2009 F1 cars and 2008 cars compared

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Ferrari F60 and F2008 (click to enlarge)

It’s only when you get a look at pictures of the 2009 F1 cars alongside their 2008 predecessors that you realise how drastic the new 2009 rules are.

Here’s some pictures of the 2009 Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Toyota alongside last year’s cars.

Update – Pictures of all the 2009 F1 cars here:

Ferrari: F60 (2009) and F2008 (2008)

Ferrari F60 and F2008 (click to enlarge)
Ferrari F60 and F2008 (click to enlarge)

The top picture of the F60 and F2008 alongside each other shows not just how much wider the front wings are this year – but also how much lower they are. This is a major change over recent seasons where on several occasions the FIA has required teams to increase the heights of their front wings in a bid to make them work less effectively and reduce cornering speeds.

The incredible intricacy and sophistication of 2008-style F1 aerodynamics is out the window this year – with a few small exceptions. The odd pile of squiggles in front of the Ferrari side pods (also on the Williams FW31 and Toyota TF109) shows the rule makers haven’t been entirely successful in eradicating complex aerodynamics.

Ferrari have reduced the size of their exhausts which, as seen on the launch car above, were thought not to comply with the 2009 regulations. See this picture from testing yesterday.

McLaren: MP4/24 (2009) and MP4/23 (2008)

McLaren MP4-24 and MP4-23 (click to enlarge)

McLaren began testing this week using the 2009 car but with the 2008 rear wing. Am I the only one who thought it looked absolutely brilliant? The lower, wider rear wing looked great with the front wing in similar proportions. I’m not sold on the high, narrow rear wings yet – unless it turns out they really do allow the cars to follow each other more closely. See video of the McLaren testing here.

McLaren didn’t provide many studio pictures of its car when it was launched but some more recently became available. You can see them in the launch picture gallery here: McLaren MP4/24 revealed – pictures and video.

BMW: F1.09 (2009) and F1.08 (2008)

BMW F1.08 and F1.08 (click to enlarge)
BMW F1.08 and F1.08 (click to enlarge)

From its launch specification BMW’s F1.08 sprouted yet further aerodynamic appendages, becoming one of the visually complex creations on the 2008 grid. Much of that is gone now, but you have to wonder whether their famed Computations Fluid Dynamics-calculating supercomputer Albert II has helped them find better solutions to the challenges of the 2009 rules than their rivals have.

The square endplates on the front wing make it one of the less attractive 2009 racers for me.

Toyota: TF109 (2009) and TF108 (2008)

Toyota TF109 and TF108 (click to enlarge)
Toyota TF109 and TF108 (click to enlarge)

The high, narrow nose distinguishes the TF109 from its rivals rather like McLaren’s MP4-16 did in 2001. Many of these side-on shots give the impression that while the cars total overall length remains roughly the same in 2009, the wheelbase has gotten shorter.

If we get some studio pictures of the Renault R29, Williams FW31 and the other cars yet to be launched this year I’ll re-visit this post with some more images.

As ever I’d like to hear your opinions on that so please leave comments below. Editable versions of these images can be found on the F1 Fanatic drop.io for you to have a look at, and of course you can upload your own versions there as well. Here’s IDR’s mash-up of the Ferrari, Williams and McLaren:

2009 F1 car launch pictures

Images copyright: Ferrari – Ferrari spa; McLaren – www.mclaren.com; BMW – BMW ag; Toyota – Toyota F1 World

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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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55 comments on “2009 F1 cars and 2008 cars compared”

  1. Pedro Andrade
    23rd January 2009, 10:29

    With the exception of Toyota, I can now say that I prefer 2009-spec cars!

  2. I think the cars of 2009 are better for racing. As for looks I’d love to see a 2009 car with only 2008 front and rear wings.

  3. I think we need to admit the new cars look better. the 08 cars look so bulky and square whereas the 09 cars look sleak and clean.

  4. 2009 cars are actually really cool looking!!!!!

  5. Nice article, it really shows up what a mess the 2008 cars were.

    1. Yes, looking at the plan view of the two Ferraris makes you realise how cluttered and…ugly… the F2008 is compaired to the F60.

  6. I’m going to miss the 2008 spec cars. Contrary to many I like all the appendages as it shows the ingenuity of the designers. But I must say the 2009 models are slowly growing on me….

