Since the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) declared war on aero packages in a desperate, and very politically correct and non-confrontational attempt to return Formula One (F1) racing to, well, racing, the cars have lost a great deal of the fluid beauty that used to make young boys grab their private parts with delight.
Not that the new bunch of cars are elephant-man type ugly, but they have certainly surrendered aesthetics to function. Gone are the days when the cars were designed by Marlboro Men, with the sole intention creating something that would help separate women from their underwear at parties.
Now the cars are designed by pimply faced youths whose bodies crave sunlight and who have intimate knowledge of fluid dynamics and computer modeling and their idea of beauty revolves around a flawless subroutine and terahertz processor speeds.
As uninspiring as these modern cars are, there has been much worse thrust upon the F1-loving public. Witness, the 10 ugliest F1 cars in history.
The early-1970s was a particularly bad time for F1 cars. The still new fascination with wings led to some rather ridiculous, and often quite agricultural, combinations in an attempt to get downforce.
The Hesketh had an extra bit sticking out in front of the front wing—or the front-front wing as it is sometimes known. It actually looks like it could have been an element from the rear wing that they asked the apprentice to attach without giving him a complete set of instructions.
Also note the great anvil shaped air box that looks poised to give the driver a whack if he makes a mistake, although sitting in the hideous thing was already a fairly monumental mistake.
Looking like a car that had taken its design inspiration from Papa Smurf’s hat and blue hue, the Ligier JS5 was not unimpressive, but it was forgettable, scoring 20 points and only three podium finishes in the 1976 season.
The car’s chief designer, Gerard Ducarouge, made up for this head-scratcher when he designed the achingly beautiful JPS Lotus 97T. Still, we can’t forgive him for the JS5.
The BAR 01 was not, in itself, an ugly car. Instead, the FIA and British American Tobacco had to do some serious work to develop one of the worst liveries ever to be put on a racing car.
Originally, it was intended that the team have different paint schemes on each of their two cars. One was to be 555, the other to be Lucky Strike.
The FIA, however, pointed to their rulebook and advised BAR that the cars had to have substantially similar liveries.
The net result was that the cars were painted half in the blue and gold of 555, and the other in the red, white and black of Lucky Strike, and joined by a zipper motif down the middle.
The result was dreadful, and was indeed so hideous that the car actually lost the will to live, resulting in reigning world champion Jacques Villeneuve being unable to complete even one of his first 11 races.
The March F1 team has the dubious honour of having two cars in the top 10, and generally have a history of making quite unattractive cars.
Not satisfied with this noteworthy achievement, March also produced incredibly slow cars—by F1 standards, of course.
Having started out in by coming third in the constructor’s championship in 1970, the team went progressively downhill until they disappeared at the end of 1992.
By 1974, money must have been getting a bit tight, so they cleverly designed the 741 which, after it had finished racing, could be hired out as a snow shovel during the week. They even painted it in a day-glo orange so that you could find it in the snow when it broke down.
Here was another example of an okay looking car being trashed by a dreadful paint job.
Many people had no idea that the livery was actually a picture of the globe, stretched over an F1 car. To many, it looked as if MIB agents J&K had lined up a bunch of aliens and executed them next to the car.
The idea of trying to link one of the least environmentally friendly sports on the planet to an environmental initiative is courageous to say the least—although barking mad is perhaps a more apt description.
The message was lost, however, due to the fact nobody could tell that the livery was, in fact, the Earth. Perhaps it would have helped if the car was spherical. Given the dismal performance of the car, it probably wouldn’t have made things worse.
Brabham were real innovators in the absolutely loony F1 world. They were the first to really play with wind tunnels to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of their cars and also introduced a number of other technical innovations.
Innovation aside, the BT34-2—with its “lobster claw” front wing—was an aesthetic monstrosity, looking for all the world like it had been built out of Lego.
It was, however, the first car with an overhead airbox designed to force feed the engines, and it did carry the great Graham Hill to his last F1 win.
It was still ugly though.
The German Eifelland team competed in F1 for less than a year, which meant we were only subjected to the eccentric visual assault of the misleadingly named Type 21 for a little while.
With an air intake vaguely reminiscent of an upside down F16 fighter jet and the ridiculous centrally mount mirror, the car certainly stood out amongst its competitors.
The driver, poor old Rolf Stommelen, was too terrified to go fast, lest he crash and have that insanely placed mirror cleave his helmet and ventilate his brain.
In defense of flamboyant designer Luigi Colani, the finished product was nothing like his original concept design, and was largely a bastardisation of the March 721.
That should give you a hint as to why it was ugly.
In defense of the Renault R30, it comes from the 2009-10 class of F1 cars which are hamstrung by rule tinkering and regulation changes.
The Renault stands out because of its nausea-inducing paint scheme, and for being unable to better use the universally bulletproof color combination of black and yellow.
Since the rule changes at the end of the 2008 season, F1 cars now look like they were a product of the former East German design team that brought us the incomparable Trabant.
The tiny rear wings coupled with the massive and insanely complex front wings, with their splitters, diffusers, endplates, and all of the ticks and flicks added by those same old computer geeks.
Throw in the sharks fin and they all combine to produce a car that not even a mother could love.
Our second March entrant in this illustrious list is the 711.
Even if we allow for the fact that it was produced in the very early days of experimentation with wings and aero devices, this is still a very ugly car.
Common decency should have told the designers that it wouldn’t be a great idea to bolt an oversized serving tray to the front of the car, and do it in such a manner as to ensure that the full utility of the tray wasn’t lost.
It was vaguely reminiscent of one of those really weird dinosaurs that palaeontologists dig up from time-to-time, with a strange bony formation on its noggin to scare away predators.
T-Rex was nowhere to be seen on the grand prix tracks in 1971, maybe that’s thanks to the March 711.
While it is easy to admire the lateral engineering thought that goes into something as innovative as a six wheeled F1 car, it is slightly more difficult to look at it afterward.
Looking for all the world like it had stolen the design from the Thunderbirds’ Lady Penelope's pink Rolls-Royce, the P34 plumbed new depths in ugliness.
It was initially successful, but ultimately it was quickly surpassed by is competitors.
It looked big, heavy and cumbersome. Further, choosing to go with the small front wheels actually put them at a disadvantage as the tire manufacturers had not developed a tire to suit the car and deal with the rigors of F1 racing.
Though opinion is divided, for me it is the ugliest thing to ever drive on an F1 track.