Your prettiest F1 cars of all time
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Saturday 23rd September
  • We have to admit, we needed a bit of a sit down in a darkened room after looking at some of this year's Formula One cars. Not because they made us hot under the collar, but because they made us feel a tad unwell.

    We then decided to see if these were the worst in history. Turns out they weren't, as we found out here - but you lot were quite vocal in telling us which cars you liked the best. Pretty cars. Cars you could get excited about.

    So we threw out the net to you lovely folk of and asked for your suggestions on the best looking Formula One cars of all time. Here are the top suggestions.

    And thanks. Feel free to use this gallery as a soothing remedy during any point of the 2014 F1 season. You're welcome.

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  • McLaren MP4/4

    If anyone has any doubt as to the veracity of the old aphorism "if it looks good..." let Gordon Murray and Steve Nichols set you straight. The McLaren-Honda MP4/4 is the most successful racing car yet across a single season. But for a stand-in driver with a rusty manner with his mirrors (and a somewhat impatient Ayrton Senna), the MP4/4 would have won every single race in 1988.

    Yet it was never boring (you listening Mr Horner?) as McLaren crewed the car with the two best drivers of the time, Alain Prost and new-to-the-team Senna. Murray picked up where he left off with the lie-flat Brabham-BMW and sat the Honda V6 turbo (also new-to-the-team) low in the chassis, its drivers more prone than they'd ever been.

    The rest was history: 15 wins, 15 poles and only four retirements in 32 starts. And Senna's share were both accidents, the mistake at Monza which cost the clean sweep and out of the lead at Monaco.

  • Ferrari F2004

    You will see as you read on that there were a lot of votes for a lot of Ferraris (*shrugs shoulders, does that ‘purse' thing with his right hand*). Ferraris are beautiful, a racing red single-seater Ferrari particularly so, though you may recognise the commercial dilution of pure rosso corsa over the 44 years between the oldest of the three Ferraris on this list and this, 2004's prosaically named F2004, the last car to take Michael Schumacher to a world championship and his most successful.

    When Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull RB9 notched up their 13th win of 2013 in Brazil last November to match the record number of wins in a season, the record they were matching was that of Schuey and the F2004. Add in two wins for Rubens Barrichello and the F2004's tally comes to 15 for the year. That's as many at the MP4/4.

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  • Maserati 250F

    If you are of a certain age, to imagine an F1 car does not mean to imagine a fat-tyred, carbon fibre pencil with the garage door hanging off the back but this: the Maserati 250F, the quintessential 1950s racing car. Then, teams rarely threw cars away at the end of the season unless rule changes meant they absolutely had to, so the 250F raced in six seasons and scored two championships. Sort of.

    In 1954 there was no constructors' championship and drivers still chased the fastest chassis of the moment. And if you were Juan Manuel Fangio you had first dibs. So having taken the 250F to two wins at the start of the year, Fangio defected to Mercedes to polish off his second title. His last - his fifth - was however back at Maserati and back in the 250F for, among three others, what's considered his greatest drive, maybe the greatest drive of all to come from nearly a minute back and break the lap record on ten subsequent laps and take victory from Mike Hawthorn's Ferrari on the last lap.

    And all that at the Nurburgring.

  • Jordan 191

    Back in the day, the only people who had to listen to Eddie Jordan were those who worked for him. His team had a reputation for producing very pretty cars, none more so than their very first, the 191. The work of another (now sadly gone from our screens) TV pundit, Gary Anderson, and a tiny team of just three or so the legend goes, the mere appearance of the car at the first race of season was considered something of a miracle. That it had sponsorship even more so.

    Though it failed to qualify for its first race, it soon became apparent the 191 was as good as it looked, taking the new team to fifth in the constructors' championship in its first year. The 191 was also famous for giving Michael Schumacher his first grand prix weekend, after the team's second driver Bertrand Gachot found himself unexpectedly detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

  • Brabham BMW BT52

    Another car from the extraordinary mind of Gordon Murray, the Brabham BT52 was the first turbocharged F1 car to win the world championship for a driver, Nelson Piquet. "Ground effects" had been banned, so Murray saw no reason to continue with long and broad sidepods, which meant the radiators were packaged as close to the compact four cylinder BMW engine as possible. The Brabham-BMW team had surprised everyone the year before by starting its car light and refueling in the middle of the race.