    1. One day we’ll look back at this and see how pioneering and incredible the pace of development was up to 2008. I love the purity of the new designs, but I also love the complexity and functionality of the bizzare looking spiky BMW F108. I like the F2008 best from above for the same reason, although the McLaren wasnt great from that view.

    2. Yeah Chaz,
      I feel the same way.
      I loved the wings and horns and creases and all the extraneous add ons…

      I am really going to miss the curves at the leading edge under the front wings,
      and the whole ferrari nose,
      the bmw snout horns,
      the mclaren nose-wing,
      and the mclaren high horns etc.

      They gave each car a distinct personality and added a whole dimension of trying to understand what the aerodynamicist was thinking, or going for.

      Did they add to the racing, though?
      probably not…

  7. Prefer 2009, no doubt. Too many winglets on 2008 bodies.
    Now I expect incredible development on aerodynamics on front wing sides, which is the only place thay’re allowed. They already started with double surfaces profiles or biplane or triplane wings…
    Great the rear wing of the new McLaren I saw in some Portimao test session images.

  8. schumi the greatest
    23rd January 2009, 12:54

    i do like the look of the new cars, more basic, the 08’s were full of little niggly bits for aero effect and stupid looking “dumbo” wings

  9. Don’t mind the new nose and not sold on the tail, but these are the first pics that have made me realize how waspy the body is on the 2009 cars. I like it.

    Ugh, I forgot what a pig the MP4/23 looked like from above.

    Can’t wait to see the Williams comparisons, they’ve been my favorite launch car so far this year.

    Thanks for the post Keith!

  10. As far as looks go, the best package would 2009 car with 2008 wings.

    I didn’t like most of the extra aero pieces on the old cars, but the wings on the 2009 still look wierd to me. The rear wing especially doesn’t look right to me, it is to narrow and tall.

  11. The 2009 cars are a step in the right direction.
    Just make the rear wheels 2 inch (5 cm) wider and move the front wheels out 2 inch (5 cm) on each side making the car 190 cm wide in total.
    Then make the front wing no wider than to the inside of the front wheels and perhaps allow free adjustment of the
    entire frontwing.

  12. After reading this, I really must be honest, the 2009 spec cars are great! I just hope the racing turns out as good as they’d like us to think it will!

  13. yorricksfriend
    23rd January 2009, 15:00

    These camparisons are great, I think I’m getting there as far as the rear wings are concerned – they still look too tall and skinny to me, but last years a looking to short and wide, hopefully by March it won’t even need to think about it.
    I also hadn’t realised how much higher the nose cone itself is in 2009 compared to 2008, the noses really drooped quite a bit last year!

  14. I guess I didn’t realise how complicated the design of last year’s car was. Chaz said the winglets showed the ingenuity of the designers, but I have to disagree. The efficiency of a simple design is much more beautiful than the idea that is- let’s face it- overdone. I also didn’t realize how I can’t wait for the season to begin…

  15. I thought that the small protrusions from the nose cone (between the front suspension and front wing on the overhead ferrari/mclaren 2008 cars, over the suspension on the BMW) were dummy camera housings, replaced with live cams for different cars each race.

    I can’t see them on the 2009 spec cars, so does this mean we’ve lost a camera angle this year? (admittedly not one of the best ones)

  16. I’m going to stick my foot out and say I still prefer the older looks.

    True, the 2009 specs look like cars of yesteryear glory days, and they are much more elegant than their recent counterparts, I can admit that. But the lines and the curves just don’t do it for me – not in F1 at least.

    When I tried to describe what goes on during an F1 race (the ongoing telemetry monitoring, the strategies, the reactions to weather) to a non-F1 fan, she later proclaimed “wow, it’s like they’re all at war.” And I think the 2008 machines probably epitomised that look – as war machines, as fighters.

    And before the 1998 rule changes, the cars were wider, had bigger engines, and looked mean. They looked less mean in 1998, but they still had an edge. In fact, in most years throughout F1 history the cars seem to have an edginess, or some other quality without a name…something which the 2009 cars seem to lack, they just look so….tame. Elegant – but tame.

    In other words, I feel these 2009 cars no longer retain the soul of aesthetics (and I’m talking aesthetics alone) of F1 cars that I have been accustomed to. It’s like the machine has been taken out the garage and placed into a lab…it’s almost clinical, and softened to the point where it might as well purr when started.

