Ever since the Formula 1 World Championship began way back in 1950, the aesthetics of car design have wowed motorsports fans just as much as the superstar drivers who had the privilege of racing them.
Each season, F1 teams unveil their multi-million-dollar racing cars with advanced power units, aerodynamics, cooling systems, and most importantly, sexy exteriors or ‘liveries’ in a wide range of colors to reflect the country and sponsors behind.
Ranking these great-looking cars of the past and present is as big a challenge as ranking the best driver or constructors. We’ve been through many crazy cars ever to grace F1, but what about the most beautiful-looking cars to race in the sport?
If you’re looking for some F1 merchandise, check out the awesome stuff at the official F1 store here.
These are my top 18 best-looking cars of all time:
1. Jordan 191 – 1991 Season
Most of you might be familiar with this car as it is Michael Schumacher’s first F1 car. The little back story about that one of the Jordan drivers went into prison before the Belgian Grand Prix Schumacher was contracted to Mercedes at the time but was signed by the team after Mercedes paid $150,000 for his debut.
In terms of performance, the car wasn’t anything special with the best result of fourth, and they came fifth in the Constructors Championship with 13 points. In the end, what makes this car stand out is the green and the blue color scheme. It’s some of the very well-known brands like 7-UP, Tic-Tac, Fujifilm. These are not the brands we are used to seeing in Formula One.
There’s a fascinating story about team owner Eddie Jordan finding sponsors for the team. Eddie made a list of every company in the world that had the green color in their logo or was involved in their brand. He went up to those companies and said, if you sponsor my car, I will make it clean, and it worked.
2. McLaren MP4/27 – 2012 Season
The McLaren MP4-27 was designed by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for the 2012 Formula One season. They achieved 7 wins, 8 poles, and third place in the Constructors Championship in 2012.
The car looked magnificent and, by far and away, was the best-looking car on the grid. The MP4-27 was one of three 2012 cars not to have the so-called “platypus” nose, instead opting for a gradually sloped nose. The Ferrari and the Red bull had a noticeable drop in the front of the car, which made them very unpleasant on the eye.
The McLaren featured the stunning combination of chrome and red, with the Vodafone sponsorship adding to the glitter. It’s just a very sleek, clean clean-looking Formula One car, which is rare to see nowadays.
3. Renault R26 – 2006 Season
Driven by Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, it successfully won eight races, seven poles, and 19 podiums. In 2006, they won the drivers and constructors championships with Fernando Alonso beating Michael Schumacher for the driver’s Championship.
I first saw this car, and it was on Top Gear when Richard Hammond got to drive it. That color combination is so vibrant. It pops completely with the bright yellow and blue of the sponsors.
The car is also known for its elaborative implementation of the ‘shark gills, ‘ giving it a scary look. For me, the R26 driven by Fernando Alonso is amongst the most successful and beautiful looking Formula One cars of all time with its standout livery, amazing aerodynamics, and a fantastic driver.
4. Onyx Ore-1 – 1989 Season
Onyx ore F1 is not the team we hear about every day. They’ve only competed in the 1989 and 1990 seasons, and they didn’t have a successful run. The team participated in 26 World Championship Grands Prix (25 starts) and scored six World Constructors’ Championship points.
Its best result was third place, in the 1989 Portuguese Grand Prix, for Stefan Johansson. If we move on to the looks of the car, which we are focusing on in this article, it was nice. The car’s shape looks like a standard late 80s early 90s car which is what I like. It looks clean with the use of blue on the base and pink detailing on the edges.
The only thing I’m not sure about is the white on the front. I feel like they could have used the white a bit better. This livery reminds me of a reversed-colored 2019 Racing Point car, but the tones of the colors used in this car are way better than the Racing Point.
5. Williams FW 14 – 1991 Season
The Williams FW14 was designed by Adrian Newey and used by the Williams team during 1991 and 1992. The car went on to win 17 races, 21 pole positions, and 38 podiums. It came second in the Constructors in 91 and then, of course, dominated the 92 World Constructors
Championship with Nigel Mansell winning the World Drivers championship.
The design was so promising that it tempted Nigel Mansell to shelve his plans to retire from the sport and rejoin Williams from Ferrari. From a visual point of view, the car was very easy on the eye as it had a brilliant color combination of Dark blue, Yellow, and White.
It also had a dash of red on its sides to make its sponsors look more active. The entire body was very smooth and uncluttered – bargeboards and complicated aero flicks hadn’t quite arrived just yet. The Williams FW14 was so popular with fans that Codemasters brought this into their game as classic cars in F1 2013, F1 2018, and F1 2019.
6. Lotus 97T – 1985 Season
The Lotus 97T was designed by Gérard Ducarouge and built by Team Lotus for use in the 1985 Formula One World Championship. This car will be remembered by many as Ayrton Senna took his maiden F1 win with this at the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix.
The car had the iconic color combination of black and gold, which was a thing of beauty in itself. What is amazing is that if you look closely, all the sponsors have the same color, a bright gold which is quite rare as sponsors want to have their color.
