McLaren MP4/14 Was Good, But Not Good Enough For the Double
The McLaren MP4/14 was the car with which Mika Hakkinen won his second Formula 1 World Championship title in 1999.
Improved, fast but not reliable enough
After successful 1998 season in which McLaren won both Drivers’ and Constructors’ championship titles, the team had a strong foundation for the following year. The McLaren MP4/13 was an excellent car despite some reliability issues but designers Neil Oatley and Adrian Newey decided to completely overhaul that model for 1999. The MP4/14 looked like its predecessor but McLaren team chief Ron Dennis once said that only 10% of the parts from the old car were used in the construction of the new one.
The McLaren MP4/14 without any doubt was the fastest car on the grid in 1999 but again the reliability was the problem. Unlike in 1998, too many retirements, due to mechanical failures or driver mistakes, proved to be costly in the Constructors’ Championship battle, so Ferrari took the crown from the Woking-based team.
Aerodynamics was improved in comparison to the previous model, Mercedes engine was powerful and the new car looked stable and well prepared for another double. The reigning champion Mika Hakkinen stayed with the team, as well as David Coulthard who finished 3rd in the previous year.
The start of the campaign was marked by ups and downs
The 1999 Formula 1 season started in Australia. Hakkinen started from pole position but he retired on lap 21 due to troubles with the throttle, while his teammate retired on lap after hydraulics failure. Mika then won the Brazilian Grand Prix but his teammate again retired. At Imola, the Finn recorded the second retirement while his teammate finished 2nd in the race.
At Monaco, Coulthard retired for the third time in four races and Mika was 3rd. Finally, in the Spanish Grand Prix, both cars were able to finish the race and it was in great style. The MP4/14 recorded 1-2 finish with Hakkinen. The Finn scored a second win in the row in Canada but the other McLaren driver finished without points.
At that point of the season, the reigning champion topped the standings, having four points more than the second-placed Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher. In the Constructors’ Championship, McLaren was nine points behind Scuderia.
McLaren scored two wins in the mid-season
Hakkinen finished 2nd in France where his teammate again retired. British driver scored his first win of the season at the British Grand Prix but this time Mika retired after starting from pole position. In the Austrian Grand Prix, both drivers scored a podium finish – Coulthard was 2nd and reigning champion 3rd. German Grand Prix was one of the worst moments because Mika failed to finish the race and David finished 5th. However, they bounced back at Hungaroring. Hakkinen triumphed after starting from pole position and David was second.
With five races remaining, Hakkinen was 2nd in the standings, two points behind Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine, while Coulthard was 3rd, 20 points behind the leader. Ferrari still led in the Constructors’ Championship, having four points more than McLaren.
Mika won the Formula 1 title in the final race of the season
The Belgian Grand Prix was one of the best races for the team in 1999. British driver won at Spa and Finn finished 2nd which was enough to take the lead in the championship. Unfortunately, Hakkinen at Monza retired for the fifth time that year, again after starting from pole position, while David was 5th in the race. That was the last Grand Prix in which Coulthard scored points that year as he retired from the last three events.
Hakkinen was 5th in the European Grand Prix at Nurburgring but still topped the standings, having a two-point advantage to Irvine. The situation overturned after Malaysian Grand Prix. He finished 3rd but lost the lead in the overall standings.
Before the final race of the season in Japan, he was four points behind Irvine. Mika needed a victory to defend the title and he managed to win the race. In the final standings, he was just two points ahead of Irvine who finished 3rd at Suzuka. In the Constructors’ Championship, McLaren was a runner-up, four points behind Ferrari.
What do the numbers say?
The McLaren MP4/14’s racing record wasn’t impressive – 7 wins and a total of 16 podiums out of 16 races. At the same time, defending champion scored 11 pole positions and had 6 fastest laps, while the British driver scored 3 fastest laps.