Top 10 Coolest F1 Cars Ever

Robert Lewington@@RobertLewingtonContributor IIISeptember 12, 2012

Top 10 Coolest F1 Cars Ever

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    "Cool" is, of course, entirely subjective. 

    Even the definition of what cool means varies.  Indeed, some people might say the Red Bull RB8 is the "coolest" F1 car of 2012 because it has a cooling duct built-in to its stepped nose...

    But that is obviously not the kind of cool I'm talking about in this article.  What I'm talking about here are F1 cars that, by virtue of being different, innovative or beautiful, strike a chord in the viewer and make us say: "Wow, look at that."

    Some are not beautiful, some are not innovative, but all of them have something that makes us take a second look.  These are the types of cars that make F1 fans become F1 fans, the type of cars boys have posters of on their walls when they are young. 

    The main criterion here is how the cars look, but things like historical significance and craziness of design have also contributed.  The only judge is me, so feel free to disagree, agree or generally comment below.

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10. Alfa-Romeo-158/159

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    Why makes the Alfa 158/159 so cool?  Well, it's a big red car with a supercharged straight-8 cylinder engine and a great big twin exhaust running all the way along the side.  Already, that's pretty cool.

    But what really sets this car apart is what it achieved.  It was the first dominant F1 car, the one which won 47 of the 54 Grands Prix it entered, including every race it competed in during the first Formula One World Championship in 1950.  More remarkably, it did so as a car that had been built 12 years before.

    It was raced by men like Guiseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio, both of whom took it to World Championship glory, and it won on the historic configurations of Spa, Silverstone and Monaco.

    Looking at the car immediately evokes the feelings of grease, speed and danger that were inextricably linked to motor-racing in its early days.

    What could be cooler than that?

9. Tyrrell P34

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    If the Alfa was the first of its kind with regard to dominant F1 cars, the Tyrell takes the crown as the first of the short-lived six-wheelers.

    Unlike some other variants that would appear through the years, the Tyrell kept its two, huge rear tyres as normal but replaced the regular fronts with four smaller ones. 

    The theory here was that these would increase the total contact patch at the front of the cars, thereby increasing grip, as well as reducing the lift created by standard front wheels.

    It proved initially successful with drivers Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler recording a one-two finish at the 1976 Swedish, but the 1977 car struggled and the concept was dropped for '78.

    Nevertheless, the car has a special place in the pantheon of historic race cars.

8. Ferrari 641

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    The Ferrari 641 was just a beautiful car.  It was not incredibly revolutionary, nor was it the fastest car in the field for 1990, but it cut quite a dash.  It had a dramatically sloping nose, neatly packaged body and blood red paint job which makes the current Ferraris look positively orange.

    It did come hot on the heels of Ferrari's 1989 car, the 640, which had a revolutionary semi-automatic gearbox, and was subsequently quite successful. It was the first Ferrari driven by Alain Prost, and the Frenchman won five Grands Prix with it, with Nigel Mansell adding a further victory in Portugal. 

    Perhaps the most famous image of the the 641, however, is of it flying off the track at the first corner in Suzuka 1990, pushed out there by Ayrton Senna's McLaren in an infamous incident that saw Senna clinch the World Championship.

7. Williams FW26

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    This one could cause some controversy. 

    The Williams FW26 was an unusual looking beast, different from all the other cars of the 2004 season. What made it so different were its short, stubby nose and sloping vertical pillars, which combined to produce something akin to tusks.

    It was thenceforth known as the "walrus."

    But the design didn't really work.  Rather than build on the success of 2003 where driver Juan Pablo Montoya came close to winning the World Championship, the FW26 was a backward step.  It was not until the tusks were removed and a more conventional, pointier nosecone introduced in the latter part of the season that the Williams began to perform.

    But then it had lost what made it look cool.  So can a part of a car which doesn't function well but look interesting really be cool?  I'll leave that for you to decide for yourselves, but as a car which sticks long in the memory, it certainly makes my list.

6. Eifelland Type 21

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    Some would say "cool" is not the right word for the Eifelland Type 21. "Weird" is another one. "Slow" wouldn't be too far behind...

    But maybe the most apt of all is "rad," because this car certainly had a radical design.

    It went through many stages of design, becoming more conventional with each incarnation, but an ever-present was the bizarre, central, periscope-style rear-view mirror.

    Why on earth car designer Luigi Colani, who had not previously designed an F1 car, felt this was beneficial has never quite been determined.  The car's swooping lines (rather than conventional front and rear wings) were quite visually attractive though, and from a purely aesthetic perspective, the car certainly catches the eye.

