The McLaren MP4/4 goes down in the annals of Formula One history as one of the most successful Formula One car designs of all time. Although it competed in the 1988 FIA Formula One World Championship it still to this day holds the record as the most dominant single season car to complete in Formula One, winning all but one race and taking all but one pole position with its drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
The McLaren MP4/4 was the first McLaren to benefit from Honda power. The 1987 season, by comparison, was a poor year for the British squad, using the by this time unreliable Porsche-built TAG V6 unit. Since the 1985 championship, Honda had demonstrated that it had the best engine and, with 1988 being the last year of the turbo engines prior to new rules being introduced, McLaren went all out to benefit from its new engine partnership. This strategy was in stark contrast to that of the majority of other teams such as Ferrari and Tyrrell, who based their cars on updated versions of previous seasons’ cars in order to focus their efforts on all-new 1989 contenders.
The new low line chassis was straight out of the gene pool of Technical Director Gordon Murray’s Brabham BT55 from 1986 season. Murray had always wanted to try his new chassis design with a V6 engine, which is much smaller than the straight 4 unit used in the BT55. The chassis design had a marked impact on driver seating position and the McLaren MP4/4 is often considered a forerunner of the current Formula One cars which all sport the recumbent driving position as standard.