When did F1 cars look their best? (Poll)

Have you got used to the unusual 2009 F1 cars?

Have you got used to the unusual 2009 F1 cars?

At the start of the year there was a lot of discussion about whether we’d ever get used to the peculiar 2009-specification cars with their bizarre front and rear wings.

So, has time made us more fond of the new-look F1 cars? How do they compare to the designs of previous generations? Have a look at them and vote below.

Which era produced the best-looking F1 cars?

  • 1950s (3%)
  • 1960s (12%)
  • 1970s (7%)
  • 1980s (11%)
  • 1990s (27%)
  • 2000s (35%)
  • 2009 (5%)

Total Voters: 2,354

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1950s: Front-engined brutes

1954: Two Mercedes-Benz W196s and a Maserati 250F (click to enlarge)

1954: Two Mercedes-Benz W196s and a Maserati 250F (click to enlarge)

In the 1950s drivers sat behind thundering great engines to which wheels were attached. The pilots then tried to trick these brutal beasts into going around corners, mainly by approaching them sideways.

1960s: Rear-engined cigar tubes

1965: BRM P261, Lotus 33 and Honda RA 272 (click to enlarge)

1965: BRM P261, Lotus 33 and Honda RA 272 (click to enlarge)

Those who think the coming of wings in 1968 destroyed F1 often point to the early-to-mid sixties as the time when the cars looked their best. With beauties like the Lotus 49 (below), it’s hard to argue, although these look so unlike modern F1 cars it’s hard to find points of comparison.

1967: Lotus 49 (click to enlarge)

1967: Lotus 49 (click to enlarge)

1970s: All things weird and wonderful

1973: Lotus 72E (click to enlarge)

1973: Lotus 72E (click to enlarge)

The 1970s was the final decade of great freedom in the regulations, and the designers dreamt up all manner of radical things: six-wheeled cars, ground effects and more. Cars appeared on slicks for the first time and soon they were sporting monster rear wheels too. This was F1’s gawky, awkward, pubescent phase.

1977: Renault RS01 (click to enlarge)

1977: Renault RS01 (click to enlarge)

1980s: Turbo muscle

1984: Williams FW09B, McLaren MP4/2 (click to enlarge)

1984: Williams FW09B, McLaren MP4/2 (click to enlarge)

Awesome power, huge wings, and not too much in the way of sophistication. That defined the turbo monsters of the 1980s.

1985: Arrows A8 (click to enlarge)

1985: Arrows A8 (click to enlarge)

1990s: Lean and low

1990: McLaren MP4/5B (click to enlarge)

1990: McLaren MP4/5B (click to enlarge)

The decade that’s probably going to get my vote, as much because of rose-tinted specs as anything else. Low, wide cars with slick tyres, but without the ungainly bulk of their 1980s predecessors. Lots of good liveries too – this generation produced the fantastic Jordan 191.

1997: Ferrari F310B (click to enlarge)

1997: Ferrari F310B (click to enlarge)

2000s: The aerodynamic age

2002: Williams FW24, Ferrari F2002 (click to enlarge)

2002: Williams FW24, Ferrari F2002 (click to enlarge)

For those who love clean lines, the winglet-infested cars of this decade were hideous creations. I never warmed to the narrow-track, grooved-tyre look, but the 2007 Monza-spec McLaren MP4-22s (below) were among my favourites from this time.

2007: McLaren MP4-22 (click to enlarge)

2007: McLaren MP4-22 (click to enlarge)

2009: Snowploughs and smooth sides

2009: Red Bull RB5 (click to enlarge)

2009: Red Bull RB5 (click to enlarge)

When the first of the 2009 cars started to appear we all gasped in horror. Half a year later, some of us have grown used to them and some haven’t.

And I’m definitely in the latter group. I appreciate the winglet-free sidepods (although more and more of them are coming back as teams find ways around the rules) but the fundamental problem remains that the front and rear wings are massively out of proportion.

2009: Renault R29 (click to enlarge)

2009: Renault R29 (click to enlarge)

Which decade do you think had the best F1 cars? Post examples of your favourites – and least favourites – below…

Images (C) Mercedes, Ford, Ferrari spa, BMW ag, Renault/LAT, Sutton

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123 comments on When did F1 cars look their best? (Poll)

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  1. Kovy said on 29th June 2009, 7:11

    Late 90’s and early 2000’s. The cars looked nice and streamlined, but didn’t yet have all kind of extra aero. If only the MP4/13 had slicks…

    • Casino Square said on 29th June 2009, 13:10

      I agree, I’d say up till 2004 the cars looked great, before they began to sprout winglets everywhere between 2005 and 2008 (the 07/08 Renaults were worst for this). I like the look of the 1960’s Lotus as well though.

