Top five most successful McLaren drivers in Formula One

McLaren, based in Woking, England, is without a doubt one of the best Formula One teams to have ever competed. The team ranks third among all teams in constructor’s championship wins with eight, trailing only Ferrari (16) and Williams (9). Additionally, they have 12 driver championship victories. The best years for McLaren in Formula One were from 1988 to 1991, when the team won four consecutive constructors’ championships, a first for the sport.

The most notable of those years was when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost began what is arguably F1’s most well-known rivalry, taking home a drivers’ championship each of their two years together. Prost actually outperformed Senna in 1988, but Senna was declared the winner because his 11 best performances were superior to Prost’s 11. Here are the top five drivers the team has ever had, without further ado.

Ayrton Senna

With 35 victories for the team during his six full seasons with McLaren, Ayrton Senna surpassed the Frenchman’s record. Three world championships were also won: the first in 1988, the second in 1990, and the third in 1991. Since Senna took over, McLaren hasn’t been able to establish itself as the dominant force in Formula One, at least not for very long, so that period is now regarded as the team’s golden age.

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Alain Prost

Nelson Piquet defeated Alain Prost by two points in ’83, the second consecutive season he lost the championship by the narrowest of margins. In ’85, Prost was determined not to lose the championship a third time. His first world championship, which he defended the following year, was won with the help of five victories and six additional podium finishes. Prost and McLaren had a contentious relationship that lasted just two seasons before Prost decided to leave for Ferrari. He was the most successful driver for McLaren at the time, having won 30 Grands Prix and three world championships.

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Mika Hakkinen

Finland’s Mika Hakkinen, who joined the team for the final three races of the 1993 season—Senna’s last before his fateful switch to Williams—is McLaren’s most successful post-Senna driver. In the years that followed, Hakkinen made a name for himself as one of the best drivers in the sport, despite not having the equipment to contend for the world championship until 1998. He was forced into a thrilling duel with Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher when he was finally in a competitive car, which he ultimately won by 14 points. After finishing second in the championship to Schumacher in 2000, Mika Hakkinen won all 20 of his Formula One races for McLaren before quitting racing the following year.

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Lewis Hamilton

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton replaced Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa in the McLaren lineup in 2007 after the Finn left for Ferrari. After placing third in each of his first nine attempts, Hamilton finally took the checkered flag. His lightning-quick speed astounded the much more seasoned Alonso, and their friendship quickly soured as both drivers insisted on overtaking each other on the track. The following year, Hamilton naturally recovered and, on the penultimate turn of the final race in Brazil, became the final world champion to drive for McLaren. He won 21 races prior to joining Mercedes and stayed with the team through the end of 2012.

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Niki Lauda

With the team he had fought so hard against, Niki Lauda made a comeback to the sport in 1982. He was initially paired with John Watson; however, in 1984, the Briton was replaced by Alain Prost. The Frenchman established himself as the faster driver in qualifying that year, but Lauda used all of his experience to maximise his speed in races even though the McLaren was the best car on the grid. The smallest margin of victory in F1 history went to Lauda, who won five of the Grands Prix to Prost’s seven.

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McLaren world champions

Emerson Fittipaldi1974
James Hunt1976
Niki Lauda1984
Alain Prost1985, 1986, 1989
Ayrton Senna1988, 1990, 1991
Mika Hakkinen1998, 1999
Lewis Hamilton2008