The Thurst of the Losers


Valued Member
So, exactly how have McLaren-Mercedes gone 14 years without winning the Constructors Championship? Its amazing that a team could have so consistently hung around 2nd and 3rd in the Championship without troubling the trophy makers for such a long time. Well, lets have a look at each season.

1999: Reliability kills title aspirations
McLaren were double-defending champions in 1999, and were arguably fast enough to win both the following year. Indeed, at Melbourne they came out and blitzed the field by over a second in qualifying, with Hakkinen taking 11 out of the 16 available pole positions. And they were to have the major advantage of Ferrari missing Michael Schumacher with a broken leg for 6 races in the second half of the year. Melbourne would tell the story of their year; their dominant qualifying only converting itself into a double DNF. Hakkinen's car broadly remained in tact, enough to win him the title even when he ceded 20 points throwing the car off the road in the two Italian rounds. However, Coulthard just had too many retirements. Due to his injury lay-off, Schumacher only recorded 7 points finishes, but Coulthard was only able to record 8 points finishes himself, thus only beating the German by 4 points in the Championship. Ferrari's slightly "unusual" reinstation to the Malaysian Grand Prix results despite being disqualified for illegal bargeboards also had an effect. But Ferrari only won the Constructors' title by 4 points, and Coulthard's mechanical retirements from the last two races of the season alone account for more than that.

2000: Self-handicapped race
In F1 it is important to get off to a good start if you want to win a Championship. What it is therefore important not to do is to have a double-engine failure at the opening Grand Prix, and back that up with one retirement and a disqualification next time out. This left Ferrari a mammoth 26 points clear in the Championship standings after only two races. This time, Ferrari were closer to McLaren on pace, with a 10/7 split on pole positions in the Italian marque's favour. But with both McLarens suddenly reacquainting with the idea of finishing Grands Prix, and both drivers on top form, it looked like McLaren had a chance. This chance was exaggerated by Schumacher failing to finish in three races in a row in France, Austria and Germany; he ended the last two at turn one! The French GP would be a one-two, but in terms of the Constructors' Title the other two would be missed opportunities. In Austria, the McLarens did come home for a one-two but were deducted Hakkinen's 10 points from their Constructors tally after an FIA seal was found to be missing. In Germany, they lost to an errant employee, a Safety Car and a miracle from Rubens Barrichello. Though Hakkinen would win the next two Grands Prix, Schumacher would win the last four, but they needn't have worried about Schumacher in terms of the WCC if their cars could both beat Barrichello by a significant margin. They came up 18 points short, notably 8 points closer than after the Brazilian GP at the start of the year. Their opportunity was on.

2001: Mika's Off
Suddenly, Ferrari went into the Australian Grand Prix and were quicker! This was the first year that McLaren really fell off the pace, although at the start of the year it all looked like business as normal; Coulthard climbing all three steps in the first three races of the season. Hakkinen, meanwhile, had a start to the year plagued by problems, but he didn't reach the podium even when he did finish. But it was his defeat in Spain to a clutch failure on the last lap that was emblematic of his problems. He left Monaco with only 4 points, equal with Jaguar's Eddie Irvine and Sauber's Kimi Raikkonen and, most importantly, 48 points down on Schumacher. And despite Coulthard's best efforts, as the season went on it became more evident that McLaren had been caught from behind by the new BMW-Williams (& Michelin) partnership. Ralf Schumacher took 3 victories in the year and Montoya was unfortunate to be limited to just the one (although the Colombian essentially never finished!). And despite Hakkinen's farewell wins in Britain and America, that was to be that, with Ferrari taking home the title by 77 points.

