Debate: Are 2007 F1 cars ugly?

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Every F1 car is an exercise in function over form.

But sometimes the by-product of ultimate speed is automotive beauty. Most F1 fans can reel off a list of the F1 cars they found the most attractive.

Today’s cars are distinctive for being peculiarly narrow – as demanded by the regulations – and bristling with finely detailed aerodynamic parts. They tend to produce extreme reactions – many find them hideous. What do you think?

To my eye, the most beautiful F1 cars ever include the dart-like Brabham BT52 of 1983, the classic Maserati 250F used from 1954-60, the svelte Lotus 49 of 1967-8 and the technicolour Benetton B189 used in 1989.

This is an entirely subjective matter. Many people abhor the cars of today but I think the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-22, with its chrome finish and intricate aerodynamics, is a very attractive car.

I do, however, profoundly dislike the way F1 cars are so narrow, and was disappointed that recent efforts to increase their maximum width failed.

Where do you stand on the ugly F1 cars debate?

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “Debate: Are 2007 F1 cars ugly?”

  1. I saw the RB3 up close recently and it was absolutely beautiful. All curves and details.

  2. Personally, I’m a little surprised to hear that. I love the sleek design of the contemporary F1 car. Mclaren’s MP4-22 is probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and Ferrari’s new shade of red has perhaps doubled its hotness. Shame that Honda abandoned the jet black livery they used in testing in favour of the earth car. I’m all in favour of their aspiration to save the world, but at what cost?

    As for yesterday’s cars, my favourite was always the Lotus 79. Probably in part down to nostalgia over the Scalextric model my brother owned.

  3. I agree with Toby – the aerodynamics of modern F1 cars make them look sleek, faster and more attractive on the eye.

    Best looking (modern) F1 car, to my mind, is the Renault R25 (2005). I really liked the shark gills on the engine cover. Although I also like the Lotus 72 and Williams FW14B (1992).

    Worst car (in any era) the Ferrari F310 (2006). For a Barnard designed car it was awful and looked like someone had stuck two hair dryers on either side of the tub.

  4. The F310 was an ugly duckling – even worse when they stuck the high nose on it (it was 1996, by the way).

  5. I quite like the modern F1 cars, from an engineering point of view.

    F1 for me is an Engineering endevor, and because of that the cars should be beutifull from that perspective (which the MP4-22, and the F2007 certaintly are).

    I do however agree that from a pleasant view for the most part the older cars are nicer, but that is because they are easier to understand by the layman in an engineering way.

  6. It’s all about personal taste, isn’t it? I see so many comments from people who love this year’s chrome McLaren yet, to my eye, it’s a mess not helped by a colour scheme that is confusing and fussy. I like simple and clean and so would suggest the Lotus 79 of 1978, the Brabham BT49 of 1981 or, the one I think the best of all, the Brabham BT50 of 1982 (the BT52 went too far and entered the realms of silliness, if you ask me).

    A lot depends on the era in which we started to follow F1 and what we are used to. Very few cars look good to everyone and the Maserati 250F is one of the few – it is archetypical of its time. It took me ages to accept wings when they first came out (and, let’s face it, they were just ugly add-ons to begin with) and that is why so many of the cars I think look good are from the ground effect era – by then the wings were integrated into the look of the car and simple shapes were dictated by the need to cut through the air while downforce was generated underneath the car.

    The banning of under-car venturis and skirts forced the designers to seek downforce by adding junk to the external bodywork and some very strange shapes resulted. To my mind, it’s all clutter and detracts from the car’s looks. Add the multi-coloured advertising and the car disappears beneath a welter of extraneous nonsense. The ones I see as easiest on the eye these days are the ones that have simplified their colour schemes and chosen a basic colour that allows the car to be seen – this year’s BMW is an example.

    But it’s taste, that’s all – plenty of people like the complicated styles of today.

  7. I must say I cannot stand the nose on the MP4-22,the rest of the car has great lines and flows well, but the front is horrendously ugly. Also the color choice was a mistake IMO. That being said the Renault’s schemes of past will forever be missed. Its a good thing that the rear end of the McLaren is all carbon fiber because thats all anyone has been seeing….

    I have to agree with Clive that(from a distance) the RB3 has a great front end and carries that all the way to the rear. Ironically so does the STR2.

    I’m too young to pull some old remote gem out of the memory banks, but I do love the elegance of the late 80’s. They had such a dynamic form, well every part still looks completely necessary yet all the cars had their own figure.

  8. I think the most good looking car of today was the Mclaren of 2006. The way it shines is just clever.

    But in my view, the best looking car of all was the 1996 Williams. Just a smoothly designed car wth no aerodynamic winglets. Just… Smooth.

  9. I find that interesting because I thought 1996 was a poor crop of cars aesthetically. The new cockpit dimension regulations of that season in particular produced some very unattractive cars including, I felt, the Williams.

