1988 Monaco Grand Prix

13 Formula 1 Cars The Rest Of The Grid Couldn’t Keep Up With

Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, with the fastest cars and fastest drivers battling it out for the world championship. Over the 74-year history of the sport, Formula 1 has also seen its fair share of dominant and genuinely great cars.

This list contains some of the best cars to grace the sport and showcases what made them so good. We have everything from icons of the past to some of the recent dominant machines, all of which left the rest of the grid trailing in their wake.

2023 Red Bull RB19

Red Bull RB19
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Red Bull dominated the 2022 F1 season with the RB18, despite Ferrari’s initial challenge with their F1-75. But the British-based team stepped it up in 2023, with the RB19 winning 21 of the season’s 22 races and Max Verstappen winning 19 to take his third consecutive world driver’s championship.

Teammate Sergio Perez won another two races, and only Ferrari with Carlos Sainz stopped a Red Bull clean sweep at the Singapore Grand Prix. Verstappen scored so many points that if he were the only driver at Red Bull, he’d have won the team the constructor’s championship single-handedly.

2020 Mercedes W11

2020 Mercedes W11
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

For most of the 2010s, Mercedes dominated the sport after F1 introduced the V6 turbo-hybrid engines in 2014. The peak of Mercedes’s prowess came during the 2020 COVID-19-affected season, with that year’s W11 proving to be the class of the field.

In the 17 races that year, the W11 won 13 events and 15 pole positions. Red Bull and Max Verstappen won two, while Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez took shock wins in the other two. The W11 could have easily won more races, and during qualifying, the W11 lost out on pole position only twice: in the wet to Lance Stroll in Turkey and in the season finale to Verstappen in Abu Dhabi.

1988 McLaren MP4/4

1988 McLaren MP4/4
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For decades, the 1988 McLaren MP4/4 with its Honda powertrain was the gold standard F1 cars compare themselves against. Aside from the Red Bull RB19, it is the only car to lose just one race across an F1 season, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost winning 15 of the 16 races and taking 15 of the 16 pole positions. 

Mechanical issues and a backmarker took away the team’s chances of a clean sweep at that year’s Italian Grand Prix. Senna would win his first world title in the MP4/4, commencing a run in which McLaren won four consecutive driver’s and constructor titles in a row, all with Honda power in the back of the cars.

2022 Red Bull RB18

2022 Red Bull RB18
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

As F1’s 2022 ground-effect rules kicked in, Red Bull and Ferrari emerged as the two fastest teams, with the F-75 giving the RB18 a run for its money in the early races. However, once Red Bull shed some weight from the RB18 and dialed the car in, they and Max Verstappen went on a rampage.

Verstappen won 15 of the 22 races that year, a record for the most in a year before his 19 out of 22 in 2023. Sergio Perez won two more races in the car, Verstappen won his second driver’s title in a row, and Red Bull won their first constructors’ championship since 2013. Ferrari’s challenge, however, imploded due to driver errors, strategy mistakes, and poor reliability.

2009 Brawn BGP001

2009 Brawn BGP001
Image Credit: Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot/WikiCommons.

The Brawn BGP001 was born from the ashes of the Honda F1 team, and originally conceived as the Honda RA109. Ross Brawn and his management bought out the team, renamed it Brawn GP, and ran six wins out of the first seven races with Jenson Button. This meant Brawn and Button had comfortable leads in the team and driver championships, which was vital as rivals Red Bull started to close the gap.

Brawn had no development budget, so they changed very little on the car throughout the year. Teammate Rubens Barichello would add two more wins to the team’s tally later in the season, and Button and the team clinched both world titles in Brazil. The BGP001 took eight wins out of 17 races that season, with 15 podiums and five pole positions.

1996 Williams FW18

1996 Williams FW18
Image Credit: Rdikeman/WikiCommons.

The Williams FW18 is one of the most successful cars in the British team’s history, with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve behind the car’s wheel during the 1996 F1 season. Out of the 16 races that season, the FW18 won 12 events, taking 21 podiums and 12 pole positions.

Hill won eight of the year’s races, with Villeneuve winning four in his rookie season. Hill defended his championship lead-up to the final race, where he won the world title in Japan to cap off a dominant season for the Williams team. The FW18 led to the FW19, which would also become a championship winner in 1997.

