If you want an easy way of being remembered as a sporting entity, a good way of doing that is by becoming unbeatable. Think Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, or the Miami Dolphins circa 1972. In Formula One, no team has won every race in a season, but two have come close. So it’s fitting that, a few months after Red Bull became the second F1 team to win every race bar one in a season, the first car to achieve this feat hits the shelves in the form of LEGO Icons 10330 McLaren MP4/4 & Ayrton Senna. Retailing for US $79.99 | CAN $99.99 | UK £69.99, this set will be available from March 1st. The MP4/4 was a mighty racecar, but does this set live up to its legendary status? Read our review to find out!

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

The box and contents

The set is packaged in a thumb-tab box, with the familiar all-black background. On the front, the car takes centre stage. On the back, we get some detailed shots and a look at the car on the included stand. You also get a good look at the thumb tabs that I forgot to photograph before opening the box. Ahem…

Once it is open, we’re greeted with six bags of LEGO pieces. There are also four wheels, the instruction booklet, and a sticker sheet – my copy was slightly curled inside the box, but not to the point of being ruined.

The instructions feature a pretty cool view of the finished model on the front. Within, there are a few pages of information on the real car; its championship-winning driver, Ayrton Senna; and some words from LEGO designer Ann Healy.

So, with all the pieces lined up for the build… It’s lights out, and away we go!

The build

Before we tackle the car itself, we get a little warm-up (or formation lap, if you will) building the plinth that our Senna minifig will stand upon, as well as the man himself. More on Ayrton later.

With that out of the way, there is no time wasted getting stuck in to the McLaren. The bags only serve to break things up a bit rather than being for dedicated sub-assemblies, so it’s more or less a straight shot from here until the penultimate bag of bits. Bag one, for its part, lays down the foundation in the form of the chassis and engine block.

Ayrton is arguably Brazil’s most famous son, and there are a few nods to his country of birth hidden throughout the build. The first one appears only ten steps in, bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Brazilian flag. It’s swiftly covered up by the engine block.

We stay at the back of the car for the second bag, building the rear suspension and side pods. The former comes first, using wishbone pieces that are new to this set. I actually found lining up the suspension to the chassis fairly challenging, but the end result sure is rigid.

The side pods are made using big Studs Not On Top (SNOT) assemblies. Take care with the Shell logo stickers! They’re actually symmetrical opposites, and I didn’t notice until applying them that I’d done it the wrong way around… D’oh. At least it’s not too noticeable.

Bag three moves us to the other end of the car, starting with the front suspension. It’s built slightly differently to the rear, as it features functional steering. This is accomplished using a Technic beam and ball joints assembly, which pivots in a cross-axle. It’s an elegant solution with a decent range of motion.

Once this is assembled to the car, it’s capped off with another new piece: a 4×8 tapered slope. This is the first printed piece we’ve come across so far; there are more coming later, so we’ll come back around to this particular piece then.

In the meantime, we’re not done with bag three yet! The rest of the parts are dedicated to the cockpit. It’s pretty sparse, but it does feature one of my favourite details: a minifigure sextant is used as a perfect stand-in for the anti-roll bar adjuster!

Onto our fourth bag, building up most of the remaining bodywork: front wing, rear wing, and nosecone. This is also where we come across the bulk of the prints. Despite all these printed bits, some tiles in the set are still stickered, which seems a bit perplexing. Still, what printed parts we do get look great…

… Mostly. The two red tapered slopes both feature white printing to allow for the MP4/4’s iconic livery to be recreated. LEGO’s white-on-red printing is notorious for looking more pink than white, and the new printed slope we encountered in the previous bag is no different. The photos rather flatter it – it is lined up next a standard white tile here – but it’s a noticeably different shade of white in person. In fairness, the smaller one at the back isn’t too bad, but the lack of colour consistency is so frustrating, particularly for such a chronic and well-documented issue.

Getting back to the build, there are some neat techniques at play for the rear wing. The angle of the secondary element is achieved using ball joints, and the end plates are both attached to the diffuser for extra stiffness, just like the real thing.

Our McLaren is looking pretty close to finished now. All that remains is to attach the wheels – new dual-moulded parts for this set – and build the engine head and timing cover using the parts in bag five. I can easily see the LEGO community using these wheels to build some rival F1 racers to go with our Macca here.

But wait, there’s more! Although the car itself is finished, bag six has us building a small stand for display. One last big sticker shows off the MP4/4’s impressive stats.

The minifigure

A legendary car demands a legendary driver, and 1988 World Drivers’ Champion Ayrton Senna joins the likes of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barichello in the ranks of minifigure Formula 1 pilots. His torso is printed on both sides. Mercifully no one tossed his red race suit in with the light-coloured laundry, so the printing doesn’t look too pink here.

Ayrton’s head is also double-sided, with an alternately cheery face no doubt celebrating one of his 41 Grand Prix victories. No worries about the printing on his signature yellow helmet, though – it looks superb.

The finished model

One often-quoted trope of F1 cars is saying ‘if it drives as good as it looks, it’ll definitely win races’. Can the same be said of this LEGO speed demon? In short – yes! It’s immediately recognisable. The steering function is a nice inclusion. It works well and adds some visual interest when you’ve got the car on the ground.

It’s a model that, for the most part, is very faithful to the original car. No angle has gone unconsidered, so it looks good from almost every vantage point.

I do have one gripe, though, and that concerns the nose. As nice as the printed flat tile is, it looks a little too flat when compared to the real thing. The MP4/4 was notable for its aerodynamic efficiency, which was helped by a nose that gently curved up to the windscreen from its tip. In this model, there’s an abrupt change of angle where the tile meets the new tapered slope part.

All that said, I’m not sure if there is a better solution that would’ve allowed for the number printing to be retained,  so I can live with it. I do appreciate the inclusion of the stand, though. It makes the car look more dynamic on display and gives a great view of the Honda RA168E engine once the cover is removed.

For me, the V6 motor is the highlight of this set – it’s phenomenally detailed. Each element is clearly identifiable if you know your way around an engine.

Conclusion and recommendation

And just like that, we take the chequered flag! So, is 10330 McLaren MP4/4 & Ayrton Senna worthy of its championship-winning status? For one, it’s a lovely display piece, even considering the poor printing on the nose. And if the slight inaccuracy of the nose shape starts to put you off, the inclusion of a superb Senna minifig may help to sweeten the deal.

The build can present a nice challenge at points, and picking out details in the cockpit or engine bay as you go is so much fun – this is the set’s great strength for me. So for keen F1 fans, it’s certainly worth picking up. If you only have a passing interest in motor racing, this set may end up further down your wishlist, but there’s still plenty to enjoy about this classic racer.

10330 McLaren MP4/4 & Ayrton Senna consists of 693 pieces, and will retail for US $79.99 | CAN $99.99 | UK £69.99 from March 1st, 2024.

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