The distinctive yellow helmets of Senna added to the appeal and helped produce some iconic images. Owing to its popularity among fans, Senna’s 97T was added to Gran Turismo 6 as part of the game’s new feature, “Ayrton Senna Tribute,” the Gold Leaf livery.
7. McLaren MP4/4 – 1988 Season
The car was designed by American engineer Steve Nichols and what a legacy it had. Mclaren used this for both the 1988 and 1989seasons. This was a car back in its glory days that Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost drove. This majestic-looking car won 15 times in 16 races, making it the most dominant car in F1 history.
It’s another tobacco-sponsored car we have here. It has one of the best color combos of all time. The contrast between that incredible paintwork, the Marlboro livery, and the day glow red McLaren and Ayrton Senna’s famous yellow helmet makes it an all-time classic.
The MP4/4 was voted the greatest Formula 1 car by a panel of Formula 1 engineers and designers. It was also voted as the greatest race car of the 20th century by Autosport readers. In Codemasters F1 2017, the MP4/4 is available as a classic Formula 1 car in the “Special Edition” of the game.
It is available for free in the following F1 2018, F1 2019, and F1 2020 games.
8. Brawn BGP 001 – 2009 Season
The Brawn BGP 001 was originally designed to become the Honda RA109. Owing to the poor performance of the Honda team in 2008, the team made a relatively early start in designing the 2009 car.
The team went on to win the 2009 Drivers and Constructors Championship in a rare underdog story in Formula One. The team, in the process, became the first to achieve a 100% championship success rate.
The car featured white, fluorescent chartreuse yellow, and black colors. Fun Fact: Jenson Button hated the colors when it first came out as he thought it was dull. It was not just Jenson as the fans were very critical of the design as it was just white with fluorescent strips.
In the beginning, the team barely had any sponsors, with Virgin being the sole sponsor to feature on the car. But after a while, the design clicked with fans, and you can find this beauty on almost every top 10 best looking F1 car of all time. It may not be the most glamorous car of all time but surely one of the most unique and iconic ones.
9. Mercedes F1 W05 – 2014 Season
The Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid, originally known as the Mercedes F1 W05, was a highly successful Mercedes-Benz Formula One racing car designed and developed under Bob Bell, Aldo Costa, Geoff Willis. The car was both stunning in terms of performance and aesthetics.
Mercedes went with their traditional silver, black and turquoise palette, but this was arguably their best-looking version yet. The use of black on the side of the rear wing made the car much more striking, while the transition from silver to black on the engine cover was very effective.
Turquoise now ran from behind the front tires down along the car’s body into the side pods. The black spots on the car, though, were also a nice defining feature on the engine cover, which showed off a large Mercedes-Benz logo. Though it may not have some classic features that we have seen in cars of yesteryears, you have to admit the car is beautiful to look at.
10. Ferrari F2004 – 2004 Season
The F2004 is one of the most successful Formula One racing cars used by Ferrari for the 2004 Formula One season. The chassis was designed by Aldo Costa, Marco Fainello, and James Allison. Driven most famously by Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, the legendary car went on to win the team’s 6th straight Constructors’ Championship and 5th
straight Drivers’ Championship for Michael Schumacher, his 7th and final, world drivers’ title in 2004.
It had the usual red and white with the cigarette branding of Marlboro on the engine cover, adding a timeless touch to it. What I find amazing is that if you search up F1 cars on Google Images, if you can see all the modern cars, you can see Michael Schumacher’s 2004 Ferrari right there, and it’s because it is so iconic.
11. McLaren MP4-13 – 1998 Season
The McLaren MP4/13 was when the McLaren team competed in the 1998 Formula One World Championship. The chassis was designed by Adrian Newey, Steve Nichols. It was driven by the duo of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard.
The MP4/13 proved to be the dominant car of the season, with Häkkinen winning eight races en route to his first Drivers’ Championship, while McLaren won their first Constructors Championship since 1991 as of 2020, their last.
The dawn of the 1998 season would mark the beginning of a transformation for McLaren, both from a commercial and technological standpoint, as the newly built MP4/13 competed dressed in a black, silver, and white livery promoted McLaren’s new title sponsor, the German tobacco company, West.
The team’s stunning new livery was topped off with a red-tipped nosecone. Along with West, the team also signed on with a fresh list of supplementary sponsors, such as Computer Associates Sun Microsystems, SAP, and Kenwood. Mclaren cars always had something special about them, and this beauty is no different.
Codemasters introduced the MP4/13 in the video game F1 2017 as a classic car. It also appears in F1 2018 and F1 2019.
12. Red Bull RB6 – 2010 Season
The Red Bull RB6 is an F1 car designed by Red Bull Racing for the 2010 campaign. The car was designed by Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey, who later claimed that the car was “probably the car with the most downforce in the F1 History”.
The car went on to win the first of four consecutive World Constructors’ Championships for Red Bull Racing, and Sebastian Vettel took the first World Drivers’ Championship of his career at the last round of the season.
The RB6 came primarily dressed in Red Bull’s company color of blue and featured metallic silver flourishes on the car’s aerodynamical plates. Red Bull’s trademark charging bull logo was seen on the car’s nose cone and the engine case, reprising a trait he previously featured on Red Bull sponsored Formula One liveries.
