McLaren had endured a disappointing year with the cars beset by handling and reliability problems in the team's first year in partnership with Mercedes-Benz. The second year of the arrangement was far more productive with both performance and reliability improved, but the team had yet to make the serious breakthrough necessary to challenge the "Big Three" of Williams, Ferrari and Benetton.
David Coulthard's McLaren MP4/11 exhibited as part of the McLaren Hall, Donington Grand Prix Exhibition
The car's best result came at the Monaco GP, with Coulthard finishing a close second to Olivier Panis' Ligier at the end of a chaotic race. However, the Scotsman was outscored and generally outpaced by his Finnish team-mate.
The car was developed throughout the season, with improvements initiated to eradicate an initial handling imbalance in time for Coulthard to lead the first 19 laps of the San Marino GP. A "B" version of the chassis was developed for Silverstone, and Häkkinen responded with four podium finishes from then until the end of the season.
1996 was also notable for McLaren losing its long-term Marlboro sponsorship to Ferrari, but the team responded by recruiting rival brand West.
The team eventually finished fourth in the Constructors' Championship, with 49 points.