2016 Mercedes F1 W07

2016 Mercedes F1 W07
Image Credit: Morio/WikiCommons.

Despite the best efforts of Red Bull and Ferrari, Mercedes would dominate the 2016 season. Nineteen of the 21 races went the Silver Arrows’ way with the W07, and the team took 20 of the 21 pole positions that season. Nico Rosberg won the first four races of the year before he and teammate Lewis Hamilton took each other out at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton would come back fighting with six wins in the next seven races, with Rosberg winning just one in that time, but the German fought back hard to lead the championship into the final race, ultimately taking his first and only world title before sensationally retiring from F1.

2002 Ferrari F2002

2002 Ferrari F2002
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

One of the most dominant Formula 1 cars of all time is the 2002 Ferrari F2002, a car that would win 15 races, which even included a victory in 2003 before that year’s Ferrari was ready. The 2002 season saw Michael Schumacher equal Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of five world titles with ten wins, with teammate Rubens Barichello winning the other four races.

The F2002 raced on as the F2002B in the opening four rounds of the 2003 season, and Schumacher steered it to victory at that season’s San Marino Grand Prix before the F2003-GA replaced it for the following race in Spain onwards.

2013 Red Bull RB9

 2013 Red Bull RB9
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Before Max Verstappen won the driver’s title in 2021, Red Bull last won a championship in 2013 with the incredible RB9. With Sebastian Vettel at the wheel, the car won 13 of the season 19 races, including the controversial Malaysian Grand Prix, where Vettel defied a team order and stole a victory from teammate Mark Webber.

That 13-race win tally included a run of nine victories in a row from Belgium to the final race in Brazil. Vettel took pole five times in those nine races, while Webber added to the car’s podium tally but failed to win a race after the Malaysian incident. The 2013 title was amazingly the last of Vettel’s career.

2004 Ferrari F2004

2004 Ferrari F2004
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The 2004 Ferrari F2004 is one of the most revered cars in F1’s history. Yet when Ferrari tested the car pre-season, it was so fast that the Italian team thought they had done something wrong and that the data was lying to them. This was despite drivers Schumacher and Barichello insisting that the car was quick.

So it turned out, with the F2004 winning 15 races and taking 12 pole positions. The stiffest challenge faced by Ferrari came from the BAR-Honda of Jenson Button, who took ten podiums that year. Still, Ferrari and Schumacher cantered to both championships, which was Schumacher’s last and Ferrari’s final constructors with the German in one of their cars.

2011 Red Bull RB7

2011 Red Bull RB7
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Ferrari and McLaren put up a good fight in 2011 against Red Bull. Still, the Red Bull RB7 proved too strong for them as the team won their second consecutive constructor’s title, and Sebastian Vettel won his second successive driver’s title.

Vettel would win that season at a canter, with 11 victories across 19 races. Of the races he finished that season, he was only off the podium once in Germany, with fourth place. Teammate Mark Webber was consistently on the podium but would only win one race, the season finale in Brazil. The RB7 was most impressive in qualifying, taking 18 of the year’s 19 pole positions. Only Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren denied them a clean sweep with pole position in South Korea.

2014 Mercedes F1 W05

2014 Mercedes W05 Lewis Hamilton
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The first year of F1’s turbo-hybrid regulations was a whitewash for Mercedes. The W05 was the class of the field thanks to the combination of its brilliant chassis and the dominant PU106A powertrain. Mercedes took 18 of the 19 pole positions and won 16 of the 19 races.

Felipe Massa achieved the only non-Mercedes pole position in the Mercedes-powered Williams FW36 at the Austrian Grand Prix. At the same time, misfortune meant Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull snatched three victories for Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg fought exclusively for the title, with Hamilton winning it at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

1950 Alfa Romeo 158

1950 Alfa Romeo 158
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In Formula 1’s inaugural season, Alfa Romeo had the fearsome combination of Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio. Although there were only six races that season, the 158 won six of them and took six pole positions.

The caveat is that the Alfa Romeo team only raced in six of the seven races that year, meaning it won every race it entered and took pole position at all of them, too. The only race it didn’t enter was that year, the Indianapolis 500, when F1 included the race on its calendar. The 158’s successor, the 159, set the pace in early 1951, but Ferrari’s 375 reeled it in. However, Fangio could still pip Ferrari’s Alberto Ascari to that year’s world title.

Henry Kelsall

Author: Henry Kelsall

Title: Writer

Bio:

Henry has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains.

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