The car also possessed a faint chequered flag motif and red, blue, and silver stripes that ran horizontally along with the car, accentuating the car’s aerodynamical properties. The 2010 season Pepe jeans as sponsors, as the Spanish clothing brand took on space upon the front of the car’s side pods.
For me, It’s the best-looking Red Bull car as the car was spot on in every aspect.
13. Jaguar R4 – 2003 Season
The Jaguar R4 is a Formula One car with which Jaguar Racing competed in the 2003 Formula One season. It was driven by Mark Webber, Antônio Pizzonia, and Justin Wilson.
The R4 came painted in green, which is, of course, the national racing color of Great Britain, with the major breaking color coming in the form of the red and white company colors of investment banking firm, HSBC, which had previously sponsored the team since its Stewart Grand Prix days.
The livery was topped off with the famous leaping. The Jaguar logo cleverly conformed with the shape of the car’s engine case. The 2003 season saw the team entering the R4 chassis, which promoted the jaguar’s new XJ model on its side pods. The car design and color choice were stylish and were easily amongst the best-looking car on the grid.
14. BMW Sauber F1.06 – 2006 Season
The 2006 season saw German automakers BMW purchase a controlling interest in the team.
Following BMWs acquisition of a majority stake in the team, the first car produced by the new team was the BMW-Sauber F106, which came painted and BMW’s traditional racing colors of white, red, and dark blue, and even featured twin blue decals on the car’s nose cream, a feature synonymous with BMW-powered Formula one cars.
Petronas remained as the team’s fuel supplier and occupied their usual position on the car’s side pods and rear wing, joined by Credit Suisse, which took on a position on the monocoque and the sides of the rear wing. The new livery was an instant hit with the fans, and I would love to see it again on a racing circuit.
15. Ligier JS5 – 1976 Season
Being the sole French team in Formula One at its debut, it was only right that the Ligier JS5 came painted in Les Blues.
Throughout 21 seasons, the presence of the French national racing color would remain a feature of Ligier team liveries, much like the team’s loyal sponsor, Gitanes, which was seen in earnest upon Ligier’s first Formula One chassis.
The JS5 was designed by Gérard Ducarouge and Michel Beaujon and came outfitted with a Matra V12 engine. Shell and Goodyear were signed on as technical partners, as the team competed as a single-car entrant during its debut season.
The JS5 was notable for its large teapot-shaped air box, which made expert use of Gitanes branding in the form of its trademark gypsy dancer. Ligier’s chiefly blue livery also featured cadences of white and red and remained mostly unchanged throughout the team’s formative seasons.
16. Lotus T127 – 2010 Season
The Mike Gascoigne-designed Lotus T127, powered by Cosworth engines, came with a livery that paid its respects to the long and proud history of the Lotus name.
The car’s British racing green paint job, augmented with a classic yellow stripe, called back to the archetypical color scheme used by the original Team Lotus. The car was mostly sponsored by a consortium of private companies, commercial partners, and government backers associated with Team Principal Tony Fernandes.
The team had absolutely nothing to show for with its on-track performance, but its stunning looks are sorely missed by many even today.
17. Toyota TF 102 – 2002 Season
The Toyota TF102 was the car the Toyota team competed in the 2002 Formula One season, the team’s inaugural Championship campaign.
The team ran with a predominantly white livery which featured red brushstrokes angled diagonally across the car. Panasonic was signed on as the team’s title sponsor and was seen on the car’s side pods and rear wing in contrasting blue text.
The TF 102 also featured a rising sun, hidden away behind the driver’s helmet, acknowledging the team’s Japanese heritage. The car also carried a list of smaller sponsors, including Travelex, Wella, Ebon Dacs, Ratiopharm, Avex, and EMC2.
18. Jordan 197 – 1998 Season
The Jordan 197 was the Formula One car with which the Jordan team competed in the 1997 Formula One World Championship.
The new livery replaced its main color of gold with an ultra-luminous canary yellow. This color would become closely associated with the team throughout the remainder of its Formula One tenure. The most remarkable feature of the 1997 livery was the introduction of an animal theme which first came in the form of a deadly python with its fangs extended and its bright red tongue, which flailed along with the chassis.
The black portions of the livery were stylized as scaly snakeskin, and in countries that disallowed tobacco adverts, Benson & Hedges became “Bitten and Hisses.” Upon the sides of the front wing, the team’s nose cone artist, S. Oliver, was credited.
All-in-all, Jordan’s bright new motif was a very busy yet well-balanced livery and underlined Jordan’s effervescent attitude to racing. Oliver’s artwork would again feature on the bodywork of the Mugen-Honda-powered 198 chassis, this time in the form of a dangerous hornet with bulging red eyes. The rear of the car featured hornet’s stripes, as well as a stinger just above the car’s rear axle.
Wow, what a beauty this was.
There you have it—my top 18 best-looking cars of all time. We may not agree on the ranking, but we can all agree that the joy of watching these cars go around a Formula One Circuit is boundless.