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McLaren F1 steering wheels through the ages – Gallery

Submitted by on November 26, 2014

mclaren steering wheelsThe once humble Formula One twirler has come a long way, as demonstrated by this look back on the history of McLaren F1 steering wheels.

Today’s Formula One steering wheel is an incredibly complicated piece of high-tech engineering. It relays to the driver a near unlimited volume of data, whilst simultaneously allowing them to fine the setup of the car on the fly.

We all know that in the early days of Grand Prix racing all the steering wheel had to do was steer left and right, but what about the years in between? This look back on McLaren F1 steering wheels breaks it down.



1969 – McLaren M7C – Bruce McLaren

As clean and simple as it gets. This was the wheel bolted directly to the steering column of Bruce McLaren’s M7C. It was non detachable and served two purposes – to steer left, and steer right.

M23_21974 – McLaren M23 – Emerson Fittipaldi

Five years later not much had changed – a basic three-spoke design and a bit of padding was all it took for Emerson Fittipaldi to drive the M23 to the 1974 Formula One World Championship. There was one addition however, a simple kill-switch designed to be used in the event of a throttle sticking open.


1988 – McLaren MP4/4 – Ayrton Senna

This is up there with our favorite steering wheels of all time. The McLaren MP4/4 featured a timeless Personal three-spoke with boost and radio control mounted within thumbs reach.


1999 – McLaren MP4-14 – Mika Hakkinen

The 90s changed everything, and by the time the decade drew to a close the relentless march of technology had well and truly made itself felt in Formula One. This is what a Formula One wheel looked like at the close of the millennium: a paddle shifted, carbon fiber masterpiece which to the general population would look to be straight out of a science fiction film. It featured a Pit Land Speed Limiter button (“PLS”), and even drink control… how luxurious!


2008 – McLaren MP4-23 – Lewis Hamilton

2008 was the last year before the digital display dash was moved to the center of the steering wheel. The decade preceding this wheel had seen the focus in design priorities shift towards helping the driver make on the fly adjustments. The green function switches on each side were often used to make adjustments to various adjustable functions in the car following instructions from a track side engineer.

MP4-29_22014 – McLaren MP4-29 – Jenson Button

Modern Formula One is a technical game, and modern McLaren F1 steering wheels reflect this. A scrolling large LCD display, a rear-mounted DRS activiation switch and a rotating dial which manages traction settings depending on the tyre fitted. They need to remember how to drive whilst managing all this, too!

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