How do the 2009 F1 cars compare to other single-seater racing cars?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Heikki Kovalainen testing the 2009 Mclaren at the Algarve circuit
Heikki Kovalainen testing the 2009 Mclaren at the Algarve circuit

The 2009-style F1 cars have got a lukewarm reaction from fans – less than half of F1 Fanatic readers thought they looked good when we did a poll on it last week.

To get to the heart of what’s gone wrong with F1 car aesthetics I thought we should compare them to top single-seaters from other categories – and see which, if any, look better…

For me, the GP2 cars are the pick of the bunch. Low, fast, wide – they look sleek and quick.

A1 and Superleague have got good body shapes, particularly the A1 car, which is very similar to the Ferrari F2004 F1 car. There’s some gaudy liveries though, and some of the football strip designs on the Superleague cars look ghastly. Not as bad as the R29’s mind…

I never liked the look of the current Indy cars. It’s such a shame they effectively replaced the handsome Panoz chassis used by Champ Car in its final season in 2008, or the neat Lola that preceded it. The World Series by Renault cars, which ape the design of past Renault F1 cars, suffer from too many ugly aerodynamic protusions.

I’m surprised how good the new F1 cars look by comparison – though the difference in size between the front and rear wings is still a problem for me. What I can’t help but wonder is, if the GP2 cars can serve up great racing without having to use daft wings, why do this year’s F1 cars have to?

And the best-looking car is...

  • F1 (37%)
  • Indy Racing League (6%)
  • GP2 (32%)
  • World Series by Renault (9%)
  • Superleague Formula (5%)
  • A1 Grand Prix (11%)

Total Voters: 363

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More about GP2, GP2 Asia, WSR, A1GP, IRL and Suprleague Formula on Maximum Motorsport

Images (C) (x2), BMW ag, Ferrari spa, IRL (x3), GP2 Media Service (x3), Renault World Series (x3), Superleague Formula (x3), (x3)

50 comments on “How do the 2009 F1 cars compare to other single-seater racing cars?”

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  1. note* those IRL shots were a 1 off round at Surfers’ Paradise last year since CHAMP car went bust , IRL came and a majority of the drivers couldn’t understand the idea of a street circuit , and the race was dominated by ex f1/true opener wheeler drivers , and for the first time an aussie one the race , the last year an American open wheeler race the streets of my home down , i’d like to see the f1 circus have a round at Surfers’ Paradise but instead were getting A1 this year. cool i guess

  2. I still think that F1 2009 rear and front wings make the car look clumsy. Not pretty and not like a true racing cars. F1 was already pretty interesting last year. I agree with the rest of new aero rules, but disagree with those 2 wings. Cars in almost every other series look like a normal formula cars and still the racers are interesting. I don’t think it was all that needed in F1. However, I’ll still follow the F1 (demolition)races because they don’t broadcast other series in my country and because the drivers in F1 are more familiar… let the saga continue. Can’t wait the rainy races ;)

  3. I think it’s only fair to point out that some 2009 F1 cars are very good looking, like the McLaren, and some are dog-ugly, like the Ferrari and Renault. You can’t tar them all with the same brush. To me the Ferrari looks like an intermediate ‘mule’, testing new parts but not the finished article. The wings are going to look odd for a while, until development progresses them. As for the other comparison cars, most of them look like F1 cars did 10 or more years ago. Is that progress? Are they aerodynamically weaker than 2008 F1 cars? I’d say so, especially the US cars which are a real throwback to the late 80’s in those terms.

  4. With the 09 cars, pretty much depends on the angle you are looking at :)

    I have only seen very few pictures from McLaren and the side view image on this post does not reveal it’s ugliness :)

    I do agree that some cars look more curvy (better) then others. For example, Toyota looks like it’s hand-hewn (cut) with the axe :)

  5. Agree that GP2 are beautiful, and that races are great even thoutgh they don’t have such an orrible front wing.
    Anyway F1 cars look much better than all the others., to me.
    IRL are the worst.

    1. The proportions of F1 wings are definitely strange and look bad, although the more you get used to them the less you notice them. However GP2 cars, which had pre-09 wings but had clean sidepods, looked definitely better.
      The GP2/11 cars are copied from F1 cars but still look better than them in my opinion.