2002: Third Team
2002 is the first of the two "redwash" years, where no-one was able to resist Ferrari even on a week-by-week basis (as McLaren then Williams did in 2001). McLaren were just too damn slow in this year. There would only be two front-row starts; Coulthard's 2nd place start on the way to victory at his favourite track in Monaco, and new team-mate Kimi Raikkonen's 2nd place start on the way to retirement at his favourite track at Spa. Not that Ferrari were invincible in qualifying, Montoya and Williams contrived to waste 7 pole positions for the Colombian, including 5 on the spin mid-season. In short, Williams put up a failed resistance to the Ferarris, exclusively in qualifying trim, while McLaren were way off. Sure, Coulthard won in Monaco and Raikkonen was unfortuanate not to win at Magny-Cours, but they finished 156 points behind the Scuderia and 33 behind Williams. The car, in short, was not good enough.

2003: Quick out of the traps?
The MP4-17 from 2002 was reincarnated as the MP4-17D for 2003, since the MP4-18 was having serious teething problems in testing which led to its non-development. And McLaren went on to win the first two races through Coulthard in Australia and Raikkonen in Malaysia, and they should have won at Interlagos too! Was this inherent pace, though? In those three races they achieved only one front-row position; winning in Australia from 11th and 15th as they quickly adapted to the new reality of qualifying affecting the race. After that, Williams and Ferrari reestablished their lead over McLaren in the race as well as qualifying, although the 17D was a significant improvement. Raikkonen would go on to pick up some poles and a whole raft of second places, but it may be that Coulthard's struggles (only 3 podiums all season) were more indicative of the speed than Raikkonen beating home inferior drivers (sorry to Messers Barrichello, Montoya and Schumacher) for second behind Michael Schumacher. Despite Raikkonen only finishing 2 points from the title (due to an abject performance by Michael at Suzuka when he'd effectively won it), McLaren were not only beaten by Ferrari, but Williams too. While Raikkonen could have won the Drivers' Title, Coulthard's performance was not nearly sufficient to give McLaren a chance in the Constructors'.

2004: Worst year since 1983
2004 was the year that McLaren built a car that was both slow and unreliable. If the acid test of a car's pace is at Barcelona, McLaren finished 10th and 11th despite Juan Pablo Montoya's retirment up ahead. They left the Nurburgring with only 5 points from the first 7 races; obviously the title was already out of reach. A recovery of sorts started at Canada as McLaren started to finish most races, and Raikkonen showed decent speed by finishing 2nd at Silverstone and Interlagos and winning at Spa. Coulthard, meanwhile, stayed firmly entrenched in the midfield, scoring equal points to Ralf Schumacher despite the German's absence for 6 races. It is no surprise McLaren saw fit to ditch DC after this performance. And a 195 point deficit to the Constructors' Champions looked pretty embarrassing for McLaren.

2005: Engine problems and inconsistent Montoya
McLaren started the flyaways slower than the new leading team of Renault. They left the 4th race in San Marino with only 25 points owing to an early lack of pace, Raikkonen not finishing all the races. Montoya's absence for two of them was a crisis averted as Alex Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa picked up 10 points as able deputies. From Barcelona onwards, McLaren had the pace. Preventing them from winning the Constructors' Title with it was partly down to the early gap to Renault, but often down to their own mistakes and unreliabilities costing Raikkonen when he was arguably fast enough to win the lot from Spain onwards. At the Nurburgring, a tyre exploded on the last lap, handing a win to Alonso. The US d├ębacle cost him time to close the gap when Alonso had qualified down in 6th. In France he was given a grid penalty, denying Alonso a challenge, a problem revisiting him at Silverstone as Montoya won. In Germany, he retired from the lead as Montoya came second from last on the grid. Italy saw a third engine penalty. In addition, Montoya binned an opportunity to put the boot in when Renault didn't score in Hungary and callously lost another certain second place at Spa. All of this meant McLaren lost enough points that Fisichella's desparately poor season backing up Alonso turned out to be enough when Alonso beat Raikkonen home in China (although Montoya's engine failure there probably cost McLaren). It was a year that they should have won it, only to be ground down by their own errors and the remarkable consistency of Fernando Alonso.

