McLaren target win in 700th F1 race milestone

Oct.14 (Reuters) McLaren set their sights on celebrating their 700th Formula One race with a win after Lewis Hamilton led a one-two with Jenson Button in a wet Korean Grand Prix practice on Friday.

Bruce McLaren

Bruce McLaren

Button won in Japan last Sunday, after setting the pace in all three practice sessions there, and team principal Martin Whitmarsh hoped they could mark the milestone with another triumph.

“We’ve only had a few days to celebrate it (Button’s victory), that’s the trouble with winning the first of a back-to-back, but hopefully we will be able to move on from there and be successful here,” he told reporters.

McLaren have already lost out in the drivers’ championship, with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel becoming the sport’s youngest double champion at Suzuka while his Red Bull team moved closer to the constructors’ crown.

Red Bull will clinch that for the second year in a row if McLaren, who have not won the team title since 1998, fail to score more points than them in Yeongam.

The champions remain mere newcomers, however, in comparison to McLaren, who have been around longer than any team other than Ferrari.

Bruce McLaren

Bruce McLaren drives the McLaren M2B at the 1966 Monaco GP

The team founded by the late New Zealander Bruce McLaren in 1966, made their debut in Monaco that year and took a first win in Belgium two years later.

“We are very proud of it,” said Whitmarsh of the achievement in racing through the decades. “Our friends at Ferrari have been around longer than us but 700 is still an important milestone.

“It’s just a moment of reflection but apart from that clearly we’ve got to look forward. It would be nice to think we’ll be here still alive and competitive in another 700 grands prix.

“I think it’s a great achievement for the team and for the brand.”

McLaren have won 12 drivers’ championships, their first with Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi in 1974, and eight constructors’ crowns.

Ferrari, the only team to have competed in Formula One since the first world championship in 1950, will be starting their 828th grand prix on Sunday.

The Italian team celebrated the 60th anniversary of their first win at Silverstone in July with another win, Fernando Alonso’s victory still their only one so far this season.

Jenson Button

Jenson Button won McLaren's 699th race at Suzuka

Button also celebrated his own prominent anniversary this year with a similarly triumphant result, winning his 200th grand prix in Hungary.

The Briton has now been on the podium in his last five races while Hamilton, showing encouraging signs of emerging from his alarming drop in form, has failed to finish in the top three for his last five.

However, Button’s form in Japan showed how competitive their car has become after starting the season chasing Red Bull.

“We always thought we could win and set out to rather belatedly catch our friends at Red Bull,” Whitmarsh said. “We felt we could go into the last five races with an opportunity to win potentially some of those.”

McLaren’s 100th race was in Brazil in 1975, their 200th in Germany in 1981, 300th at Imola in 1988, 400th and 500th in Canada in 1994 and 2000, and 600th at the Nuerburgring in Germany in 2006.

The team will not want reminding that they won just one of those milestones, in 1988 when Brazilian Ayrton Senna led Alain Prost in a one-two finish.