    • TommyB said on 29th June 2009, 13:17

      Agree with you both, up till 2004 when all the ugly parts got on the cars

      • Macca said on 30th June 2009, 7:46

        I totally agree with you to. It’s not as straight forward as the poll makes it because I loved the look of the cars in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Simple, beautiful and always great racing.

        • TomD11 said on 30th June 2009, 16:43

          Me too and while it’s great too see nice smooth bodies after having had all those fiddly bits on for the past few years, whenever I see a 2009 car it always makes me think of a vacuum cleaner, especially when they show you the front view during the race.

  2. Raceaddict said on 29th June 2009, 7:20

    The Ferrari F-189. A work of art. The purity of Barnard’s then-revolutionary form was never equalled, in my opinion.

  3. mp4-19b said on 29th June 2009, 7:27

    shockingly there is not even a single mention of the Mclaren-Mercedes mp4-20,which according to be was the most beautiful, both in terms of looks & performance of all time.

    • graham228221 said on 29th June 2009, 12:42

      i’ve gotta say that i think the BMW F1.08 is the best Formula 1 car ever. The fluid detail is amazing and it’s a physics-geek’s dream. It’s aerodynamic porno, seriously.

      F1.08, hubba hubba.

      The RA108 would come a close second. Great pic here:

      RA108 at the Canadian GP

      In full viking winged, dumbo eared, sidepod vaned glory; gorgeous!!!! :D

    • John H said on 29th June 2009, 13:19

      I think shockingly is perhaps one adjective too far!

      Come on, the mp4-22 got a mention didn’t it :)

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 29th June 2009, 22:11

        It’s about as exciting as your mother’s socks :)
        All those flip-flaps, chimneys and tuning vanes just show how bad the original design was. After all, if the basic shape worked in the wind tunnel, they wouldn’t have had to bother with all the bolt-on rubbish would they?
        Auto porno? Take a look at something like the Citoen SM. That’s auto porno!

  4. Xibi said on 29th June 2009, 7:36

    Cars from the 2004 season were my favourites. Pure power and quite clean, but in the same time, sophisticated look. Only the grooved tires looked bad on them.

    • adamba said on 29th June 2009, 19:42

      i agree in part, hence my preference is 1993

      the yellow and green bennettons and the camel williams cars looked perfect!

  5. It’s hard to compare really. Out of all the “aerodynamic” cars (70s onwards) I’d have to say I prefer the 2000s. Compared to some of those 80s cars, the 2009 cars look pretty good.

    I’ll always have a soft spot for the 6-wheeled Tyrell though.

  6. Late 80s, through mid 90s are the best-looking F1 cars to me. I loved the Leyton House CG911, Tyrrell 019, Ligier JS35, the early Jordan’s (191 through 195), the McLaren MP4-6 through 9, the Ferrari 640, 641 and 642, and especially the 412T2.

  7. KlBD said on 29th June 2009, 8:06

    I probably like the Lotus 49 way too much, since that’s what I always conjured up in my head when I thought of a racecar as a kid.

    That said, for no good reason I really liked the BAR 005 and 006, and I actually was a fan of the BMW F1.08, by far the most wing-laden car of the lot last year.

    I really disliked the 09 cars at first but I definitely have begun to warm up to them, my favorites being the FW31 and RB5, as well as the launch version of the F1.09 (despite the fact that it is technically horrendously ugly).

    Anyone else want to see 2009 spec bodies and front wings with huge low rear wings? Maybe it won’t improve racing but it will sure look awesome!

  8. I voted for the 1990s, but I think the 1991 season in particular gave us the best-looking cars. That was the year of the 7UP Jordan, the clean-looking McLaren, Ferrari and Williams, and the wonderfully painted Leyton-House. Many of the other cars had simple but elegant curves on the engine cover and nose. Even Footwork had a cool one-piece solution to connect the nose and front wing.

