Even though the McLaren MP4/8 wasn’t in the same class as the fastest and most competitive cars ever driven by Ayrton Senna, it’s undoubtedly remembered as one of the machines with which the Brazilian gave some of his best performances, especially racing against the “out of this world Williams” and Michael Schumacher’s Benetton.
At the unveiling of the car, in February 1993, at Silverstone (England), Senna took his first few laps with the McLaren. He knew immediately that it wasn’t going to be an easy season. Honda – McLaren’s engine supplier from 1988 from 1992 – had left the British team. They were forced to replace the Japanese motor with a “client” version of the Ford engine, which was even weaker than Ford’s own factory model that powered Schumacher’s and Riccardo Patrese’s Benettons.
During McLaren’s presentation, Senna took the #7 car, which would be driven by Michael Andretti for the first 13 races and then by Mika Hakkinen for the remaining three. Ayrton would drive the #8 car throughout the season.
Watch part of Senna’s first laps behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4/8:
In 1993, Senna won five out of 16 races, two of them on wet tracks (Brazil and Donington), two at street circuits (Monaco and Australia), and just one at a regular raceway in dry conditions (Japan).
A comparison between the cars’ specifications gives us a measure of Senna’s greatness. His Ford engine was about 80 HP less powerful than William’s Renault and 30 HP weaker than Benetton’s Ford, which made the three-time champion’s wins even more significant.
Even if it wasn’t the fastest car for Senna, his fans will always fondly remember the McLaren MP4/8 as one of the most special in F1 history.