McLaren Racing Limited, competing as McLaren Honda, is a British Formula One team based at the McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, Surrey, England. McLaren is best known as a Formula One constructor but has also competed in and won the Indianapolis 500 and the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (Can-Am). The team is the second oldest active team after Ferrari. They are one of the most successful teams in Formula One history, having won 182 races, 12 drivers’ championships and eight constructors’ championships. The team is a wholly owned subsidiary of McLaren Technology Group.
Founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren, the team won its first Grand Prix at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix, but their greatest initial success was in Can-Am, where they dominated from 1967 to 1971. Further American triumph followed, with Indianapolis 500 wins in McLaren cars for Mark Donohue in 1972 and Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and 1976. After Bruce McLaren died in a testing accident in 1970, Teddy Mayer took over and led the team to their first Formula One constructors’ championship in 1974, with Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt winning the drivers’ championship in 1974 and 1976, respectively; 1974 also marked the start of a long-standing sponsorship by Phillip Morris’ Marlboro cigarette brand.
In 1981, McLaren merged with Ron Dennis’ Project Four Racing; Dennis took over as team principal and shortly after organised a buyout of the original McLaren shareholders to take full control of the team. This began the team’s most successful era: with Porsche and Honda engines, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, and Ayrton Senna took between them seven drivers’ championships and McLaren six constructors’ championships. The combination of Prost and Senna was particularly dominant—together they won all but one race in 1988—but later their rivalry soured and Prost left for Ferrari. Fellow English team Williams offered the most consistent challenge during this period, the two winning every constructors’ title between 1984 and 1994. However, by the mid-1990s, Honda had withdrawn from Formula One, Senna had moved to Williams, and the team went three seasons without a win. With Mercedes-Benz engines, West sponsorship, and former Williams designer Adrian Newey, further championships came in 1998 and 1999 with driver Mika Häkkinen and during the 2000s the team were consistent front-runners, driver Lewis Hamilton taking their latest title in 2008.
Ron Dennis retired as McLaren team principal in 2009, handing the former role to longtime McLaren employee Martin Whitmarsh. At the end of 2013, after the team’s worst season since 2004, Whitmarsh was ousted. McLaren announced in 2013 that they would be using Honda engines from 2015 onwards, replacing Mercedes-Benz. The team raced as McLaren-Honda for the first time since 1992 at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.
Honda has participated in Formula One, as an entrant, constructor and engine supplier, for various periods since 1964. Honda’s involvement in Formula One began with the 1964 season; their withdrawal in 1968 was precipitated by the death of Honda driver Jo Schlesser during the 1968 French Grand Prix. They returned in 1983 as an engine supplier, a role that ended in 1992. They returned again in 2000, providing engines for British American Racing (BAR). By the end of 2005 they had bought out the BAR team, based at Brackley, United Kingdom, and renamed their new subsidiary Honda Racing.
It was announced on 5 December 2008 that Honda would be exiting Formula One with immediate effect due to the global financial crisis and were looking to sell their team. On 27 February 2009 it was announced that team principal Ross Brawn had led a management buyout of the Brackley team. The team raced successfully as Brawn GP in 2009, and was subsequently sold to Daimler AG and renamed Mercedes GP for the 2010 season.
On 17 May 2013, Honda announced their intention to return to the sport in the 2015 season under a works agreement with McLaren to supply V6 engines and kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) units.