Some of the best drivers have graced Formula 1 for seven decades. These drivers have driven some of the best F1 cars of all time. It may seem that the cars are all the same. However, a look under the hood reveals the intricate details that set them apart. Improvised engines and the introduction of new technologies promised fans exciting battles on the track.
The feud between Mercedes and Ferrari is nothing new. Since the very first days of Formula 1, these two companies have been producing intense rivalries to prove their superiority. However, there are other constructors who compete with the best and stand out better than them.
To rank a few of them among a hundred great machines is quite a task. However, some of them have stood out in the pages of history and defined themselves as the best of the bunch. Curating these few into a list would give a good insight into how technology has improved in the Formula One sector.
Brabham BT46 – Best Formula One car of all time.
The Brabham Group entered the BT46 in the 1978 Formula One session. The designer, Gordon Murray, made significant changes to the conventional blueprint. However, consulting engineer David Cox predicted that the car could face overheating problems.
The BT46’s cooling system was changed from a conventional oil and water system to flat plate heat exchangers. Cox’s calculations showed that the heat exchangers were allocated 30% of the required surface area. Cox was invited to the Brabham factory to present his findings. He ruined the chances of this car being successful with heating problems.
The flat screen system was removed and a modified nose mounted radiator was used. The BT46 was powered by a flat 12 Alfa Romeo engine. Niki Lauda, one of F1’s best drivers, and John Watson, drove the BT46. Winning a Grand Prix and earning enough points put them in third place in the constructors’ standings.
The B variant was used in the Swedish Grand Prix and used a fan to create immense downforce. The technique served to keep the engine cool while gaining downforce. As a counterweight to the dominant Lotus 79, the BT46-B only raced at the Swedish Grand Prix. Niki Lauda drove it around Anderstorp and secured victory.
The BT46-B was denounced by Brabham owner Bernie Ecclestone himself. An appearance in a match and a victory with a 2995 cc Alfa Romeo engine remains an achievement.
Indeed, the BT46 was a machine of its kind. The BT46 last raced at the South African Grand Prix in 1979. Service was temporary for the BT46, a few days for the improved version. But even with limited service, it remained one of the best F1 cars of all time.
Benetton B195 – Best racing car of all time
Before Michael Schumacher signed for Ferrari, he raced the streets in Benetton. In the 1994 session, he won the drivers’ world championship for the first time. The challenge for him was to defend his championship. With the help of the B195, he succeeded effortlessly.
When the 3000 cc Renault RS7 V10 engine was selected to power the B195, a design change was required. Designed by Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn, the B195 underwent some changes from its predecessor, the B194. The engine size was reduced from 3.5 to 3 liters, and smaller wings were installed.
Picking up where he left off, Schumacher drove the B195 to the championship trophy. Benetton won 11 of 17 races and sealed the constructors championship for the 1995 season, and the desirable results proved that the car was worth mentioning and found its place as one of the best F1 cars of all time.
Ferrari 500 – The oldest F1 car
The rules were changed quite frequently in Formula 1 in the early years. In 1952, the FIA announced that the Drivers’ World Championship would be run to Formula 2 specifications. The news caused much chaos, and Alfa Romeo withdrew from the event.
Alfa Romeo’s absence meant a clear path for Ferrari. The only team to have a car with the aforementioned specifications, Ferrari went all out this season. The Lampredi four-cylinder engine mounted behind the front axle improved weight distribution.
Italian Alberto Ascari won seven Grand Prix races in a row with the 500. This record held for a long time before Sebastian Vettel broke it in 2013.
Brawn BGP001 – the most beautiful F1 car of all time.
Honda started working on the cars expected in the 2009 F1 championship in 2008. However, in December 2008 they announced their decision to withdraw from F1. Development of the car continued while the team looked for an owner. Ross Brawn bought the team and hence the Brawn name was born.
The placement of 2.4-liter Mercedes Benz FO108W led to a shift in focus. It was a challenge for the engineers to get the car around the corner with the new season. The most controversial aspect, however, was the double-decker diffuser controversy. The BGP001 used a different design for the diffuser, which allowed more downforce to be accumulated.
Renault, Red Bull and Ferrari complained against the use of this diffuser at the Australian Grand Prix. BMW tried the same in Malaysia. On both occasions, however, the ruling excluded any illegal practices.
The use of diffusers was appealed to the FIA International Court of Appeal. However, the use of diffusers was validated as legal, and teams were allowed to use them. This ruling helped Brawn GP hold on to its first two wins with Jenson Button. The BGP001 won 8 out of 17 races and won the constructors’ championship, while Button won the drivers’ championship that year.
Red Bull RB9 – The best race car
Alberto Ascari set a record by winning seven consecutive Grand Prix in 1952. The record was well held until Sebastian Vettel, driving his RB9, smashed it in 2013 by winning nine in a row. The RB9, nicknamed “Hungry Heidi,” brought Vettel his fourth championship. The RB9 was the last recipient of the championship prize with the V8 and naturally aspirated engine.
Last season, Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey admitted that RB9 development had stalled to focus on RB8 and the championship. However, RB9 had a great debut as Vettel took pole position in practice sessions and qualifying. RB9 finished the race in third place, marking its entry into the F1 circuit.
Even though the first half started off relatively sloppy, the second half sealed the deal. Winning 9 out of 9 Grand Prix, Vettel broke all records and wrote his name in the pages of history. An astonishing 13 wins and 596 points sealed the constructors’ championship for the Austrian team. The RB9 asserts dominance on the track and stands out as one of the best F1 cars of all time.
