Even though the McLaren F1 turned 25 this year, it remains a landmark achievement, especially in a decade not particularly favorable to supercars. The 1980s produced plenty of idols for posters — the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 959 are a couple of the usual suspects, but the decade of the 1990s offered a number of duds that fell victim to a recession-hit economy, planned at a time of economic prosperity to be foiled by a sudden downturn. Of the handful of supercars that made it to market, we still have to take our hats off to the F1, which not only delivered all that it promised but did so without rehashing older technology or cutting corners to reach a wider audience.
For the F1’s 25th anniversary, Road & Track sat down with the people who made it happen and those who continue to drive it, from factory racing driver Bill Auberlen to traveling F1 technicians who service it, in addition to current owners like our own contributor Jay Leno.
Values for the F1 continue to climb into the stratosphere as the current crop of supercars somehow seems less even when achieving more.
For us, the most illuminating segments of these wide-ranging interviews concern just how the F1’s capabilities remain very much modern a quarter of a century later, and how most subsequent supercars, including McLaren’s own, have either faced compromises in their design and engineering process or have not achieved the same level of ability and usability that the F1 still offers in 2017. For a car designed before the internet, the F1 still has not been truly surpassed in simplicity and elegance, with technological terrors like the Bugatti Veyron requiring everything and the kitchen sink in addition to a space shuttle’s thirst for fuel to achieve faster speeds while being too heavy to be a true track car.
It helps explain why even McLaren F1s that have been split in half in wrecks are impossible to write off — and why automakers haven’t been able to produce anything quite like it in subsequent decades.