2006: A no-win situation
When Raikkonen stopped in qualifying in the opening race of 2006, it seemed like 2005 all over again, especially when he recovered from grid-last to 3rd. The first half of the season saw McLaren fail to beat Ferrari and Renault in qualifying, and when they eventually did there was only one car capable of doing so, and they couldn't maintain that for the race. Montoya's only top 2 row start was in Monaco where McLaren started 3 & 4, but that had required Schumacher to be thrown out of qualifying and his team-mate Felipe Massa to expel himself into the armco. There would be 9 podiums for McLaren that year, 6 of which monuments to Raikkonen's class. Montoya was to up sticks and leave for NASCAR after the United States GP (having punted Raikkonen off no less) and he was replaced by de la Rosa. Sure Raikkonen made his mistakes - retiring from the Hungarian GP trying to lap a Toro Rosso, for example, but 94 points off the Constructors title tells a tale of a car not fast enough.

2007: Lets get political!
McLaren were in a scrap with Ferrari all season, but going into the Hungarian GP they had a 34 point lead in the Constructors' Championship. They had been found to be in possession of confidential Ferrari data by the FIA but not punished on the basis that it could not be proved such data was ever used by McLaren. In Q3, Championship leader Lewis Hamilton led out his McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, with instructions to let the Spaniard past during the "fuel burning phase". Hamilton ignored these instructions, arguing such an act would let Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen through as well. When the McLarens came in for their second stop of Q3 for their new tyres, Alonso blocked Hamilton in the pits, stopping Hamilton getting in his final timed lap as Alonso took pole position (McLaren were half a second clear of the BMW of Nick Heidfeld in 3rd). The FIA handed down a 5 place penalty for Alonso and stopped McLaren picking up Constructors' points at that Grand Prix for using team orders. Team boss Ron Dennis had a meeting with the defending World Champion, who threatened to report McLaren's use of Ferrari data to the FIA. Dennis informed FIA president Max Moseley of Alonso's "empty threat", while Alonso sent the incriminating e-mails to Bernie Ecclestone. The FIA threw McLaren out of the Constructors' Championship and handed down a $100m fine.
McLaren's drivers had scored 218 points between them, while Constructors' Champions Ferrari scored 204. The only thing preventing McLaren's victory, even when considering lost points on the track, was "Spygate".

2008: Heikki's hammering
The McLaren/Ferrari battle on the track of 2007 continued into 2008, with BMW Sauber providing the third challenger. And the title battle, amidst mistakes, controversy and acrimony on both sides, saw Lewis Hamilton take the title by one point from Felipe Massa. Admittedly, some of the harsher penalties handed out to Hamilton that season affected McLaren's title ability, including but not confined to his phantom win at Spa, his penalty for outbreaking himself into turn one at Fuji and Seb Bourdais being punished instead of Massa when the Brazilian ran into him. Hamilton had a few mistakes that lost McLaren points too - namely ploughing into the back of Alonso at turn 4 in Bahrain, ploughing into the back of Raikkonen in the Montreal pitlane and making a complete hash of weather predicting at Monza. But they weren't enough to deny the Englishman the drivers' title so the major part of McLaren's failure to take home both titles has to be Heikki Kovalainen who finished 22 points behind his countryman Raikkonen in the Championship. Kovalainen did suffer all four of McLaren's mechanical retirements, although Raikkonen did suffer three blameless DNFs of his own. It was simply a case that Kovalainen was just not quick enough to get in on the fight with Ferrari often enough. His 3 podiums compares unfavourably with his team-mate's 10 and his defeat by both BMWs and Renault's Fernando Alonso shows that he didn't perform to the level of an excellent car - even his win at the Hungaroring was inherited due to the failures of Massa and Hamilton. Hamilton was unable to win the Constructors' title on his own...