    The BT52 was designed with a small tank that meant it had to be refueled. This tight frontal packaged allowed clean airflow to the rear and the car had an extremely large rear wing. Not always reliable, it was however a joy to drive and once a trick fuel blend had been perfected, Piquet scored his second world title and the first for a turbocharged car.

  • Alfa Romeo 158

    Alfa Romeo's quite extraordinarily beautiful 158 - and its successor the 159 - date back to the very start of the F1 World Championship in 1950, which it delivered to Giuseppe Farina and would deliver in 1951 to Fangio, the first of his five titles. What's extraordinary about the 158 (it takes its name from its swept capacity of 1.5-litres and its in-line eight cylinder layout) is that it made its debut some 13 years earlier in 1938.

    Development back then usually just meant strapping on an ever-bigger supercharger, but the 158 did have new rear suspension and, before the war at least, the attention of Enzo Ferrari who oversaw the development of the 158 before parting company with Alfa. Ferrari's first win in F1 came at the expense of the Alfa and the 158. Those massive superchargers made the 158 fast but also thirsty, significantly more so than Ferrari's 375 which took the marque's first win at Silverstone in July that year.

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  • Eagle Mk1

    The only American-entered car ever to an F1 race, Dan Gurney's Eagle Mk 1 is a thing of remarkable beauty. The product of the All American Racers collective that included Caroll Shelby, Gurney was inspired to build the Eagle by the likes of other driver/constructors like Bruce McLaren and Jack Brabham, for whom he'd raced. Like the Kiwi and the Aussie he was smart enough to locate the collective's F1 team in the UK where it was named Anglo American Racers.

    It was designed around the British Weslake V12, which wasn't ready for the car's debut at the start of the 1966 season, so was raced at first with an altogether more humble four cylinder Climax engine. Once the 12 was running there was nothing humble about the Eagle, apart maybe from its results. Just one win in 26 starts. One win and 23 retirements.

  • Ferrari 156

    The second of our Ferraris, and one of the most famous racing cars of all time. Officially the Tipo 156, the car that took American Phil Hill to his one and only Formula One World Championship is much better known as the Sharknose. The Sharknose was Ferrari's response to new rules for 1961 that specified 1.5-litre engines in place of 2.5s. Ferrari, ever pragmatic, simply upgraded his existing Formula Two car, the modifications included the new nose by which the car became known instantly.

    Sadly much of the cars' renown comes from the horrible accident that killed Hill's teammate Wolfgang von Trips at the Italian Grand Prix in 1961. It's not known whether it was this, or Ferrari's legendary lack of sentiment, that meant all Sharknoses were trashed when the car was retired at the end of the 1963 season after its last and seventh win.

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  • Ferrari 312T

    You know the Ferrari 312T series from the movie Rush, but that was the 312T2 (the ‘T' by the way stands for transversale, the new design of gearbox that finally liberated the enormous power and driveability of Ferrari's three-litre flat 12). In 1975 when the 312T made its debut, it still sported the tall air intake chimney which you guys clearly thought shaded the lobbed off version Lauda would fail to defend his title with after the accident in 1976.

    The original T was no walk in the park for Lauda, and Ferrari didn't even bother to race it for the first two rounds of the 1975 season. Lauda's skill, not to mention sheer bloody mindedness, soon had it sorted and after a debut in South Africa, took it to five wins and the title in 1975. Its successor the T3 would bag another title for Lauda in 1977 and the final version, the T5 with its awkward ground-effect ‘peplum', yet another for Jody Sheckter in 1979.

  • Lotus 49

    Best until last? Maybe so. Anyone lucky enough to have found themselves up-close to a Lotus 49 at Goodwood or somewhere will tell you of the car's overwhelming sense of engineering elegance. The car, like so many from the mind of Colin Chapman, would revolutionise Grand Prix racing. Not the first mid-engined, nor the first to use the engine as a fully stressed part of the structure, it was however the first to use an engine designed for that role, the Ford Cosworth ‘double four valve', the DFV.

    Winning on its debut at the Dutch Grand Prix of 1967, the 49 would go on to take Graham Hill to his second world title in 1968, following the death of Clark in a F2 Lotus. The 49 would go on to pioneer aerodynamics in F1, remaining competitive until 1970 when Jochen Rindt would give the 49 its last win, at Monaco, en route to his posthumous world title.

More from Top Gear

See more on Formula One

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5