McLaren MP4/5 - The first non-turbo champion from Woking
The McLaren MP4/5 was the car that won both Drivers’ and Teams’ Formula 1 World Championship titles in 1989.
New Honda engine and many improvements
Based on the legendary MP4/4 model, the McLaren MP4/5 was a worthy successor. Designed by American engineer Steve Nichols, who was supported by Steve Oatley and Gordon Murray, the new car had one major change and it was the engine. Turbocharged engines were banned and replaced with naturally aspirated. Honda did a great job as the power unit was reliable. It featured four valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts.
Compared to its predecessor, the McLaren MP4/5 featured a new monocoque design to improve aerodynamic performance while the biggest difference between the McLaren MP4/4 and its successor was the addition of an airbox to feed the intake trumpets of the new Honda engine which was developed in Japan for almost two years.
McLaren MP4/5 was far ahead of the rest of the grid
Even before the start of the season it was clear that McLaren is far ahead from other teams and that only a miracle can stop them from winning another double. Even after being superior to the rest of the grid, the McLaren MP4/5 was not devoid of problems. Both drivers complained about throttle responses, balance, and handling. There also were some lubrication issues and troubles with the gearbox in the first half of the season. However, technical problems were solved more or less successfully but the main problem for the team was a relationship between two superstars – Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
The situation was good at the beginning of the season but later it worsened. The Brazilian and the Frenchman barely could speak to each other and their rivalry became intense on and off the track. At the end of the season Prost left the team and stated that McLaren and Honda were favoring Senna what sounds illogical as the Frenchman won the title in 1989.
Two aces in the title fight
In the hands of two legendary Formula 1 driver, the McLaren MP4/5 was a mighty machine that dominated 1989 season. Reigning champion Senna won six races that year but wasn’t able to defend his crown. Prost won on four occasions but his form was more consistent and had only three retirements, comparing to Senna’s six. Another interesting fact is that Senna won 13 pole positions while his teammate jut twice was pole-sitter. Prost had five fastest laps over the season while Senna scored three.
The championship battle was decided in Japan, in the penultimate race of the season. Two McLaren cars of Senna and Prost collided on turn 46 and Prost was out of the race. The Brazilian was able to continue after the pit-stop and eventually won the race. However, he was disqualified for receiving a push start and missing the chicane after restarting.
Prost won his third Formula 1 title and McLaren easily won its 5th overall Constructors’ Championship title and 4th during the 1980s, equalling the result of the Williams team. However, that wasn’t the end for McLaren MP4/5. In 1990, the Woking-based team introduced the modified McLaren MP4/5B model and again was able to win the double.
McLaren MP4/5 technical specifications
|Chassis||Carbon fiber composite and aluminum honeycomb monocoque with fully stressed engine|
|Track (front & rear)||1.824 mm/1.669 mm|
|Front suspension||Double wishbones, pull-rod actuated springs and dampers, anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension||Double wishbones, push-rod actuated springs and damper, anti-roll bar|
|Engine||Honda RA109-E, 3.493cc, 72° V10, naturally aspirated, mid-engine, longitudinally mounted|
|Power||685 bhp/511 kW|
|Gearbox||McLaren 6-speed manual|
|Brakes||Ventilated carbon ceramic discs|
|Tank capacity||210 l|