First Light - The story behind the McLaren MP4/1

In March, Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso suffered a crash at the Australian Grand Prix that rattled our teeth. The initial impact, airborne barrel roll, and subsequent impact with the barrier turned his McLaren MP4-31 into a pile of twisted junk with a comet's tail of shattered parts highlighting its path. As fans held their breath, Alonso pulled himself out of the car walked away before the safety team could even get there.

Image borrowed from Motorsport.com. They don't mind.

Image borrowed from Motorsport.com. They don't mind.

We've seen enough drivers pull themselves out of balled up race cars that there is no doubt regarding the benefits of carbon fiber racing tubs. It's fitting (giving Alonso's current employment situation) that we actually have McLaren to thank for that. How different would the story have been for Alonso, and countless others, if McLaren hadn't been brave enough to build the first MP4, the car that introduced the concept to the sport?

We found this video, posted by McLaren, that tells the story of their first use of carbon composites for a Formula 1 monocoque. The carbon tub revolutionized four-wheeled motorsports, not only for it's light weight and strength, but for its safety. Today, a carbon fiber tub is mandated in almost all professional race series, and the life-saving benefits of such regulations are showcased every season.