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

Loading ... Loading ...

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

Read more

Advert | Go Ad-free

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

  1. And I should add, 1960s comes a very close second for me.

  2. John H said on 29th June 2009, 13:30

    I have a soft spot for the Minardi PS01 to be honest.

    There should be more black liveries in my opinion, they even made the RA106 look quite nice:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/renault_fraggle/311478340

  3. 1960s for me. The cars were beautiful in their (relative) simplicity, yet more refined and advanced than those of the 50s.

    The cars of the 1980s have a great appeal to me too – the MP4-4 is an obvious example. Lean and agressive. :)

  4. iceshiel said on 29th June 2009, 14:16

    i love the 70’s!

  5. I think the best looking F1 car since they’ve gone aerodynamically sound is the 2009 F60, seen from the side. It’s clean, sleek and incredibly stylishly finished (for the record, I’m no Ferrari supporter). Of course the narrow and tall rear wing ruins the look from all angles too close to the front.

    Then again I haven’t been following F1 for that long and 2009 marked the first year for me there was a huge overhaul in visible regulations, so perhaps that’s why I kind of like them a bit extra. I have a feeling many people here vote very nostalgic as well. :)

    All in all I like that they change every now and then and while I do like the look of these 2009 spec cars I don’t want it to stick around forever.

  6. Salut Gilles said on 29th June 2009, 14:57

    I voted 2000s, but I really only like the years without the plethora of aero bits (2000-2004 and 2009). Though, unlike many others, I do like the look of the anvil wings.

    The Jaguars were probably the best looking cars ever (though the livery certainly helps significantly).

  7. Tom M said on 29th June 2009, 15:05

    FW14B with a big red 5 on it and a bloke with a moustache at the wheel. What more could you want?!

    • scunnyman said on 29th June 2009, 23:49

      As a big ‘Nige fan i could agree, but the car was not the best looking car. Though not ugly by any means.

  8. Am I the only one who thought the winglets looked cool?

    But it really is hard to choose. Each car is special in its own way. Some are literally works of art even though they were designed for speed, not show.

    • Max should resign now!!! said on 29th June 2009, 15:45

      I liked some winglets as well, the problem is it got out of hand and cars began to look like starships or something.
      Anyway my vote goes for 90’s cars, and one more thing, I personally HATE 2009 cars they are awful they look like toy cars and what gets me sick is that horrible “shark fin”, arrrgh.

    • scunnyman said on 30th June 2009, 1:39

      What year was it when the tyrell had those huge side winglets that made it look like the karate kid?

      so ugly and at least fia banned it right away.

  9. Rick DeNatale said on 29th June 2009, 16:10

    As usual, the results of this poll are heavily affected by the age demographics of the readers.

    I had to vote for the 1970s, which was when I first really started paying attention to F1, although I’d probably give second place to the 1960s.

    The Lotus 79 was IMHO, the best looking F1 car of all time. I also like the McLaren M23, and the Ferrari 312T series, and from the 60s the Lotus 49 (sans wings) and the “sharknose” Ferrari 156.

    I think that the thing which makes the 70’s stand out is that it saw the most diverse collection of designs, and while some might not appeal to everyone (personally I didn’t care too much for the “rolling pyramid” design of the Brabham BT44) on the whole it produced some very attractive cars.

    • Rick DeNatale said on 29th June 2009, 16:13

      Oh, and I forgot to mention the Lotus 72-D, particularly in JPS livery.

    • persempre said on 29th June 2009, 16:44

      Notice no-one has come up with the Brabham BT46B.
      That may be because the only place you could see it from was directly in front. From anywhere else you were showered with muck & rubbish ;)

  10. F1 Outsider said on 29th June 2009, 16:39

    50’s = Mercedes-Benz W196

    60’s = Dan Gurney’s AAR Eagle Weslake V12.

    70’s = Lotus JPS 1972

    80’s = McLaren Mp4/4

    90’s = McLaren Mp4/14

    Current = McLaren MP4/23

    • Robert said on 29th June 2009, 19:36

      I agree with your choice for the 80’s, I think It looks great. As do a all the McLaren’s from that era.

  11. 1990s gets my vote. My favourite era for F1 cars was 1989-1993, after the banning of the turbos but before the (admittedly necessary) mass of safety measures. Although I don’t have much trouble with any of the cars from the decade. My all time favourite is the Williams FW14B. Great livery, great shape.

  12. dmw said on 29th June 2009, 17:08

    90s.

    I only have to think of the Leyton House Marches designed by Mr. Newey himself.

    Speed=beauty, and those 90s cars were and are beautiful because they represented the ultimate evolution of race car design before certain breakthroughs in design method and process, i.e. CFD advances, changed things for good. That era had modern materials, wind-tunnels and powerplants, but it was not as today. There was as real duet of the mind and the tools at that time—whereas before people were, often, merely guessing; and afterward, the software really came to the fore.

    This has nothing to do with the notorious appendages. The simple designs of yore were not simple because the designers valued simplicity or purity, but because the designers lacked the computers to show them a better way. Nor were they “clean.” They were hyper-articulated in their own ways. Looking at the sinews and creases etching the CG901 you can see Newey’s brilliant mind articulating the air just as you can with last-year’s Redbull. But you have to look closer.

  13. Wesley said on 29th June 2009, 17:11

    I had a plastic Lotus 49 look-alike race car when I was child that you could ride.I left it parked on a large heater grate in the hallway and melted the wheels off of it.It brings fond memories when I see pics that car.I have always related yellow and green to racing since.But,my favorite F1 cars are from 2006-2008,I don’t mind the winglets.The BMWs are beautiful..(well,not anymore)…and the new Renault is by far the ugliest race car ever made.

  14. Matt M. said on 29th June 2009, 17:35

    Best looking F1 cars were from the early 1990’s.

    Bring out the track to 200cm and make the rear wing 100cm and the 2009 cars will look like a real F1 car. Oh and also put a screaming V12 in the back.

  15. lobo said on 29th June 2009, 17:56

    Even tough I started following F1 in the early 90s, my favorite cars have been those from the 60’s. I would say the best looking car of all times is the eagle, followed by the Lotus 49. That could also be said about the “street” cars from the 60’s: Ferrari 250 GTO, Lamborghini Miura, Ford GT40 to name a few.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.