JANUARY 27, 2011

New McLaren technical team looks back

"The first project I did at McLaren was the power-braking system in 1993," recalls new technical director Paddy Lowe. "It was really exciting because we only had six races to invent it, deliver it and race it [before it was outlawed at the end of the season]. We developed it over three races, we raced it for three and won two of them - it was worth one second a lap. Very satisfying!

That development was instrumental in allowing Ayrton Senna to overcome the previously dominant Alain Prost Williams FW15 in his final two races for the team at Suzuka and, memorably, Adelaide in that '93 season.

Lowe also remembers another McLaren innovation - brake-stee.

"That was a great project," he says. "Steve Nichols came up with the initial idea but I made it happen within the team, which was very rewarding. One second a lap just for having a very good idea. A great shame it was also later outlawed.

"I was also involved in the very beginnings of our simulator project. We initially didn't have a great deal of support, some people were initially unconvinced of its benefits, but through Martin Whitmarsh's support we developed it into a key performance tool."

Both are also particularly proud of all the diverse systems and processes that were brought together on 2005's MP4-20 that only just missed out on the world championship.

"MP4-20 was a very satisfying car," says Lowe. "It was the first car with which, as a chief engineer, I felt we all really harnessed our team together. I felt real ownership of what I brought to that car. And it should have won the championship if only we'd made it more reliable because it won 10 grands prix that season!"

Says Goss: "Bringing the first seamless-shift gearbox to F1 was a personal achievement. We'd spent several years working on some very innovative transmission projects and eventually we settled on bringing a seamless-shift gearbox. We were working to a particularly tight schedule to not only introduce a new type of technology and new control software, but also make sure it worked in a bulletproof way. Happily, it worked particularly well that season and gave us a big edge over the opposition."

Oatley's memories cross several McLaren generations.

"The first three McLaren cars I had responsibility for, all were fortunate enough to have won both the drivers' and constructors' championships [in 1989, '90 and '91]," he says. "Which coupled with the unprecedented success of the 1988 car made it four doubles in a row for the team.

"We were able to operate as both chief designer and race engineer in those days and winning the drivers' championship with Alain Prost ('89) and Ayrton Senna ('90) was an added hands-on bonus. With Ayrton, we won five grands prix in 1993 using an engine that perhaps wasn't quite able to match the performance of the front-running cars; but we did it with great panache. It was a year of great technical freedom before the regulations closed in and we were able to capitalise on that to its fullest extent.

"On a personal note, one of my highlights was to see Mika Hakkinen make a full recovery and come back faster than ever after his terrible accident in Adelaide in 1995. That gave everybody such incredible sense of purpose, and made everything so worthwhile once he was back in the cockpit again."