F1’s greatest cars: McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13
With or without the controversial ‘four-wheel steering’, Adrian Newey’s McLaren MP4/13 has asserted itself as one of the greatest Formula 1 cars ever made.
A new set of regulations were introduced for the 1998 season as F1 continued its drive to become safer in the wake of Ayrton Senna’s death at Imola. Slick tyres were replaced by grooved rubber, while the overall width of the car was reduced from 2 to 1.8 metres. Along with this, the track was made narrower.
McLaren read the regulations better than any other team, giving it a headstart in ’98.
At the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, McLaren drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were seven tenths quicker than rest of the pack in qualifying. In the race, they lapped the entire field en route to a dominant 1-2 finish.
Naturally, some teams were suspicious about the MP4/13, leading to a protest in the following race in Brazil. Ferrari argued that McLaren’s braking system, which had earlier been approved by the FIA, was in contravention of the technical regulations.
Basically, the cockpit of the MP4/13 consisted of an extra pedal that allowed their drivers to use either of the rear brakes independently, helping reduce oversteer or understeer depending upon the corner.
Despite the ban, McLaren remained the dominant force in 1998, securing the constructors’ title -its first since ’91 – with relative ease. Hakkinen clinched the drivers’ crown.
Only Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher was able to mount a sustainable challenge, taking the fight to the final race of the year. However, his Ferrari 047 was no match for the MP4/13 and he had to settle for second place in the championship.