2009: The Hangover
2008 took a toll on the two teams forced to develop throughout for a title fight, who then compounded their misery by undertaking to try to understand how KERS worked along with BMW and Renault. Meanwhile teams who could concentrate their resources on 2009 were fast out of the box, with Brawn GP (Honda after a management buyout), Red Bull and Toyota suddenly frontrunners. McLaren did even worse than Ferrari, ending up getting out of Q1 in Australias only beating the two Toro Rossos, two Force Indias and Nelsinho Piquet. Melbourne was to be made more miserable when "Liegate" ensured Hamilton's disqualification from 3rd/4th and although Hamilton scored points in the two wet races in Malaysia and China, with Kovalainen beating him in the latter, and put in a quite brilliant performance in Bahrain to finish 4th, McLaren would not score until Kovalainen finished 8th at the Nurburgring. Suddenly though, at that German race, things looked bright. Hamilton's KERS powered start saw him shoot into the lead only to pick up a puncture and spend the race at the back. Hamilton won next time out in Hungary and the two McLarens qualified 1 and 2 in Valencia, though they couldn't hold it. Hamilton also took a win in Singapore and was only robbed by retirement in Abu Dhabi. The potential was evident, and towards the end of this transitional year they were excellent. But it was too late.

2010: Red Bull don't leave enough scraps
2010 was a case of the old Big Two feeding off scraps left by the inexperienced title challengers of Red Bull. The package from Milton Keynes was the best in 2010, scoring four one-twos over the season and two one-threes. However, they still stood on their own tails. Such Red Bull errors meant that McLaren had a 28 point lead after the German Grand Prix, but McLaren were not, as usual, adverse to dropping points themselves. Most stupid was Jenson Button's retirement in Monaco when a radiator was left in the sidepod, but Hamilton's wheel-rim failure in Barcelona and transmission failure in Budapest were probably more costly. Hamilton's double-retirement from collision damage in Monza and Singapore curtailed McLaren's momentum as Red Bull built theirs and their failure to truly capitalise on Red Bull's double DNF in Korea was fatal to their chances. There were highlights - 5 wins (but 3 of them in the wet) - but simply they made too many mistakes for a team trying to pick up on the mistakes of others and probably weren't faster than Ferrari in the dry come the end of the season. Of course, Ferrari were a one-man team...!

2011: Saturday Night Fever
Most of 2011 was over by Saturday night. In race trim, McLaren could compete with the engine-blown diffuser of Red Bull, but the advantage of getting DRS on much earlier meant Red Bull dominated qualifying. And when Vettel was on pole, he more often than not blasted away to lead by more than a second or two by lap two and go on to win the race without raising a sweat. It was brutal and efficient. Equally problematic for McLaren was that their driver most likely, Hamilton, lost his form somewhat midseason and started colliding with his old antagonist Felipe Massa. It seems churlish to do a run-down of McLaren mistakes in this year because the title was effectively over by the first time either of their drivers failed to finish; Hamilton suffering from team-mate collision in Canada. Simply put, Vettel and the RB7 were too good at their trick, and Webber was good enough to avoid any team getting near the energy-drink team in the Championship.

