When did F1 cars look their best? (Poll)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. chaostheory
    29th June 2009, 18:40

    This years cars have potential – just change that front wing and ban those wide tank noses of Renault and BMW and we’re good to go:)
    Right now I really like Ferrari and McLaren and RedBull cars, but cant stand the two I mentioned – Renault especially.

  7. Porsche 804 is my favorite F1 car. so 60s obviously got it for me.

  8. StrFerrari4Ever
    29th June 2009, 19:32

    I’m going to say 2009 seeing these new cleaner cars on slicks the odd front and rear wings have now become normal to me and are actually quite attractive.Seeing the Red Bull rear end is just awesome seeing the unpainted carbon fibre on some areas and just the interesting little areas like the rear wing endplates and even some of those rimshields look stunning I have to say im in love with this years cars whose with me?

  9. If it weren’t for the unproportional wings on the cars, I would’ve voted for 2009. 2000’s for me.

  10. After the death of Senna is where it all changed for me
    Smaller wings, higher cars, shorten wheel tracks

  11. Robert McKay
    29th June 2009, 20:27

    2000 specifically was the peak for me. After that the slide downhill began and just kept picking up speed.

    Though the 1997 Mclaren and the 1994 Williams are also worth a mention.

  12. KingHamilton&co
    29th June 2009, 20:50

    i love the 70s cars-they were so different, so mad, and some so beautiful and innovative that i just love them.

    i want the 30s as an option though, The mercs of that era were even better!

  13. I have to go with the lotus

  14. My fave is the ’95 Williams, it looks so gorgeous in that Rothmans livery. I like cars from the 90s and mid-to-late 70s the most.

  15. Umm, the McLaren MP4/5 pictured is from 1989, not 1990 (so technically a different decade).

    That’s a Senna helmet, and he had a McLaren #1 car in ’89, ’91 and ’92. If it is indeed 1989, it was the MP4/5 and not the /5B.

    Fantastic pictures.

  16. Interestingly so many went for 2000s, I wonder if we should see if this has to do withthe age group of the voters. Actually some early 2000s design like the miserable MP4-18 was quite clean and looked v fast, too bad it wasn’t! The 2008 cars probably look good if u like transformers!

  17. Every era has it’s lookers and munters. I voted for the 2000s as I reckon the standard is highest, the proportions are just consistently better than other eras. I find Pat Symonds’ “they’re ugly if they loose and pretty if they win” thinking kind of funny, maybe he’s just saying that because his car looks like it’s been punched in the face. I disagree with old “Tactical Master” Symonds some cars are just prettier than others no matter where they finish. I have become a bit more use to the ’09 cars but they still look strange.

  18. My top picks:

    Renault R26 & Honda RA106 (2006) – simple but elegant
    McLaren MP4-22 & BMW F1.07 (2007) – well-proportioned
    BMW F1.08 & McLaren MP4-23 (2008) – radical looks
    Red Bull RB5 (2009) – best so far w/ all the regulations


  19. theRoswellite
    30th June 2009, 1:19

    …with tongue only partially protruding from cheek…

    It has to be the 1950s because, that being a time before down-force, we had only “cars” contesting in F1…none of the present “air-craft”. A time when aero meant only…low drag!

    (I’ll bet that all the other votes for the 1950s were from the post 60s set).

    So, give me Moss in the Vanwall, at the 1957 Pescara Grand Prix.

  20. Love the cars from the 50’s and 60’s, the Silver Mercedes’ were beauties, the Lotus’ of the early 60’s were so slick. I voted for the 60’s.

    I also loved the cars used during the 90’s, loved all the William’s from 92 to 97, the livery and shaped was lovely.

    Come to think of, the Tobacco Liveries of the old days were great! It just looked good on the cars. My favourite liveries were of Prost Gaulloise of the late 90’s and Williams Rothmans, the gold themed Jordan B&H was also ace!

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