    I see what you mean about its simple lines though. But I never really cared for the Rothmans colour scheme on the Williams either.

  10. Personally my only real issues with the cars today are those with particularly narrow front noses, like the Mclaren, and last year’s renault (which otherwise was quite beautiful, it looked almost like an aquatic being!). I just think they really look tacky and lack any real class.

    Otherwise, I think on the whole the colour schemes are awful – way too many colours going on, and no real defining images. I like the fact that renault seem to be heading towards a slightly more retro look with, with more emphasis on the blue and yellow of old (after the panning they got for the new ING colour scheme).

    having said that there have been some close ups from behind the mclaren this season, and the contours of the body of that car really do look remarkable!

  11. I agree with a lot of the commenters above. This year’s McLaren is a beauty. And I can see that, if it was given a nicer livery, the RB3 could be nice as well.

    I have also liked the look of Renault’s cars in recent years (probably 2004-2006), but this year’s car does not look as good to me for some reason. That could just be the dodgy paint job though!

    The F2002 was also good looking.

    And that 1996 Ferrari – yuk! Definitely one of the worst I can think of.

  12. everytime I look at the designs of cars few years back I tell myself “uuh, how weird they looked”

    in my opinion the cars are getting sleeker and nicer bar some crazy “towers” or “dumbo wings” ideas. the liveries though are quite boring … McLaren is an expemtion as they go in their high tech style, and perhaps Ferrari keeping the tradition (or returning back to it after few almost orange years). Toro Rosso, Honda liveries may look good on the design table, but look horrible on the track, Red Bull’s livery you can’t tell difference between their F1 car or some GP2 or other lower Formula’s running in RB colors …

  13. A lot of answers to this one.

    Thanks to film and a visit to the Indy 500 museum, I’d agree with Clive that although it’s about personal taste, I find the designs of the ground effects era easiest on my eyes. A part of me wishes that FIA would pass a law forcing the cars to have only up to two major aerodynamic surfaces and maybe two minor ones (so conventional T-wings or a lip may remain legal, but many of the other added surfaces do not. Does anybody know what Super Aguri’s “chicken” is yet?)

    I hate mentioning it here, but I find the specified design of the ChampCar or the A1GP car more appealing than the typical F1, not that I can’t name a few good tries this year. I suppose while I’m naming other single-seaters, IRL and Formula 3 cars tend to look cheap and old to me. (Sorry, Dallara.)

    Coincidentally, ChampCar did a piece on their liveries on their website:

    Note the use of the ‘carbon fiber’ look attempting to appeal to sport compact tuners in the US. The notion of selectively not painting sections is… a novel idea, anyway.

    My favorite liveries as far as looks (and looks alone) go belong to the cabooses of Spyker and Super Aguri; there’s something that looks “correct” about their cars until you read their scoresheets.

  14. The old goat here…… looks like Clive and I are the only two who remember when F1 cars really were works of art.
    The Maserati 250F is high on the list but nothing beats the Vanwall of 1957/58. I’m reviewing a dozen responders above and I’ll gamble a bottle of Bulmer’s Strongbow that dozen has no idea what Clive and I are talking about. But all of this chat reminds me of a thread a couple weeks ago concerning the SOUND of F1 cars. Friends, let us never forget neither sound or looks ever got a car to the podium !!!

  15. The new Mclarens are certainly sleek and stylish, but i really like the B186 benetton with multi coloured engine cover, and quite bizarrely the 1994 Pacific it was plain silver with dashes of colour rubbish car though but looked nice!

  16. Stealthman
    7th June 2008, 8:36

    I believe that today’s F1 cars look very smooth and flowing in their design – very beautiful – but I also like designs from the ’50s and earlier. One example, the pre-war Mercedes-Benz W125. Now that looked tough, fast and beautiful. I loved the shape of the Vanwalls of the ’50s, so sweet and simple. The Ferrari Dino 246 was nice too. But for the record, apart from the Lotuses and Eagle-Westlakes, cars of the ’60s looked like cigars on wheels. And the only modern F1 car I don’t like is the ’08 BMW. Those twin ridges on the nosecone that blend into small wings just sicken me…

  17. Personally, colour schemes over the last couple of seasons have been rubbish and it’s partly the reason why these cars look ugly. Take the Renault ING livery, it looks like someone’s failed attempt to make an omelette. They really need to go back to their blue and yellow paint scheme. I’m also not a fan of the darker red on the Ferrari.

    On the aerodynamics, I find some of the details put on the cars quite good looking, like the ‘Viking wings’ on the top of the Mclaren, but others like Honda’s ‘Dumbo wings’ are hideous, I guess that’s a matter of personal opinion.

    As for 2009, slick tyres always look better on an F1 car. I think the aero regulations will make the cars look a bit less modern than this year’s, but I hope they’ll be a lot more fun to watch

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