    Judging by the responses already, I know I’m probably alone in this respect, but I just can’t go with the flow on this one quite yet.

    It’s not just the disproportionate look of the front and rear wings for me now, it’s just the car as a whole doesn’t light anything up for me :(

    I really hope now that the racing is much better as a result of all these changes.

  17. I’m not a fan of either year. The 08’s were way too busy to be attractive and the 09’s are ungainly. The out-of-proportion wings make them an aesthetic disaster.

    Is it me, or are the cars so similar that it looks like NASCAR designed the things? I think it’s sad when the most obvious differentiator between the cars is the paint! It makes me more appreciative of the wilder experiments that happened in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

    Ah well. I’m sure I’ll watch the racing, as ever.

    Carolyn Ann

  18. Does the front wing have to be so wide? Seems to me that a team with a narrower front wing, like the 2008 car, will be less likely to knock it off. The loss of downforce could be compensated by an extra wing, like the Fokker WW1 fighter.

    That front wing is SO wide and SO close to the ground that drivers will be knocking them off on the kerbs (Imola springs to mind) barriers at Monaco. I can see drivers being too afraid to overtake, lest they clip a rear wheel.

    Add to that the extra complexity of the movable flaps making the nose more difficult to change and I smell an rule change in April!

  19. I prefer the new cars.

    I prefer the clean look, they look a lot more sleek without bits hanging off of them.


    McLaren began testing this week using the 2009 car but with the 2008 rear wing. Am I the only one who thought it looked absolutely brilliant?

    No, I thought exactly the same thing, from side on the new rear wings look good but from any other angle they just look silly.
    I don’t mind about the height so much but the width of them makes them look like the teams brought the 70% models they use in the wind tunnels.

    Surely they could reduce downforce & turbulence with a single horizontal element of reduced surface area & curvature in the rear wing but still have it the same width of the old ones ?

    I thought the front wings looked a bit weird when I first saw them but they’ve grown on me.

  20. The fact that the cars look “sleeker” because the appendages that made them faster are now removed is only ironic. But so it goes. Keeping speed and costs under control is necessary, but celbrating aesthetic Luddism is heresy in the temple of speed.

    In any event, its good to see the designs vary significantly. You dont have to look closely to see signficant variations in wing design, nose profiles, barge boards, sidepods, and that’s just what we can see from the outside. The engineers clearly had a struggle with a new variety of concepts and solutions.

  21. 09 cars look sleek and clean compared to the 08 cars.

  22. HounslowBusGarage
    23rd January 2009, 21:05

    Interesting that MacLaren is the only team (so far) to have gone with the short, stubby aerofoil between the nose and the front wheels.

  23. They really look incredibly primitive!

    I loved all the curves, sculpted bits and apendages of the old cars, they were a result of science applied, form following function, and while the new cars look slicker and purer, they also lack that “edgy” look, that “hey look at that, that’s got to be some incredibly advanced racer!” look.

    I stand, they new cars are primitive as IRL. We’ll end up with nascars in no time.

    I totally agree with Loki, they looked like fighters and now… well, they are dull.

  24. Sorry to go against almost everyone, but i prefer the complex 2008 than 2009 cars. 2009 cars seem like early 1990 cars, and so they don’t look modern and technological (and they aren’t. Aerodinamically speacking of course). I hope it is worth it in terms of racing. And i bet it does since they cant get much worse, even though someone will utterly dominate 2009 and we must wait a few years to have a field as close as 2008 to see if the cars can run close.

  25. I prefer the 2008 cars. Always a huge fan of aerodynamics.

    Also; interesting to note that; the sidepods of Ferrari and Toyota are almost unchanged from last year. While those on Mclaren, BMW are hugely different.

    Theoretically; the sidepods should get smaller on account of reduced engine RPM, but also get bigger for cooling of KERS system. So, my assumption is they should be roughly of same size again.

    Funny, we see the 2 teams against KERS (Ferrari, Toyota) who adhere to the above theory, while the 2 teams who are ahead in their KERS development have extremely small sidepods.

  26. the 2009 cars look fantastic, except for team R. i hope williams keep their white lettering on blue.

