McLaren MP4/12

McLaren MP4/12

by Luca Dal Monte

Of course, merely changing the livery color is not enough, but after several rather disappointing seasons, the MP4/12, the first McLaren painted in silver, returns to the top step of the podium. This happens in the opening race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, where the two Woking cars finish first and third. McLaren won’t entirely live up to the initial promises because, in hindsight, they won’t be among the absolute protagonists of the season. But it’s a fact that the tide is turning.

Once again, the MP4/12 is designed by Neil Oatley, Paddy Lowe, and Steve Nichols. There are significant aerodynamic improvements. However, the technical feature that makes headlines is a second brake pedal, selectable by the driver to act on one of the rear wheels. This solution allows the driver to eliminate understeer and reduce wheel slippage when exiting slow corners. Ferrari protests, and the Federation will ban the adoption of the second brake pedal from the Brazilian Grand Prix of the following year. The engine remains the Mercedes 10-cylinder.

McLaren MP4/12 Image 1


Mika Hakkinen: Out of the three victories that the MP4/12 secures throughout 1997, Hakkinen claims only one, in the final race of the year, the European Grand Prix held at the Spanish circuit of Jerez. Following his third-place finish in the opening race of the season in Australia, he achieves only one more podium result, also finishing third, at Hockenheim. Seven retirements, too many to aspire to a leading role on the world stage. His only pole position obtained with the MP4/12 comes in the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the German Nürburgring circuit.

David Coulthard: Two wins and two second-place finishes for the Scotsman, who in 1997 secures the second of four final third-place finishes in the Drivers’ World Championship standings, even finishing ahead of his teammate, who manages no better than fifth place. Coulthard wins in Australia in March and again at Monza in September. He finishes second at Zeltweg and at Jerez. He also suffers seven retirements during the season. He sets the fastest lap in the race at Montreal.

Our model cars:

McLaren MP4/12 Image 2

The choice of silver is due to the dual German component of the English team. The first is naturally Mercedes-Benz, which has been the engine supplier for three years. The second is the German tobacco company West, which sponsors McLaren this year. Before unveiling the silver livery, McLaren conducted pre-season tests in the orange color chosen by the company’s founder, Bruce McLaren.

McLaren MP4/12 Image 3