2012: The Perfect Storm
Lewis Hamilton started the first and last races of the season on pole from his team-mate Jenson Button who won both. But the story of the bit in the middle is a riveting read of incompetence, misfortune and the wasting of good potential. Questions can be asked of Hamilton's strategy in Melbourne, but Vettel got lucky to jump him into second by Safety Car. Questions have been asked of his strategy in Malaysia, while Button lost all his points colliding with an out-of-position HRT. Button lost a run at the race win in China, while Hamilton lost 17 seconds due to poor pitstops in Bahrain. Hamilton was miles faster in qualifying in Barcelona but was thrown off pole because he wasn't fuelled properly, while Button lost all semblance of form. Hamilton's strategy at Monaco lost him places while Button retired after getting stuck for the whole race behind Kovalainen's Caterham, while Button's performance in Canada was such that McLaren were effectively a one-man team. He won, fortunately! Hamilton then lost points in Valencia to Pastor Maldonado's inability to keep his car out of the side of other cars, while wet qualifying stymied the team in Silverstone. Hamilton was the only driver to pick up a puncture on Massa's debris at Hockenheim, while Button's strategy saw him get stuck behind Bruno Senna at the Hungaroring. Hamilton's set-up mistakes at Spa saw him qualify in Romain Grosjean's crash zone at the start, and Button's car stopped from second place at Monza. Given all that they were only 29 points down on the Constructors' leaders Red Bull leaving Monza. In Singapore, Hamilton's car stopped from a certain win; in Korea, Button was Kobayashied off the start and Hamilton developed a problem, then ended the race with a piece of astroturf stuck to the side of his car. Hamilton's car stopped on the way to another certain victory at Abu Dhabi and he was crashed into as Nico Hulkenburg outbreaked himself contesting for the lead at Interlagos. With the fastest car, and a world-class driver on song they blew it, in the most spectacular fashion, not even beating a Ferrari team they certainly should have for 2nd place.

Well, they should have won it in 1999, 2005 and 2012, they could have won it in 2000, 2008 and 2010 and the manner of their defeat in 2007 was unedifying at best. But whether McLaren have got complacent and used to not winning this particular prize or whether they have just been unfortunates, it can't be hidden that they have been the bridesmaids on too many occasions. Can this run of form continue? Well, McLaren will take solace that 2012 shows that they have the potential to build a car fast enough - it is often said you can make a quick car reliable but not a slow one fast - maybe the same applies to a team. They've lost Hamilton, which can't help, but having just one driver to focus on may give them some focus, as it did in 2008, although on that occasion not solving the Constructors' Championship as a problem. All in all, though, there are a hell of a lot of teams who would exchange their minor successes for McLaren's "failure" - 66 Grands Prix victories is nothing to be sniffed at and McLaren can be proud of that.
And, don't forget, had they not had a political problem in 2007, this thread would not exist.
Because winning isn't easy if it were we would all be doing it.....

The WCC started in 1958 which means that in 54 years Ferrari have won it 16 times Willams have won it 8 times and McLaren have won it 7 times.

Ferrari have been around for all of those 54 years and had 8 years experience of racing before the Championship even started

McLaren have been around for 49 of those years with zero experience of racing before the championship started.

Williams have been around for 35 years with limited experience of racing before that.

And so the percentages of WCC wins for these three teams are.
  • Ferrari - 29.6%
  • Williams - 22.5%
  • McLaren - 14.2%
But if you factor in the extra years of experience Ferrari drop to 25.8%

Plus you have to take into consideration that McLaren had all their championship points removed (Unfairly in my view. Ron did nothing wrong.) in 2007 their hit rate would go up to 16.3%

Anyway in my opinion it is Williams who have done the best out of all of these teams.

And all of them have done a bloody good job.

There is no reason why a team should be expected to win purely on how long they have been around or how much budget they have..
If you take out Spygate in 2007, McLaren would have still lost the championship, due to the penalty received in Hungary, losing out by one point.

Good read, 2005 certainly should have been theres. That was their best chance along with 2012.
Yes of course Slyboogy but they probably stopped trying to win the title with the deduction of points it was bound to have a detrimental effect, (I think I actually saw the light go out of Ron's eyes.) so who knows....
I guess the point I am trying to make is that In 49 years of trying McLaren have only won 7 WCC and so with that in mind why is it that people believe they should win every year? Winning isn't a god given right and as the saying goes.

"There is many a slip twixt cup and lip."

As many teams and heralded people have and will find out to their cost.

Even the mighty Schumacher found this to be true when he came out of retirement 7 world titles didn't give him the right to win....
Actually there is a team that wins hands down, a slam dunk, never to be beaten absolute record, an amazing achievement and that team is Brawn with 1 WDC, 1 WCC and only 1 year in Formula one giving them an unequaled never to be repeated, equaled or beaten amazing 100% strike rate :cheer:

Stats pah.....
Slyboogy - I considered that as part if the whole Spygate thing, really. I could have used a couple of different headings but an argument about 2007 isn't what I was aiming at, so I tried to keep it neutral.
Great article!