  6. Jonesracing82
    3rd February 2009, 9:46

    one prob the F1 cas had was that the centre of the front wing wasn’t flat, and created downforce, this is the most affected part of the wing by turbulance, the old GP2 chassis IMO produced better racing than the current one, the old GP2 was good as i say, as was early 90’s and early 00’s champcars!
    late 80’s-early 90’s (prob up to ’91) were good looking also before the high noses came in!
    interestingly, the GP2 cars have a flat centre of the front wing! as, thankfully do this years f1 cars, tho some (Ferrari, Toyota) still have ugly winglets on the sidepods, wernt they meant to be outlawed?

    1. Ferrari, Toyota still have ugly winglets on the sidepods, wernt they meant to be outlawed?

      Williams have them too. Hope they do get banned, but my money is on it not happening.

  7. My favourites are those Superleague Formula cars. I think they look wonderful, they have the right amount of everything. A few flip-ups, but not too many; curvy wings, but not to the extent of last year’s F1 wings. They’re also low, long and wide.

  8. Sorry F1, I never thought this would happen, but for me you are now the bottom of the pack when it comes to looks.

    The GP2 and A1GP cars do it for me in these pics, but they still don’t come close to the F1 cars of the past few years. I’d pick the WSR over the Superleague, and the Superleague over the IRL. The IRL car is somewhat hideous, but I would still rather be seen in, or standing next to, it than the current F1 cars.

    True, in some views the 2009 F1 cars look fine. But most of the times we won’t be seeing them in that view. Some do look better than others, but not different enough to make a significant difference for me. I sincerely hope that these machines evolve quickly, rules permitting, to become aesthetically pleasing and perform quickly.

    If it weren’t for the current drivers and teams I’ve watched and supported all these years, then I probably wouldn’t bother with F1 this year. As said before, this season had better be the best racing ever.

  9. Wow, those IRL cars are ugly! They look like they are from the seventies.

    1. My only problem with them is the weird low nose and then the lump in front of the cockpit. Otherwise I like ’em.

  10. Well at least F1 cars look a little different to each other, with different looking wings, sidepods etc. Where’s A1GP, IndyCar etc are mereley all spec series.

    But I do concur with Keith with GP2 cars, they look normal and produce some fantastic racing.

  11. Didn’t Champ Car use the same cars as GP2?

    1. No – Champ Car used Panoz in ’07, and before that Lolas. GP2 use chassis built by Dallara, who also build IRL chassis, but they’re not the same models.

  12. Not one really stands out for me. I can’t make up my mind…

  13. AmericanTifosi
    3rd February 2009, 13:13

    Next to those wretched IRL cars F1 cars look incredibly beautiful. (Renault excluded, that car looks like it’s been sat on)

  14. Aesthetically, the problem with the F1 ’09 cars is the front wings, no question. I have no problem with the narrow and high rear wings and I positively love the clean lines of the chassis – but they all look a little bit like really expensive snow-ploughs to me. As well, I think that it’s quite probable that after too many of those front wings get easily detached in close first-corner battles in the first two races of the season, the regulations will be amended to make them narrower.

  15. The GP2 car (specially the 2005-2007 one which is still used in the Asian season) is the best. By far. Awesome car in both looks and racing terms.

  16. One thing I think is missing from the sidepods of the 09 F1 cars is the flipups that they used to have right in front of the rear wheels, they gave a little bit more substance to the rear bodywork and I miss them. I agree with all above though who say that the front wings leave a lot to be desired.

    But as will all things, time will tell whether the new regs will improve the racing.

  17. Haha, you picked the most favourable F1 pictures possible :) And you should have shown the Renault…
    GP2 and IndyCars look the best.

    I don’t really get the hate for Indys.
    Isn’t that beautiful? Those cars have balls.

    1. LOL! Actually I just picked cars from the top three teams, but I’ll stick a Renault in there to make it fair if you like?

  18. f1 is still the best looking car according to me.
    except the rear wing, it’s so tiny. not as good-looking as 2008 design.

  19. F1 has the best looking O/W car out of all of them. I like this look over the old car. It looks Sleek and Clean.

  20. @DC
    When Champ Car went under they were using a custom-designed Panoz chassis, the DP01. Not a bad looking car, and fast too–Bourdais beat the Laguna Seca track record previously held by Zonta in the 2006 Toyota. True, Zonta’s mark was set in a demonstration run, not a proper test, and who knows how hard he was pushing, but the DP01 was definitely a major step up from GP2.

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