The McLaren MP4/5 and its derived sister model the McLaren MP4/5B were Formula One racing cars designed by Neil Oatley. The MP4/5 was loosely based on its predecessor, the all conquering McLaren MP4/4. McLaren used the new car for the 1989 season, and the MP4/5B for 1990, earning back to back drivers' and constructors' world titles with the type.
Over the course of two seasons, the MP4/5 took 16 wins, 27 pole positions and 263 points before it was replaced by the McLaren MP4/6 for 1991.
1989 was the first year where naturally aspirated engines were compulsory for all teams after the banning of the turbocharged units at the end of the previous season. To this end, Honda built a 3.5 litre V10 engine, developed throughout most of the latter half of 1988. The MP4/5 was unveiled for pre-season testing and it was instantly on the pace, as well as reliable. Developed by Alain Prost, the MP4/5 looked like the car to beat in the new season. While the Ferrari that season was a fast all around car particularly at the hands of Nigel Mansell, it was also chronically unreliable due to its new semi-electronic gearbox shift, giving further advantage to McLaren.
McLaren took 10 victories during the season, 6 for Ayrton Senna and 4 for Prost. This was at a time when the relationship between the two men was at breaking point, so their rivalry pushed the development of the car far ahead of the other teams as they tried to out-do each other. Although Senna had more wins, he also had a string of retirements, many more than Prost, mostly down to engine failures while leading which cost him vital points. However Senna and Prost's combined points total meant McLaren easily won a second straight constructors' championship.
At the Japanese Grand Prix, Prost knew that if Senna failed to finish the race he, Prost would be world champion. Prost had a superior race setup and led for much of the distance, until Senna gained on him in the latter part of the race due to a short and sudden downpour (Prost had a notorious distaste for rain). The Frenchman collided with the Brazilian, taking both out of the race. While Prost left his stalled car, Senna get a push-start from the track marshals and managed to win the race, only to be disqualified for using the escape road to rejoin the circuit. Any chance of Senna winning the championship had been ruled out when he threw away a huge lead in the Australian Grand Prix by ramming into the back of Martin Brundle's Brabham-Judd due to poor wet weather visibility. An unsuccessful appeal by McLaren and Senna confirmed that Prost had won the title.
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