Minutes before pulling the covers off their 2013 F1 challenger McLaren began paid tribute to Bruce McLaren in a short video recalling his life.
The team’s founder was, of course, its original driver. Since his untimely death at Goodwood in 1970 almost 300 drivers have got behind the wheel of his cars, including some of F1’s most famous names.
McLaren – The Drivers is the third in a series of books chronicling the team’s history, following The Cars and The Wins.
Although it’s the same size as the two prior books, the density of the text inside is considerably higher. The Drivers will take more time to get through, as it gives potted histories of every driver who ever raced a McLaren.
Exhaustive in its range, it goes beyond just F1 drivers who raced for McLaren to include those who competed in IndyCars, endurance racing and defunct series such as Can-Am and Formula 5000. It’s doubtful author David Tremayne has had time for much else while researching and writing this vast project.
As an exercise in illustrating how the name McLaren is writ large across motor racing, it’s brilliantly conceived. Many great names who never drove McLarens in world championship F1 races appear in its pages, including Graham Hill (sports cars), Phil Hill (sports cars) and Mario Andretti (IndyCar). Other notable names to feature include Rene Arnoux (F5000), Carlos Reutemann (non-championship F1) and Ralf Schumacher (sports cars).
Gilles Villeneuve “would undoubtedly have been a world champion, and it should have happened in a Mclaren” the book admits about the driver who made an impressive F1 debut with the team before inexplicably being dropped by team principal Teddy Mayer.
Mayer’s brother Timmy also appears in its pages having driven a Cooper T70 entered by Bruce McLaren’s team in 1964 being losing his life in a crash at Longford in Tasmania later that year.
The briefer entries condense the lives of their subjects into a few pithy paragraphs. The longer ones benefit from meticulous research and some superbly chosen quotes.
McLaren’s driver hiring policy has usually been to hire the best two racers available and let them get on with it. As a result of this a lot of great drivers have passed through their doors – and some have subsequently swiftly afterwards.
It does a good job of treading the fine line between not overlooking some of the more controversial moments in their history, but also being even-handed towards those who did not have the happiest times at the team. That even goes for the four-page entry on Fernando Alonso, about whom “mention of his name still evokes strong feelings in many quarters of the McLaren Technology Centre five years on”.
This is the second giant slab of reading material on F1 drivers that’s lame on my desk recently. The last, the exhaustive Grand Prix Who’s Who, is the place to go for a guide to every driver ever. But if you’ve got the budget for both this is vital reading too, and not just for McLaren fans.
F1 Fanatic rating
McLaren – The Drivers 1964-2012
Author: David Tremayne
Publisher: F1 Racing Group
Published: February 2013
- Stirling Moss: The Definitive Biography volume one reviewed
- Watching the Wheels by Damon Hill reviewed
- F1 2016: The F1 Fanatic review
- Ferrari 312T Haynes Manual review
- Williams FW14B and Lotus 98T Haynes manuals reviewed