Williams FW14 – The best car in Formula 1
Necessity is the mother of all invention. In 1989 and 1990, Williams struggled with Adrian Newey to design new models for the upcoming season. Williams funding, along with Newey’s practical design, meant success was inevitable. The new interest encouraged Nigel Mansell to reconsider his decision to retire, and he moved from Ferrari to Williams.
A Renault 3.5L V10 powered the beast and was considered the most technologically advanced on the track. However, the upgraded FW14-B was even better than the base model. The upgraded version featured a semi-automatic transmission and active suspension. Traction control and anti-lock brakes. Aerodynamically ahead of its contemporary McLaren MP4/7A and the Ferrari F92A, it made significant progress. The FW14-B was so successful that the FW15 was never used.
FW14 debuted at the 1991 US Grand Prix and recorded seven victories. However, due to some technical problems, progress was slothful in the beginning. The upgrade was soon introduced and the technical hurdles were overcome.
At the 1992 championship, Mansell took nine Grand Prix wins and raced away to win the drivers’ championship. With 17 wins from 32 races, Williams won the Constructors Cup for the 1992 session.
Lotus 72 – The best F1 car company
Colin Chapman designed one of the most successful cars in F1 history. The new design resembled a wedge on wheels; the new design modified air penetration units. Sporting side-mounted radiators and an overhead air intake system; The car caused a sensation among fans.
Jochen Rindt drove the car in the 1970 F1 championship season. Rindt made the car famous by winning four Grand Prix in quick succession. In fact, to win the drivers’ championship that year, Rindt drove the 72 to death at Monza. Emerson Fittipaldi won the US Grand Prix and pushed Rindt to the championship. The results were in favor of Lotus, and they were awarded the constructors’ title.
The 1971 session saw some upgrades, with Tony Rudd redesigning the rear suspension and rear wing to increase downforce. This season was not the best for Lotus. However, in 1972 Fittipaldi won the championship while Lotus once again won the Constructors’ Cup.
The 1973 season saw changes in terms of car safety. With a total of seven joint Grand Prix, the season went perfectly for the team. The constant collection of points ensured that the Constructors’ Cup remained with Lotus.
The 72 was a remarkable machine and withstood competition from other teams for years. The Lotus 72 won three Constructors Cup and remains one of the best F1 cars of all time.
McLaren MP4/4 – Best F1 car in world history.
Statistically, the MP4/4 is the most successful car ever built, boasting a 93.8% success rate with 15 wins in 16 races. Designed by Steve Nichols, the MP4/4 is one of the most successful F1 cars of all time. Inspired by the Brabham BT55 and equipped with a Honda RA168E 1.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine, the car surprised the racing world.
McLaren’s success was due to not one, but three reasons. The carbon fiber honeycomb chassis, Honda’s efficient engine, and the impressive partnership of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The FIA’s dropping of a limited 150-liter fuel rule for turbocharged engines forced Honda to make the necessary changes.
Prior to 1988, 1984 was the only dominant season. The McLaren MP4/2 won 12 of 16 races. Niki Lauda and Alain Prost drove the beauties to championship trophies. The 1988 season was a cakewalk for the MP4/4, overshadowing the MP4/2’s achievements by winning all but one Grand Prix.
The MP4/4 suffered defeat at the 1988 Italian Grand Prix. Prost retired early due to a rare engine failure. Senna was leading with two laps to go when he collided with Jean Louis Schlesser. Ferrari took advantage and won the Italian Grand Prix a month after the death of Enzo Ferrari.
McLaren was the clear winner of the Constructors Cup in 1988. However, the battle between Senna and Prost added spice. Individually, both were capable of winning the drivers’ championship, but with one more victory than Prost, Senna crowned champion. Seer brilliance in the track of MP4/4 earned him the merit of being one of the best F1 cars of all time.
Scuderia Ferrari F2002 – Best F1 car in history
The MP4/4 achieved a fantastic win ratio of 93.8, and the only model to come closer was the Scuderia Ferrari F2002 of the 2002 season. This car entered the history books with 15 wins in 19 appearances.
Chassis designer Rory Byrne and engine designer Paolo Martinelli were instrumental in its success. With a Ferrari Tipo 3L engine and a revised titanium transmission system, the car was lighter and aerodynamically superior. The added technological advantages meant a season of Prancing Horse dominance.
Schumacher’s win of 10 Grand Prix with the F2002 reinforced the lopsidedness in the season. Rubens Barrichello also contributed with four victories. With 14 wins in the first season, the constructors’ championship went to Ferrari. The German’s one-sided dominance meant that his championship was loaded for the fifth time.
The F2002 continued for a handful of races in the 2003 season. The F2002 won for the last time at the San Marino Grand Prix. Schumacher and Ferrari both ended the season defending their championship trophies.
Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid-Best F1 car ever.
As the seventh Formula One car Mercedes designed from 2010, the W07 was an engineer’s tour de force. With an astonishing 19 wins in 21 races, the W07 was the car the racing world needed. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton teamed up to take Mercedes and the W07 to immeasurable heights.
Powered by a Mercedes Benz PU106C hybrid 1.6-liter turbocharged V6 engine, the W07 produced a whopping 950 horsepower. To improve airflow efficiency, the S-Duct was developed. Front wing fins and L-shaped baffles were introduced under the chassis to better direct airflow. These small changes over the course of the season improved the W07 bit by bit. As the days went by, the machine became a better version of itself.
In a rather lopsided season from Mercedes, they amassed 765 points on the board. Mercedes broke the previous best of 703 and scaled new heights of success. The margin of victory was almost 300 points. Nico Rosberg ended his career with a drivers’ title in his final season of F1 racing. The W07 stands out from the rest in terms of performance and is the best F1 car of all time.