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. Ferrari 641 with sir Nigel at the wheel mastering the flappy paddle gearbox .
    Ferrari 156 with the “the shark nose ” quite sexy aswell .
    Aesthetics is important to me as much as the speed .

  2. I think the pre-1983 ground effect cars looked awesome. The Ferrari 126 CK2 and Lotus-Cosworth 91 are the two most beautiful Formula 1 cars ever made.

  3. Though this may seem odd to some of you, I reckon the Renault R25 was the most beautiful F1 car of all time. The pointed tip of the nosecone, the smooth lines and the gorgeous livery make it an object of mechanical beauty.

  4. ’92-’97 i reckon

    1995 had some great looking motors, especially Williams, Benetton and Ferrari… maybe not Forti though…

  5. Well, this is like asking “What’s your fave colour?” but I am nonetheless surprised to see the 2000’s getting the votes.

    I always thought “pre aero’s” were universally accepted as the best looking – including for me – particularly the mid 60’s!

  6. I love the 50s cars, but it’s true that they are so different to modern formula 1 cars it is difficult to compare. I find 60’s most dull, a bit too simple and samey in my opinion. 70’s are awesome because they’re so wacky but aerodynamic enough to be recognised as an f1 car. Early 80- boring, late 80’s fairly cool, especially mp4-4. I find some of the 90’s cars a bit plain, although the width compared to modern cars is cool. I like the 2004 cars, less so the cars that followed. Although overall the 2008 cars weren’t pretty, I love the complexity, especially of the BMW, which looks so mean. I don’t mind the new cars so much, except the BMW and Renault. I don’t like how pointy the Ferrari’s nose is either. I kind of like the new wide front wings, yet they look out of proportion, both being tested with the old rear wings AND with the new ones. I do much prefer the shape of the current bodies to 90’s and early 00’s cars when you were able to see the shape easily.

  7. The cars looked the best between 1998 and 2005. After that the aerodynamics just got out of hand.

    MP4-20 is the sexiest f1 one car ever and it was fast.
    2005 season was great. X INDY X

  8. I bet there’s a fairly strong correlation between “when F1 cars looked best” and “when voter was a young teenager”…

  9. 1990s (Pre 1998) The cars looked simple, nice and effective

    The 2009 cars are anything but those things.

  10. 1960’s not even a shadow of a doubt.
    The last years before aero, with the 1967 Lotus probably the best looking F1-car ever (from outside AND inside).

  11. Praveen Titus
    13th August 2009, 15:29

    I can’t stand narrow track and these silly looking noses in modern F1 cars. I mean, they are so high they can touch the sky. Take the 2009 Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India for example. Why can’t F1 cars have low swooping noses with the front wings attached directly to them without the ladder-like stuff connecting these ugly noses to the wing? The Jordan 191 is a perfect example of how beautiful such a design can be. But a better example of a perfect aesthetic racing car is Juan Pablo Montoya’s 1999 Ganassi Lola CART.
    Now that’s a racer.

  12. I vote for the pre-wing sixties. After playing Grand Prix Legends, it’s my favorite GP era!

  13. Daniel Corder
    26th April 2010, 20:01

    In my opinion the best designed F1 car of all times was the John Barnard’s Ferrari 1991, beautifull with a sillouette just like a lady dressed in red.

  14. Best looking era? From an objective point of view, probably the simplicity of the 1960s…..but from an emotional point of view my vote goes for 1989 to 1997. Ferrari 640, Mclaren MP4/5, Williams FW14, 14B, 15c, & 16, Ferrari 412 T2, Williams FW18, Benetton B197……..and FYI, I started watching F1 in 1992 at which point I was in my early teens!!

  15. Best looking f1 cars are 2001-2008. Besides the much older styles. I’m sure most of the people would agree.

  16. mid-60’s, pre-wing. I’ve always felt that the ‘best looking’ cars are the ones that raced when you first got hooked on F1.

  17. Not true. I started watching F1 in 1998, when I was 9, but to me the most beautiful car by far is the Williams FW15, with it’s gorgeous, elegant lines:

    And the coolest car, I think, is the Lotus 76. It just screams power:

  18. The first half 2000’s Ferrari’s (F2000. F2001, F2002, F2003 GA, F2004) for me… simple, slick, innovative and terrible reliable :ddddd

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