this symbolic and political move was the design by John Barnard and Steve Nichols of the first carbon-fiber tub ever used in F1, a revolution that was made possible by the additional funding available after the merger.

The carbon structure was not only more rigid than previous aluminium designs, but also lighter, and much safer as was demonstrated by John Watson walking away from a spectacular crash at Monza.

Other than that massive innovation, the car wasn't especially groundbraking in its design, using the venerable Cosworth DFV engine, and making good use of ground effects with the help of skirts.

It scored reasonably well, especially in 1982 when a returning Niki Lauda took the team to a second place in the manufacturers' championship. It took 6 wins in 3 different seasons, but by the end of the 1983 its NA V8 was definitely outpaced by the rise of turbo monsters, and so the team switched to TAG-Porsche engines. These much more powerful engines in an MP4/2 that was a direct evolution of the MP4/1 dominated the 1984 and 1985 seasons, winning both Drivers' and Constructors' Championships each year.

Personnaly, I always loved the clean look of the MP4/1, especially without that front wing. I think it's the best looking car from the skirts era, even if it sort of looks like a pack of Marlboro on wheels! The fact that it was the starting point of two revolutions makes it even more special.

This is the last "regular episode" from my legendary Lego F1 cars series! But I'm preparing something for next week to properly celebrate it. Don't miss it!

As always, I'll post instructions and parts files on this tribe next week, if anybody wants to build their own!

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