Since the first ever Formula One race in 1950, F1 cars have evolved beyond all recognition. That’s hardly surprising given the speed of technological change. But more advanced doesn't always mean better. In terms of their looks and track records, to find some of the best Formula One cars of all time, we have to look back at the incredible vehicles of yore.
Best Formula One Cars of All Time
So, with the weekend’s British Grand Prix upon us, we thought we’d take a trip down memory lane to look at some of the best Formula One cars of all time. Here, in chronological order, are some of the best…
1) Maserati 250F (1954-60)
Looks are certainly not everything in this world, but we thought no list of the best Formula One cars of all time could ever be complete without the impossibly gorgeous Maserati 250F. The longevity of the Maserati is testament to its classic design and high levels of performance.
Eventually, the sands of time caught up with the front-engined 250F as it was replaced by rear-engined F1 cars towards the end of the fifties. However, clad in its rossa corsa colours and driven by F1 legends like Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss, we think the 250F is certainly deserving of its place in the F1 hall of fame, making it one of the best Formula One cars of all time.
2) Lotus 49 (1967-70)
The Lotus 49 is one example of an F1 car that not only looked the part but also delivered the goods, taking both Jim Clark and Graham Hill to their second world titles. In both British racing green and gold-red livery, the Lotus 49 was as stylish as it was fast, with its bullet-shaped chassis, rear-engine and huge wheels showing clear progression on the cars that came before.
Although some called the Lotus 49 the most beautiful F1 car ever constructed, it was also dominant on the track. In the 1967 season, it won four races and led every race of the season at some point. However, it was also controversial, sacrificing driver safety for weight. In fact, when Lotus President Colin Chapman first met new driver Mario Andretti, Colin said: “Mario, I always want to make a car as light as possible”. Andretti replied: “Well Colin, I want to live as long as possible. I guess we need to talk”.
3) McLaren MP4/2 (1984-86)
If you’re looking for a world beater then they don’t come much more dominant than the iconic McLaren MP4/2. This chassis won the Drivers’ Championship every year from 1984 to 86, with Niki Lauda scooping the prize in 84 and Alain Prost sealing his first two championships in 85 and 86.
As well as having two sensational drivers, the car was also more mechanically advanced than many of its rivals. Not only did it have a larger fuel tank but it was also one of few cars with carbon brakes, both of which gave it an advantage when it came to the longer races. This helped the McLaren break the record for the most wins in a season with 12 victories in 1984 when Lauda beat Prost to the championship by just half a point. With records such as these, the McLaren MP4/2 has to be one of the best Formula One cars of all time.
4) Williams FW14 (1991-92)
The Williams FW14 will be familiar to all British motor racing fans over the age of 30. This technologically superior car, sporting the recognisable yellow, white and navy blue livery, was by far the most sophisticated on the grid. Nigel Mansell drove the FW14 to the constructors’ and drivers’ championship in 1992. Boosted by its semi-automatic transmission, active suspension and traction control, the FW14 won 17 of the 32 races it competed in, catapulting it into the hall of fame, and surely making it one of the best Formula One cars of all time.
5) Benetton B195 (1995)
This distinctive Benetton B195 won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 1995 and helped Michael Schumacher fight off Damon Hill and bag his second of seven world championships. Although the B195 was only around for a single year, it was one of the first to look like the modern F1 cars we see today.
It also dominated on the track that season, taking 11 out of 17 wins, and represented an engine switch for Benetton from Ford to Renault, which led to a number of changes including a new gearbox and suspension.
6) Ferrari F2002 (2002)
The Ferrari F2002 built on the success of the F2001 a year earlier by taking Michael Schumacher to the drivers’ championship quicker than anyone else in F1 history. He racked up a then-record 67 points and clinched the championship with six races to spare. The team also scored more points than all the other cars combined, which firmly cements the F2002’s place in our list of the best Formula One cars of all time.
7) Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid (2016)
Statistically, the Mercedes W07 Hybrid is the second-most dominant car in the history of F1, second only to the McLaren MP4/4, which, driven by Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, accumulated 199 points in a single season. The Mercedes was the first car to utilise fully integrated hybrid power units, a new rule that was brought in for the 2016 season.
With Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg behind the wheel, the W07 Hybrid won 19 of the 21 races it entered and finished on the podium an incredible 33 times. Nico Rosberg finished just five points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers’ championship and the Mercedes coasted to victory in the constructors’ championship, finishing 297 points clear of Red Bull.
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