World championship history documents an almost seamless span of McLaren dominance between 1984 and 1991, ?a period bookended - coincidentally - ?by McLaren drivers taking their third ?and final world titles: Niki Lauda in 1984, Ayrton Senna in 1991. In hindsight as well as in period, it's tempting to view such long-running excellence as virtually inevitable, a consequence of deep pockets furnishing top engineers and drivers with the best of everything.
As with the current pre-eminence of Mercedes, it's also easy to overlook how challenging it is for a team to maintain that peak. But by the middle of 1990 McLaren was an organisation which, if not in crisis, was painfully aware of how quickly its opposition was catching up, and how much work lay ahead to keep the intensely competitive Senna satisfied he had the best machinery on the grid.
Keeping Senna happy was one of several plates McLaren's designers, and engine partner Honda, had to spin. In 1988, despite Formula 1's impending reversion to naturally aspirated engines, Honda produced an all-new turbocharged 1.5-litre V6 which enabled Senna to secure his first world title after he and team-mate Alain Prost won 15 of the season's 16 races between them.