So McLaren is now 2 years short of matching Ferrari's drought in the 80's and 90's. With the defection of Hamilton to Mercedes it's going to be even tougher to end their dry spell. I really hope they get their mojo back soon enough.
Good article... a cliche, but it shows how consistency of execution and performance (from the PR girl at the interviews to the mechanics to the driver to the pit wall to the software engineers burrowed deep in transporters to the data analysts back at the factory) and minimizing and mitigating errors (where possible) wins races and titles...

Ferrari have probably been best at this over the past 4 seasons, with RBR just behind... and McLaren trailing in 3rd... with the RBR machinery being able to edge out McLaren and Ferrari over this time...

Maybe one for those with memories better than mine... when was the last Ferrari or RBR pitstop issue / error that cost a driver his race ? There must have been one over the past four years but I can't remember it... by error I mean a wheel nut not tightened, or leaving something in / on the car, etc...
Maybe one for those with memories better than mine... when was the last Ferrari or RBR pitstop issue / error that cost a driver his race ? There must have been one over the past four years but I can't remember it... by error I mean a wheel nut not tightened, or leaving something in / on the car, etc...

I don't know about the whole race but Vettel had a slow stop at Silverstone 2011 that cost him.
Much like the fragile McLaren cars of the mid 2000s, the pit-stops mess-ups were an exchange for speed. It has also cost them a bit, but they did have by far the fastest pit stops of everyone once they got their system working.
Great article!

So McLaren is now 2 years short of matching Ferrari's drought in the 80's and 90's. With the defection of Hamilton to Mercedes it's going to be even tougher to end their dry spell. I really hope they get their mojo back soon enough.

Some would argue that not having a clear lead driver in the team is what has been holding them back I'm not saying it is true but some would say that...
you fail to mention Mercedes suffered a lot of failures from the moment they decided to build the engines in house and make Ilmor report to them like part of a corporate entity

I remember the debacle about the MP4/18 being seriously quick but not reliable so Mclaren were starting with a year old car to the others

In order to compensate this they tested the Mp4/20 antelope nose car which was quick initially in 2004 in testing but became the brunt of jokes that it was fragile as glass and at least the Minardi's were finishing races and it lead to a mid season change in the car

People seem to have forgotten within this period - Mclaren still had Newey - the best designer in F1. However things turned sour when he infamously agreed to join Jaguar and then did a u-turn around the end of 2000 -2001. That I believe was the start of him losing trust of the Mclaren hierarchy

Rumours suggests that Martin Whitmarsh had a "mole" or at least one person reporting to him about Newey's activities

Another loss was Brigdestone who Mclaren delivered their first championship titles with suddenly decided to concentrate on beating the Michelin run Williams through supporting Ferrari due to association with the road carss

the superior Bridgestone grip probably cost Mclaren at least 0.5 seconds or so per lap to Ferrari
Mercedes' Ilmor mistakes cost them the title in 2005. I think McLaren were incredibly fast after Barcelona that year and the failures simply prevented Raikkonen from picking up any kind of momentum, and Alonso being Alonso, he was always there to take advantage. Montoya should not have been beaten by Schumacher even missing 3 races in comparison.

That year was one of their worst missed opportunities of an era of missed opportunities.
Its really obvious why people turn on Whitmarsh... when people forget it was Ron Dennis who was Mclaren principal 2007

Also it was Ron Dennis who did not want to risk Mp4/19 in 2003 at all and made a decision to get Mp4/20 out early for 2004

Mercedes should take their share of the blame for the numerous engine failures back then

Montoya - 2005 some of his mistakes were absolutely amateurish and showed what a hasty decision he made in joining the team
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