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Ayrton Senna driving the MP4/5 in 1989
|Designer(s)||Steve Nichols (MP4/5 only)|
|Chassis||Carbon fibre and Kevlar monocoque|
|Suspension (front)||Double wishbones, pull-rod actuated coil springs and dampers|
|Suspension (rear)||Double wishbones, rocker-arm actuated coil springs and dampers|
|Axle track||Front: 1,820 mm (72 in)|
Rear: 1,670 mm (66 in)
|Wheelbase||1989: 2,896 mm (114.0 in)|
1990: 2,940 mm (115.7 in)
|Engine||1989: Honda RA109E, 3,490 cc (213.0 cu in), 72° V10, NA, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted|
1990: Honda RA100E, 3,490 cc (213.0 cu in), 72° V10, NA, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted
|Transmission||Weismann/McLaren Longitudinal and Transverse 6-Speed manual|
|Notable entrants||Honda Marlboro McLaren|
|Notable drivers|| Ayrton Senna|
|Debut||1989 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|Constructors' Championships||2 (1989, 1990)|
|Drivers' Championships||2 (1989, Alain Prost|
1990, Ayrton Senna)
The McLaren MP4/5 and its derived sister model the McLaren MP4/5B were Formula One racing cars designed by the McLaren Formula One team based in Woking, England, and powered by Honda's naturally aspirated RA109E and RA100E V10 engines respectively. The MP4/5 was loosely based on its 1988 predecessor, the all-conquering MP4/4. McLaren used the new car for half of the 1989 season using the Weismann Longitudinal Transmission from the MP4/4, and the MP4/5B with the Weismann Transverse Transmission for the last half of the 1989 season and for 1990, earning back to back drivers' and constructors' world titles with the type. The car was designed by American engineer Steve Nichols who previously had designed both of its turbocharged predecessors, the MP4/3, which was an all-new design for McLaren by Nichols, as well as its highly successful MP4/4 the following year/season.
1989 was the first year where naturally aspirated engines were compulsory for all teams after the banning of the turbocharged units at the end of the previous season. To this end, Honda built a 3.5 litre V10 engine, developed throughout most of the latter half of 1987 and through 1988. The MP4/5 was unveiled for pre-season testing and it was instantly on the pace, as well as reliable. Developed by Neil Oatley, the MP4/5 looked like the car to beat in the new season. While the Ferrari that season was a fast all-around car particularly in the hands of Nigel Mansell, it was also chronically unreliable due to its new semi-electronic gearbox shift, giving further advantage to McLaren. The Honda-powered MP4/5 proved to have outright pace over the rest of the field, with 15 pole positions, 13 of them by Senna which equalled his 1988 record in the MP4/4. At the Mexican Grand Prix, Senna scored his 34th career pole in the MP4/5, breaking the previous record of 33 held by the late Jim Clark that had stood since 1968.
McLaren took 10 victories during the season, 6 for Ayrton Senna and 4 for Prost. This was at a time when the relationship between the two men was at its breaking point, so their rivalry pushed the development of the car far ahead of the other teams as they tried to out-do each other (although theirs was a very public rivalry, both actually worked well together in testing and Prost believes neither held back any information). Although Senna won six races to Prost's four and usually finished ahead of the Frenchman in the races, accidents and car breakages meant that he had four fewer points-scoring finishes and finished 16 points behind his French rival in the championship. Senna and Prost's combined points total meant McLaren easily won their second straight Constructors' Championship.
Like 1988, the Drivers' Championship was a two horse race between defending champion Senna and dual champion Prost. The championship was settled at the penultimate race in Japan. After dominating qualifying (with Senna predictably on pole), the two McLarens were evenly matched in the race and simply drove away from the rest of the field until their fateful collision at the chicane on lap 46. Prost was out on the spot while Senna was able to restart and after pitting for a new nose section, re-took the lead from the Benetton-Ford of Alessandro Nannini and went on to win the race. Ultimately, however, he was disqualified post-race for receiving a push start and missing the chicane after restarting which gave Prost his 3rd World Championship.
1989 was McLaren's 4th Constructors' Championship of the 1980s following on from 1984, 1985 and 1988, making the team the equal leading constructor of the decade with Williams who won in 1980, 1981, 1986 and 1987. It was also Honda's 4th consecutive Constructors' Championship as an engine manufacturer, and McLaren's 5th Championship overall having won their first in 1974.
Prost went on to move to Ferrari for the 1990 season, as announced during the midseason of the previous year, taking designer Steve Nichols with him. The Frenchman was unhappy because he believed that McLaren and Honda were favouring Senna.
As a result, Ferrari and McLaren swapped car numbers, giving Prost and teammate Nigel Mansell the numbers 1 and 2, and giving Senna and Gerhard Berger, who had swapped with Prost at Ferrari, the numbers 27 and 28.
McLaren responded the following year with a modified version of the MP4/5. The wings were redesigned and the rear bodywork reprofiled around larger radiators. The engine was tweaked and Senna did much development work to ensure he would have better reliability in the new season. He and Gerhard Berger took the fight to Prost and Ferrari in 1990, winning another six races and winning the Constructors' Championship. The McLaren proved to have an outright speed advantage in qualifying and was notable for the number of times both cars were on the front row. The car appeared to struggle slightly against the Ferrari 641s in the races themselves, particularly on heavy fuel loads with the Ferraris' race pace almost negating the McLarens' qualifying supremacy.
Gordon Murray, the famed South African designer who had previously worked at Brabham since 1969, had designed championship winning cars for the team and joined McLaren in 1987, retired from Formula One after his work on this car. He went to work on McLaren's road car project.
There was a test mule during the 1990 season created by McLaren called MP4/5C for Honda's new V12 engine that was to be used by the Woking outfit for the following 2 seasons. This car, driven by the team's test driver Allan McNish, made its public on track debut at a 3-day test session held at Silverstone the week before the 1990 French Grand Prix. While McNish did not push the car to its limits, the V12 impressed with its reliability at such an early stage of development.
In popular culture
Senna's MP4/5B was included in the 2001 video game Gran Turismo 3 under the alias "F090/S", but only in the Japanese and American versions. It was the least powerful F1 car in the game producing 700 PS (690 hp). It could be won by winning the Super Speedway endurance, the Grand Valley 300 km Endurance, the Dream Car Championship in Professional league, or by winning Formula GT. It is a random prize car in all four series.
Complete Formula One results
(key) (results shown in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1989||Honda Marlboro McLaren||MP4/5||Honda RA109E
|1990||Honda Marlboro McLaren||MP4/5B||Honda RA100E
- "STATS F1 • McLaren MP4/5". Statsf1.com. Retrieved 23 August 2010.
- "McLaren Racing - Heritage - MP4/5". www.mclaren.com. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
- In the 1989 championship, only the best 11 results from the 16 races counted towards the Drivers' Championship total.
- "25 years ago today, a rivalry became legendary - 1989 Japanese GP". us.motorsport.com. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
- "1990 McLaren MP4/5B Honda - Images, Specifications and Information". Ultimatecarpage.com. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
- Collantine, Keith (21 October 2010). "20 years since Senna took out Prost at Suzuka". www.racefans.net. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
- Collins, Sam (30 May 2007). "Unraced...: Formula One's lost cars". Veloce. Retrieved 9 September 2017 – via Amazon.
- TVNowShowSports (16 August 2016). "1990 French Grand Prix Qualifying". Retrieved 9 September 2017 – via YouTube.
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