Senna and Mansell, British GP 1991.
There are many cars that have raced through the years that have become as iconic and as historic as some of the drivers that have drove them. Show a stranger an early 2000 Ferrari for example, and they’ll instantly associate Michael Schumacher to it. So, in today’s article, I’ve decided to look at 10 of the most iconic cars from the decades for Formula One. Now, to distance myself from any controversy or heated debates that this list complies of NOT the 10 best or most dominant Formula One cars, but just simply 10 of the most famous and recognisable cars.
1. McLaren MP4/4.
Echoing that beautiful red and white Marlboro livery, and powered by the ferocious 1.5 Honda RA168-E V6 Turbo engine, the McLaren MP4/4 was one of the most dominant cars of all time. Designed by Steve Nichols and the great Gordon Murray, in the hands of Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna, the MP4/4 won all but one race in the 1988 season and delivered Senna his first of three titles after recovering from a terrible start to beat team mate and title rival Prost at that years Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
2. Ferrari 312T.
Making it’s debut for the 1975 season, the 312T design was used and constantly evolved by Ferrari until 1980. Austrian driver won his two titles with Ferrari using different variants of the 312T, first in 1975 and then again in 1977. Initially designed by Mauro Forghieri, the car was constantly developed in the six seasons it saw competition. Using a 3.0 Litre naturally aspirated Ferrari Flat 12 with the “T” standing for its transverse 5 speed manual gearbox, it brought home a total of four Constructors and three drivers championships for Ferrari. Some changes saw throughout the years were the loss of the massive airbox on the 1976 312T2, or the very narrow cockpit used on the 1979 312T4. Other notable drivers of the 312T include the 1979 Champion Jody Scheckter, and Canadian supremo Gilles Villeneuve.
3. Lotus 49.
Coupling a design by Colin Chapman and Maurice Phillipe and use of the dominant 3.0 Cosworth DFV V8. The Lotus 49 made it’s debut in 1967, instantly becoming a winner in the hands of the great Scot Jim Clark, while fellow British driver Graham Hill took the 1968 championship in this car. The 49 is known for being the first of many things in Formula One. This car was the first to use aerofoil wings in 1968, and the first car to introduce sponsorship branding on the car’s bodywork when in 1968, Chapman agreed a sponsorship deal to promote Gold Leaf cigarettes on his cars. In 1970, Jochen Rindt would be killed in a 49 at Monza, sadly becoming the only driver in history to be a posthumous World Champion.
4. Jordan 191.
Although not near as successful as the last cars mentioned on this list, the Jordan 191 remains to be one of the most widely recognised and prettiest F1 cars of all time. Designed by Gary Anderson and used by Eddie Jordan for debut his much-loved Jordan Grand Prix team into Formula One racing. Using a 3.5 Litre Ford HBA4 engine partnered to a six-speed manual gearbox, the team made it’s debut with the car and drivers Bertrand Gachot and Andrea DeCesaris in 1991. Most notably, Michael Schumacher made his Grand Prix debut in the car at that years Belgian Grand Prix when Gachot was sentenced to two months for attacking a taxi driver in London. Instantly known by it’s now legendary 7up livery and defining lines and curves, the 191 will be forever remembered as one of the prettiest cars in the sport.
5. Brawn GP BGP 001.
Probably one of the best success stories of all time, amidst serious rule and regulation changes for the 2009 season, The Brawn F1 team and BGP 001 was conceived by the remains of the Honda F1 team who withdrew from the sport in late 2008. Headed by the famous Team Principle, the car was originally sought out to be a mess after six inches was lost from the rear to accommodate a 2.4 Litre Mercedes FO108W V8 engine. However the car turned out so good that drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello took a total of eight wins that year with the car, and it went on to deliver the Constructors title to the team and the Drivers title to Button. The team was sold on by Brawn to Mercedes Benz to become the current Mercedes team in 2010, meaning that thanks to this great car, Brawn F1 remain the only team in F1 history to win the only season they entered.
6. Lotus 98T.
If the McLaren MP4/4 is considered to be one of Senna’s most remembered cars, the Lotus 98T must be a close second. Designed by Gérard Ducarouge Martin Ogilvie and using a 1.5 Litre turbocharged Renault V6 and used by the team for the 1986 season, it is most well known for the brutal speed and beautiful Black and Gold John Player cigarettes livery. The engine was known to put out over 1000 Horsepower at full boost in qualifying trim as well as around 900 Horsepower in race trim. However, constant unreliability from the engine saw Senna only take two wins that year in Spain and Detroit, and was enough to convince Lotus to switch to Honda engines for 1986.
7. Red Bull Racing RB6.
The RB6 is known to have been the car to launch Red Bull Racing into the sharp end of the grid and become a really major team. Designed by a group headed by the great designer Adrian Newey, the RB6 was powered by a 2.4 Litre Renault RS27 V8, and straight away was an instant success. Between drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber the car dominated qualifying all year round taking a total 15 out of 18 pole positions between them, with a total of eight wins. Red Bull and Vettel would go on to take the first of their four straight championships, in a car that set the pace for everyone to chase in the following years.
8. Williams FW14.
Designed for use in 1991 by Patrick Head and Adrian Newey the Williams FW14 would become one of the most technologically advanced Grand Prix cars ever made. Powered by a 3.5 Litre Renault V10, the FW14 debuted in the 1991 US Grand Prix and took a total of 7 wins in the year but lost the title due to reliability woes. The car came back with the problems ironed out as the FW14B in 1992 with a very complicated active suspension system and traction control to put it miles ahead of the rest of the competition. Taking a then record of 9 wins in one season and allowing driver Nigel Mansell to take his only F1 title, it’s considered to be one of the smartest and best F1 cars ever created.
9. Mercedes W05 Hybrid.
Built to comply with the all new turbo hybrid era regulations introduced into Formula One for 2014, Mercedes AMG Petronas took off running with this car to create such dominance we see only getting challenged now. Powered by an all new 1.6 Litre Mercedes PU106A Hybrid Power System, and coupled with a great design by Aldo Costa, Geoff Wills and Paddy Lowe, the team took 16 wins and all but one pole position (Felipe Massa took pole in Austria with Williams, being powered by the exact same engine.) The team easily took the constructors title and driver Lewis Hamilton took his second world title, enduring pressure only from his team mate Nico Rosberg for the year.
10. Ferrari F2004.
Designed by Aldo Costa, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, the Ferrari F2004 remains one of the fastest and best F1 cars of all time. Powered by a 3.0 Litre Ferrari V10, it was the car that gave Michael Schumacher his final of his seven titles, taking a total of 15 out of 20 race wins in 2004, and setting such lap records on various tracks that today are still standing. Schumacher took a total of 13 wins in the car that year, while it also gave Ferrari the final of six consecutive Constructor Championships.