  27. Keith, care to make a graph with how the opinion of posters has shifted from 2009 F1 cars look ugly to “the new cars look better than last year’s”?
    As for me myself I’ll take credit for saying the the 2009 cars did not look bad the day BMW showed the new wings in December (posting as Jose back then, I changed my nick since there are too many spanish fans called Jose). I agree that the front wing is a bit too wide, but the cars look mean, as a racing car should.
    Less elegant and more aggressive? Sure, bring it on!
    Anyways, anyone wants to bet that the wings will be way more curvy and sophisticated come march?

  28. I’m amazed how similar the cars look to the 2008 models. Just think away all the flaps and aero crud and the overall shape lying beneaht is pretty similar to what is presented now.

  29. I love the deeper shade of red Ferrari has used for the F60. It makes my mouth water. :)

  30. I definitely prefer the ’08 cars, the new ones are boring to look at.

  31. Are the Ferrari exhausts legal?

    1. The 2009 cars are ridiculously ugly. I mean unnecessarily ugly. What were they thinking???

    2. I think Ferrari did have to change them afterwards..

      Nice car though! Love the deep red colour!

  32. Ben,

    Exactly what I thought. 2009 cars are way too plain. I thought 2008 cars were beautiful!

  33. The ’08 cars were far better looking than the ’09 ones.

  34. Kubica has a point with his concerns about the front wings flying off at the start of mmelbourne. They are huge compared to the 08 models.

    The Ferrari and McLarens look better in 09 while the BMW looks a LOT better in 08. I like the minimalistic look of the newer cars. I really liked the 89-92 cars.

  35. William Wilgus
    28th January 2009, 5:45

    I certainly agree that the front & rear wings are not visually proportional to each other—or the car! I do like the `new look’ otherwise, however. The new cars look more like cars than an aerodynamicist’s nightmare.

    I agree too, that there will be a lot of wings lost. I’ve always thought that using the kerbs was `cheating the track’ and dis-liked the practice. I hope the new front wings will eliminate that practice.

  36. I think that the 2009 cars lookm pretty poor compared to 2008. thanq FIA for further ruining F1.

    1. I hope this F1 still survive for the next years with such a lot of changes.

  37. This really makes the new cars look nice

  38. Because the rear wing is behind the rear axle, downforce on the rear wing leads to upforce at the front of the car. So if you reduce the size of the rear wing (and presumably its downforce), you can reduce the size of the front wing and keep the same aerodynamic balance.

    They should have reduced the front wing, because it is much too wide now. Drivers will be nervous to drive aggressively for fear of losing the wing, especially at the start of races. In other words, less exciting racing. Nice one, FIA.

    The new cars look fine, except for the front wing, which is just ridiculously wide.

    1. I agree with you. Less front wings.

    2. I agree. The front wings make them look like extremely fast dusters.

  39. what is the ponit when they are all going to have old ford motors in the back if there are any teams left to race

    1. We hope that never happens because this F1 will be the same as A1gp. All cars with the same specs except pilots and that´s not the escence of F1.

  40. Hi guys, long time no blog. But I’m back for another year where I’ll no doubt have to argue the point in defence of my beloved Ferrari’s…..and yes I still have that huge chip on my shoulder ;-)

    As for the topic at hand, I was hoping someone more edumacated on the technical side of F1 could tell me why, if and approximately how many times the wheel base i.e. width went from wide at the rear and narrower at the front to the opposite in 2009. At the same time will (or won’t)this have an affect on the centre of gravity? I know the drivers are pros but surely even they would have (and maybe still do) felt strange getting into their new rides.

    For the record I like the new cars.

  41. I like the 2009 cars a lot better. The 2008 cars were cool, but they had too much crap hanging off them. If things were not change there would just be more and more winglets everywhere. It is more relevant to road cars by using ingenious bodywork to generate downforce rather than just pooping winglets on.

  42. Where is the Renault?

    1. It hadn’t been launched at the time this article was written (23/1/09). Pics of all the cars here: F1 2009 season

  43. I prefer the old one, it looks better, and I believe that the drivers will need more time to adjust themselves for the new setting which may allow others such as Toyota, Redbul, and Force India to be more competitive.

  44. Who is Alice?

  45. the huge 2009 rear wings make them ugly, so i prefer the more sophisticated 2008 cars; to bad we don’t have an official f1 2008 game :(

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