    It's one of the great follies in Formula One history, but as a prototype formula, the sport is always richer for those who try to innovate...even if they don't succeed.

5. Brabham BT46b

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    More commonly known as the "fan car," the Brabham BT46b was one of the truly innovative cars in the history of F1.  Like the Tyrell P34, the Brabham is an example of when a manufacturer tried something really different.

    As a counter to the dominant "ground-effect" cars of the era, the BT46B sported a large fan on the back of the car which sucked air from underneath the floor, creating huge downforce.  Not only does this get into wacky races territory in terms of cool gizmos, but it holds another cool stat: a 100 percent winning record.

    While the team tried to argue that the fan was for increased cooling, no one was buying it, and the fan was banned after one race in this configuration.  Since Niki Lauda won that race at Anderstorp in Sweden, it goes down as a car that's never been defeated.

4. Ferrari 312T

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    By today's standards, it's almost inconceivable for a car to win four constructors' and three drivers' championships across five seasons, but that's exactly what the 312T series did.  There were changes to the car throughout this period, but it remains an incredible record for the same chassis.

    The car was aesthetically completely different from its predecessor, the 312B.  That car barely had a front-wing as we would recognise it today, rather just two small winglets on either side of the nose.  Otherwise the B was not far removed from the "cigar-tube" cars that had long since been prevalent in F1.

    The 312T was a complete revolution and could be seen as the first car that resembles the basic configuration of a modern F1 car.

    One of the outstanding visual features of the '75 car was the high air intake above the driver's head; in the image here, it almost looks like the driver is wearing a tall hat. Combine that with the short, compact overall car-length and the 312T is instantly recognisable.

     The 312T is one of the iconic F1 cars and that's what puts it so high in this list. 

3. Williams FW07D/FW08B

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    Another six-wheeler, this time from Williams. I've included both the FW07D and the FW08B here because they're both configurations of the same concept.

    While the Tyrell was the original, the Williams took the six-wheel concept and made it much more aesthetically pleasing.  Rather than having a huge sets of rear wheels and four (comparatively) tiny fronts, the Williams was more symmetrical, with all the tyres a similar size.

    The concept was also different. What the four rear wheels provided was a narrower overall profile for he car, thereby decreasing the drag created by huge rear wheels whilst still increasing the contact patch of the tyres. 

    The result was huge traction and grip that Williams hoped would compensate for their lack of a turbo engine as used by its competitors.

    Through testing, Williams developed modified versions of both the FW07 car and the FW08, both of which showed great promise despite their huge length and weight.

    But before the car could even be raced, the FIA announced that all F1 cars should have a maximum of four wheels, and so died the last of the six-wheelers.

2. Maserati 250F

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    The definitive "Mazza," the 250F marked Maserati's finest hour.  Even better than the image included here is the car with the famous trident badge emblazoned in chrome on the car's front grill.

    Like the Alfa 158, the 250F conjures up images of sporting titans risking their lives in the pursuit of speed and glory. 

    This is the car Fangio drove at the famous German Grand Prix of 1957: with 22 laps remaining he was 48 seconds behind race leader Mike Hawthorn; in those laps he broke the lap record at the Nürburgring 10 times, passing Hawthorn on the final lap for victory.

    Moments like that, in a car as beautiful as the Maserati, cannot be recreated.

    There was also a streamlined version with covered wheels like the Mercedes-Benz W196s.  These cars were indisputably beautiful, but it's the regular 250F that comes to mind first.

    Also driven to victory by the great Stirling Moss, this is one of the F1 classics.

1. Ferrari 156

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    I always said this would be a subjective list and I've proved that with my No. 1 choice: the Ferrari 156.  It was a photo of this car that was hanging in my grandfather's house when I was a child and that sparked my initial interest in Formula One.

    But the car was also interesting, innovative, fast and beautiful...all the things an F1 car should be.

    The "sharknose" (so called because of the distinctive double "nostrils" of the front air intakes) benefited from the change in engine regulations which changed the displacement limit of 2.5 litre to 1.5 litre.  Ferrari and its state-of-the-art V6 engine produced a dominant car, beaten only twice in the season, and Phil Hill used it to become the first American F1 champion.

    That the engine was named after Enzo Ferrari's late son Dino and that championship leader Wolfgang von Trips had a fatal accident in the car at Monza are sad but poignant facts. Unfortunately, death was an all too common part of F1 in the early 1960s.

    The sharknose front was eventually replaced on the 156, but it is this configuration that lives in the memory. A stunning car that epitomises Ferrari and F1.

    Follow the writer on Twitter @RobertLewington


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