    • Dougie said on 29th June 2009, 8:21

      Completely agree with Steven & Lustigson. Late 80’s / Early 90’s was where it was at for me. Adrian Newey had just arrived and had an immediate impact, they had all the requirements to overtake, fat slick tyres and the right amount of aero and no devices everywhere.

      The 60’s have an attraction as well, again probably through the lack of aero and smooth nature of that cigar shaped body.

  9. IDR said on 29th June 2009, 8:18

    My favorite car was without no doubt the spectacular Lotus 72 John Player Special.

    This car was the predecesor of modern F1 cars, with a great effort on aerodynamic work made in a wind tunnel, the radiators’ location admiships, ultralow body, rear wing, revolutionary suspension (front and rear)…

    The Lotus, won three WCC and two WDC and 20 GP, between 1970 and 1975. But the famous car livery (John Player Special) was from 1972.

    Previously the car was sponsored by Gold Leaf and was painted almost in red with the front part in gold, but nobody remember this livery. Jochen Rindt won the WDC in 1970 with that car’s livery.

    I was a kid at that time, and I don’t remember any colleague at school prefering Batman’s car than the Lotus 72 John Player Special!!!!

  10. scunnyman said on 29th June 2009, 8:22

    O voted the 60’s mainly because of the beautiful Lotus 49, but i also think the 1992 and 1995 Ferrari’s were very nice looking too.
    But the 60’s win for me because the 90’s became the decade where aero became too important and started to ruin overtaking.
    I also like the 2007 Mclaren, but it just has way too many aerodynamic devices.

  11. David said on 29th June 2009, 8:26

    I like 70’s because there were many different looking cars. Brabham in 1978 was great, Lotuses too, not to mention six wheels Tyrrel, and Ferrari in 1975-77.
    Some great cars in the other eras: Jim Clark Lotus, 1989 Ferrari, 1988 McLaren (I think the very best car ever, not only for looking but also for performances), Leyton House, Brabham in 1983, Ferrari in 1982…the longest I think the most I can find :-D

  12. gabal said on 29th June 2009, 8:41

    It was hard choice for me betwen 60’s and 90’s but in the end 60’s got the vote – I just love the way cars looked then.

  13. DanThorn said on 29th June 2009, 8:41

    The turbo brutes from the early to mid 80’s, from the beautiful Brabham BT52 to the monsterous Williams FW09.
    Also most of the cars from 1991 were very pretty – Jordan 191, Ferrari 643, McLaren MP4/6, even the Lambo with its curved sidepods.

  14. Dougie said on 29th June 2009, 9:19

    @ mp4-19b

    What place on this thread to those 2 posts have??

    Keep Max posts to the Max threads thank you. Sometimes we would like just to think about other things for a while.

    • mp4-19b said on 29th June 2009, 9:23

      guess you are fed up of max :)

      • Dougie said on 29th June 2009, 13:02

        Less so than people going on about him everywhere if I’m honest.

        • Dougie said on 29th June 2009, 13:37

          For the record, the 2 posts to which I refer have been moderated, and most definitely not because I requested it.

          My post at 09:19 was all I said on the subject.

          • persempre said on 29th June 2009, 14:48

            For the record, the 2 posts to which I refer have been moderated

            lol Dougie – No wonder I couldn`t work out what you meant by references to … (won`t say the name just to keep on the right side of you & the thread ;)

          • Dougie said on 29th June 2009, 15:34

            LOL!! Cheers presempre :-D

  15. Scott Joslin said on 29th June 2009, 9:19

    My favorite car is the Ferrari 641 – It’s smooth and simple lines is a classic in my opinion. While I voted for the 1990’s I started to dislike the raised noses that became the trend in the mid 1990’s. The only car to have really pulled that off is the Tyrrell from 1990 the T019 I think.

    Worst car is the Mclaren from 1995 – ugly ugly ugly – and with that mid wing too – it looked like a dog and performed like one too!

    • mp4-19b said on 29th June 2009, 9:26

      i agree . that mclaren mp4-10 designed by neil oatly was the worse ever mclaren ever. worse that the current mclaren mp4-24. mansell couldn’t fit his fat bottom into its cockpit. but i heard it was the 1st ever f1 car to be designed with the help of a super computer.

    • scunnyman said on 29th June 2009, 9:41

      I couldn’t agree with you more Scott.

      I have always dislike the raised noses. As for the 1995 Mclaren OMG!!!!! and it made the car look so much longer than the others i thought.

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