Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki
McLaren MP4-1 Cosworth, Chassis MP41-1, at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed, WM

McLaren MP4-1 Cosworth, Chassis MP41-1, at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed, by Wouter Melissen -

The McLaren MP4/1 (initially known as the MP4) was a Formula One racing car produced by the McLaren team.

It was used during the 1981, 1982 and 1983 seasons.

It was the first Formula One car to use a carbon fibre composite monocoque, a concept which is now ubiquitous.

The MP4 was the first car to be built following the merger of the McLaren team and Ron Dennis' Project 4 team, as the car's name (short for "Marlboro Project 4") indicates.

Design and construction[]

The main engineer for the MP4 was John Barnard. The chassis itself was built by McLaren using carbon supplied by Hercules Aerospace (U.S.A.) and quickly revolutionised car design in Formula One with new levels of rigidity and driver protection and its Carbon-Fibre-Composite (CFC) construction, a first in Formula One. Within months the design had been copied by many of McLaren's rivals.

The car was originally powered by a Ford Cosworth engine but later switched to a TAG Porsche engine.

Hercules Aerospace keeps the car of Watson which was destroyed in the 1981 Italian Grand Prix and shows it off to visitors after allowing them to view footage of the accident, highlighting how it was possible for him to survive in a carbon fibre car.


John Watson and Andrea de Cesaris drove for the 1981 season with Niki Lauda replacing de Cesaris for the 1982 and 1983 seasons. In 1982, the MP4B nearly brought Watson to the World Championship, but he finished third behind Keke Rosberg and Didier Pironi, with 39 points. In that same year however, it did take second in the Constructors' Championship, collecting 69 points.

For the 1983 season, the car was then updated into the MP4/1C, and the season started well with a 1–2 finish for the MP4/1C at the 1983 United States Grand Prix West, in which Watson won from 22nd on the grid – the farthest back on the grid a driver has won from in Formula One – and Lauda finished second from 23rd despite suffering from a worsening leg cramp.

During the 1983 season, McLaren worked with Techniques d'Avant Garde and Porsche to develop a turbocharged V6 engine and the MP4/1D was the test mule; and then later in the season at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort the Cosworth-powered MP4/1C was replaced by the TAG-powered MP4/1E, which was essentially also a test mule that competed in only 4 races; it was competitive but did not win any races. In total, the MP4/1 brought McLaren 6 wins, 11 other podium finishes and a total of 131 points.

BBC commentator Murray Walker drove the MP4/1C at Silverstone in 1983.