McLaren MP4/12

David Coulthard

Designed by Neil Oatley, the Mclaren MP4/12 was race ready for the 1997 Formula One season. A refinement of the previous MP4/11, with a sleeker appearance and several refinments, the MP4/12 was also the first to sport the teams new ‘West’ sponsorship and colours after a decades long partnership with in infamous Malboro brand.

Over the season, Coulthard, in his second season with the Woking based team, would be competitive as the car demonstrated pace in winter testing, and went on to win the season opener in Australia.

Frustratingly, reliability issues proved to be the cars undoing, preventing Coulthard and team his mate Hakkinen  from capitalising on what was a very competitve pace, sufferings no less than 14 retirements over the season.

The team faltered from potential race winning positions on several occasions, notably a certain one-two finish at the Nurburgring, as well as retiring from an early race finish in Montreal, only laps before the end.

Still, despite the misfortune and lack of finishing, Coulthard still manged to bring home 4 podium finishes, including two wins to better his team mate for a respectable 3rd place in the championship in a car that had initially promised much.

While the MP4/12 may not have been as successful on the track, it ceratinly was of note in the media, as this was the machine involved in the now infamous ‘Second Brake’ discovery made by long time F1 photographer, Darren Heath – a technology that has since been employed in high performance road going sports cars.

Building the MP4/12

A 1/24 Revell kit from 1998, I attempted this build after a bit of a hiatus from modelling, so treated it as a bit of practice. I’d previously made this kit before, so knew that is was fairly simple and not too taxing. My previous attempt was rushed and not very accurate.

This attempt was treated with a lot more care and the result is far better.

As I mention, the model was a simple one, with only a little detail in a few areas, most of which was provided by the decals. Fitment was on the whole decent, with only minor issues. Only during the final stage of the build did I discover that the whole car is slightly warped, meaning the finished model tripods a little – a frustrating discovery, as I was quite pleased with the finish I achieved, specially as I used the Vallejo paints and varnish that I have had difficulty with in the past.

The only real frustration was again with the decals – those supplied with the kit are of a very high quality, but are quite thick and didn’t conform well, particularly around the nose and across any areas where panel lines are present – despite repeated microsol application and gentle cotton swab persuation, some cracking occured which was a disspointment as I wanted to get a smooth application.

All in all, this was a decent little kit, and a great way to practice a few techniques before getting more involved in  complex projects.