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. Keith you forgot the new Formula Nippon chassis. But seriously I liked the Champ Car DP01 best. On this list GP2 looks the best.

    1. Have you got any decent pictures of it? Forgot about Nippon, I never see it on TV, you see…

  2. My rating goes like this. Superleague cars followed by A1GP cars followed by GP2 followed by f1 cars followed by WSR cars followed by IRL cars.

    Isnt it ironic that the series which has got the correct concept (F1) cannot have cars that are good on your eye but the series which has the lousiest, naffest (if there’s a word!), most cynical concept (Superleague) of racing has the most good looking car! Why cant someone EVER get BOTH right…..

    Comparing GP2 cars with F1 is not fair given that one is a spec series and hence lets you design the car as you please and the other is all about performance through development and the participants couldn’t care less about how the car looks. But i still believe F1 could have rules that can ensure good racing while making sure that the cars are not as hideous as they are now.

    1. lol in British slang and certain circles the word ‘naff’ can be quite rude. Google it and you will see. You may prefer to use the word more sparingly from here on lol…

    2. I’ve never heard the word ‘naff’ mean anything more than something being a bit rubbish.

      So I say, carry on with the naff. Especially seeing as the Superleague concept is a bit naff, yet it does have the best looking cars.

    3. Fair enough but if you want to enlighten yourself and be aware of its multiple meaning then google it especially under the context of polari…

    4. Ok, indeed I have, but I believe that it is most probably fair enough to say that Polari has all but died out, and that the word has taken on a much more common and inoffensive meaning in recent times.

      But thank you for pointing it out, always good to expand the mind :)

    5. Isnt it ironic that the series which has got the correct concept (F1) cannot have cars that are good on your eye but the series which has the lousiest, naffest (if there’s a word!), most cynical concept (Superleague) of racing has the most good looking car!

      Couldn’t agree more. Was talking to a mate of mine who’s a big Liverpool FC fan. They have a Superleague team, but he hates the idea as much as I do. So where are their fans coming from?

    6. From what I heard when they first announced the series a couple of years ago (when they showed off that Glasgow Rangers liveried car), it wasn’t so much the fans of football and motorsport wanting the series, but the guy who came up with the idea saying :

      “people like motorsport… people like football… so people must be wanting for a series which combines both”

      Ok, yes, maybe. But I bet lots of people also like both bacon and ice cream…

      Cars still look good though.

    7. mmm bacon and ice-cream, now there’s an idea for Heston Blumenthal…

  3. All of these cars look fine to me, depends on the livery. They also look very fast on TV, all of them.
    What I really think is important is the car related to its environment. Hopefully the future rules and management take this into account, so that we can see 26 of these in Road Atlanta, Kyalami or Spa rather than 12 of them in a new track.
    As long as the´re driven by Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, etc, I don´t think it matters very much what the technical specifications are, and to the eyes of the spectator you can´t tell the difference whether they cost 400 million to run or 80. They all look beautiful and fast ! for me the difference is the livery, the history of the team, and where they´re racing …..
    If you watch bike racing on TV, it is much more exciting to watch Superbikes in Brands Hatch than MotoGp in China. A superbike ( derived from a street bike ) is much less costly and sophisticated than a MotoGp bike, yet the environment makes it look a lot faster.
    However now that the issue has been brought up, I think that last year´s F1 cars looked about the best of all of these !

  4. I still think the F1 cars look best, GP2 aren’t bad but they’re spec cars so you don’t get any variety.


    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

    To be honest mate I disagree entirely.
    I don’t mind the front wings but think the rear wings look terrible from any angle other than side on.

    Suppose this just proves you can’t please all of the people all of the time :-)

  5. I have to admit I had been expecting the 2009 F1 cars to look similar to the IRL cars – low bodies, wide wheels and very little aerodynamics, but balanced front and rear. Why haven’t the F1 cars gone like that?
    The GP2 cars are the best of the bunch, they make it all look so easy – but aren’t they based on a previous Renault F1 design?

    1. The GP2 cars are the best of the bunch, they make it all look so easy – but aren’t they based on a previous Renault F1 design?

      That’s the WSR ones – look at the sidepods, dead giveaway.

  6. theRoswellite
    3rd February 2009, 21:02

    …..eye of the beholder and all that…

    My aesthetic evaluation, certainly not consciously, will get warped by lap times, so ask this question at mid-season.
    Actually this would be an interesting poll, done at the first of the season and at the end, to see if a cars publicly perceived “beauty” was a function of winning; though I’m sure Keith has better things to do with his time than conduct research into “beauty as a function of success”, i.e. does an Andy Warhol become more “appealing” when one learns it is worth $2.5 million? Probably, and especially if one learns of the “value” before seeing the work for the first time.

    Sorry, we were discussing cars, I’m kinda partial to the shine of the McLaren.

  7. I am an F1 fan(atic). Even if they drive trucks; I will watch F1.

    1. Truck racing… now there’s a motorsport discipline that I just can’t bring myself to watch.

  8. HounslowBusGarage
    3rd February 2009, 21:16

    Not really a fair question Keith, as all the others are one-shape formulae.
    If you asked me what looked best, the 2009 MacLaren or A1/GP2 etc etc, I’d say the MacLaren. But if you asked whether the 2009 Toyota looked better than a Superleague, I’d probably give you a rude answer!

  9. I do think the good f1 cars for 09 are the best looking but, at the same time i’m not sure about the high narrow rear wing on the f1 cars. But overall that is not my biggest worry however.

    The last time the f.i.a made such drastic changes to F1 it resulted in deaths.Ok so senna’s death was a fluke with the wheel getting trapped between the car and the wall, but it was the changes which caused his car to keep bottoming out and losing grip which caused the crash.

    I’m very afraid there may well be a death in F1 this coming season. I just hope my fears are unfounded.

    What do any of you other F1 experts think?

    1. I think the cars are so much safer now than they were in ’94 that even if there is a big accident (and can you remember the last year there wasn’t a least one shunt resulting in the medical team being called in) then the driver will be fine.

      Just look at Kubica’s crash in ’07. 10 years ago he would have been dead, or at least seriously injured, but apart from a slight bump to the head, he was fine. I don’t think the cars will have got any less safe as a result of the changes to the regs this year.

      Apart from KERS that is…

  10. IRL Cars aren’t the best looking, but they are changing. Were getting Turbo’s!

    Audi, Porsche, Fiat, and VW are all joining Honda in the new engine package.

  11. Its amazing the amount of daylight you can see when viewing the 2009 F1 cars from certain angles.
    The cars don’t look aesthetically well balanced.

    Its a known fact that as one grows older, we begin to lose our attraction for those stylish and modern looking things and instead gravitate towards those nostalgic or even blandish or drab articles. I believe Mosley’s eyes have lost their attraction for those things that are stylish. He now thinks in straight lines rather than curves.

  12. Those Formula Nippon cars look the business!
    Perhaps its the lack of an airbox that makes the car look lower and sleeker. It worked for all the old CART cars and that one-season Panoz. It’s a shame the IRL haven’t bothered with the Panoz instead of those lumpy things- Robin Miller has it right calling them ‘boats’.
    GP2 cars are nice but a bit bland. They look too ‘spec’ and like cheap F1 copies. And they have the same ‘T’ on board camera that spoils the look.

  13. Cars in almost every other series look like a normal formula cars and still the racers are interesting.

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