McLaren Formula 1 car launch reminds us of the Spice Girls unveiling the 1997 car at Woking


These days, Formula 1 car launches can be somewhat low-key.

Usually performed on a simple live stream, via a few renders posted to Twitter, the days of big shows to usher in new eras of these motorized beasts seem to be behind us.

With Woking-based McLaren unveiling this year’s all-new car in recent days, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to remember one of their most iconic car launches.

Read more: Surrey in the 1990s in unearthed photos that will take you right back

In 1997, the launch of an F1 car was much more exaggerated and “showy”.

They had the ability to attract some of the biggest stars in the country and were often performed on stage in front of a watching crowd, usually members of the media, sponsors and VIP guests, full of anticipation.

This example arguably tops all others when it comes to putting on a memorable show.

On February 13, 1997, the McLaren team unveiled their new baby the West McLaren Mercedes MP4/12, at Alexandra Palace in London, throwing it into the distance with caution way.

A assembled audience of five thousand, which for once included fans, were able to be entertained in a way that would go far beyond just showing off McLaren’s new challenger.

One of the reasons they had such a big launch was due to a change of era for the team, having ended their iconic partnership with Philip Morris and Marlboro – their red and white cars wearing the classic livery of Marlboro had been driven for the better part. 20 years old and remains one of their most classic liveries.

They had signed a new partnership with Reemstma and their West cigarette brand, which meant there would be a whole new look for the team then led by Ron Dennis.

To mark the occasion, the marketing team had recruited the Spice Girls, who were initially mocked when the suggestion was made, with Dennis in his bargaining chip with Simon Fuller, the girls’ manager.

McLaren used its vast resources by contracting one of the largest groups in the world at the time to help unveil its livery

And so the Spice Girls were booked to perform three songs “live” (or dance while lip-syncing to the songs) the same week the quintet hit number one on the US music charts.

It was truly an inspired move that well and truly thrust the F1 team into the spotlight, even before a wheel had been turned that year.

The Spice Girls were joined by Jamiroquai to perform on what quickly became an entire concert while the event was filmed by music channel MTV and hosted by Davina McCall.

Looking back, it was all very 90s!

Attention quickly turned to the car whose unveiling was an event in itself, consisting of a magician-style reveal on a rotating platform, preceded by the action of Starlight Express-style dancers on roller skates wearing silver fluorescent jackets.

Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen (seated) and Scotland's David Coulthard with the new look West McLaren Mercedes MP4/12
Finnish driver Mika Hakkinen (seated) and Scotland’s David Coulthard with the new look West McLaren Mercedes MP4/12

Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, the then McLaren drivers, emerged in their new suits and joined the Spice Girls on stage; the band performed two more songs while the drivers, car and media moved to the second largest room to conduct the various interviews.

As planned with their new sponsors, McLaren’s colors have now been changed to Grey, Silver and Rocket Red and the livery remained pretty much untouched until the introduction of a chrome finish in 2006.

The most important thing was that the car performed on the track – and it did with Coulthard giving the team its first victory in almost four years at the opening race in Melbourne – ending a scary time for the team with their unproven cars jock enough in the mid 90s.

This representation at chic the place has certainly given the team a lot of much needed things Spice up Hakkinen winning the Drivers’ Championship the following year.

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