‘Biggest Load of Rubbish’- Former McLaren Designer Stirs Controversy Over Origins of MP4/4

Published 08/04/2021, 11:05 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan – June 4, 2021 McLaren’s Lando Norris in action during practice REUTERS/Anton Vaganov


One of the most successful McLaren cars to grace the tracks, the MP4/4 was a dominant force in F1 history. However, with success often comes controversy. A long-standing question is: who designed the car? While most credit Steve Nichols, others argue it was George Murray. Discussing the dilemma, the South African designer puts his story forward.

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Murray started off by saying, “This thing about Steve Nichols being chief designer is the biggest load of rubbish you’ve ever heard.” The McLaren-Honda machine had two extremely similar designs backing it; thus lay the confusion. Murray adds, “I’m sick and tired of people living off my reputation.”

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George Murray explained he put Nichols in charge of the monocoque at the front end. Murray, along with Dave North, handled the rear end, aerodynamics, and the gearbox. He argues, “I’d taken the Brabham BT55 drawings with me to McLaren so the basic concept of the MP4/4 was the BT55, with the lay-down driving position, and a far better rear end… If you look at the two cars together, the BT55 and the MP4/4, you’ll see the design is almost identical.”

The 1988 car’s maker remains a topic of debate. Murray simply concludes, “I know I speak for us all when I voice our frustration that credit is not always given where it should be.”

Looking back at the McLaren machine

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The McLaren model paired with the Honda V6 engine was a menace on the track. Driven by F1 legends Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, the car won 15 out of 16 races. Despite being Senna’s title-winning car, it was the car that put McLaren at the top of the driver’s championship in 1988.

Teams expected the fuel capacity rule in the ’88 season to result in a transitional year, rather than a winning one. McLaren thought nothing of the sort as the team dominated the entire season.McLaren veteran Neil Trundle claimed that the MP4/4 is “the perfect package, still the lowest and sleekest-looking car on display at the team HQ.”

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It’s no doubt that the MP4/4 is McLaren F1’s best product. It’s unfortunate that there is no solid answer as to who designed the masterpiece. The car certainly goes down in history as an article of virtue.

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Shreya Sanjeev

339 articles

Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having attained a journalism degree from St Xavier's College, she finds comfort in the sound of her keyboard while typing and excitement in the sound of F1 cars speeding on a track. A street circuit and Daniel Ricciardo fan through and through, Shreya claims the 2018 Monaco GP to be one of her favorite races of all time.

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