Although some would argue that the recent dominance of Mercedes F1 team has made Formula 1 as a sport a little boring and predictable, I believe that we have been incredibly fortunate to bear witness to one of the longest sustained periods of dominance by a single constructor. It cannot be argued that this is a marvellous feat of engineering. As we close in on the start of the 2022 season, we can only wait in anticipation to see which team will come out on top. Will be a close battle between multiple teams up to the final race? Or will we see one team rise above the rest to clinch the Championship with ease? Let’s have a look at some of the cars which put team and driver in no doubt as to the outcome of the season… at the top of the standings.
10. McLaren MP4/2 (1984-1986)
With 22 wins over 48 races (spread over 3 seasons), the McLaren MP4/2 perhaps isn’t the outright fastest car on this list. But its longevity at or near the top of the standings warrants a spot on this list.
The car took the Constructor’s Championship for the Woking-based outfit two years on the bounce in 1984 and ’85, narrowly missing out to Williams in 1986 after the latter introduced significantly more powerful Honda engines for that season. However, the car managed to clinch Drivers’ crowns for 3 consecutive years, the first for Niki Lauda and the next two for Alain Prost.
The 1986 season only yielded four wins for the MP4/2, but Prost’s undeniable consistency proved vital for him to secure the World Drivers’ Championship.
Interestingly, the car was never a speedy qualifier. This is because McLaren decided to only use one engine for the whole weekend whereas most other teams opted to have a more powerful but fragile engine for qualifying and a more reliable solution for Sundays. Nevertheless the MP4/2 was the class of the field come race day, at times lapping a couple of seconds faster per lap than the next fastest team.
9. Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance (2020)
It was clear right from the beginning of the 2020 season that Mercedes-Benz had once again produced a package worthy of claiming 1st in the standings. After a delayed start to the season (due to the pandemic), Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton came out guns blazing, setting final qualifying times half a second faster than the next fastest contender at the shortest circuit on the calendar, the RedBullRing.
In the end, the W11 managed 13 wins out of 17 races, 11 going to Hamilton who claimed the title with 3 races still left upon the conclusion of the Turkish Grand Prix. 2020 proved to be the final year of utter dominance of the sport by Mercedes, who despite winning the constructor’s for a record 8 times in a row in 2021 would lose out on the Driver’s title courtesy of Max Verstappen and his Red Bull.
The W11 debuted with the revolutionary DAS system (standing for Dual-Axis Steering). While the importance of this piece of technology in delivering the grand prize to Mercedes is debatable, it certainly had a beneficial impact. It allowed greater rates of tyre warming on the straights, as well as improving cornering ability by enabling a change in toe angle by pulling/pushing on the steering column.
The W11 has also set various lap time records on many of the tracks on the calendar, so many fans say this makes the car the fastest F1 car of all time. With the 2022 regulation changes expected to make the cars slightly slower, these lap records may remain for quite some time.
8. Alfa Romeo 158/159 Alfetta (1950-1951)
The inaugural Formula 1 season was unique to say the least. It was only 5 years after the end of World War 2, so motorsport in general had been put on the backburner with many of the top engineers being utilised to further the war effort instead.
This meant that many of the cars participating in the 1950 F1 Championship were actually a decade old or even more. This was certainly the case for Alfa Romeo’s entry. The Alfetta was first built in 1937, but despite being 13 years old was a tier above the rest of the teams on the grid.
It won every race it competed in on its first season, but is often labelled as having an 85% win rate due to Alfa Romeo refusing to participate in the Indy 500 (which was a part of the F1 season at the time).
The car was so good that the Italian team decided to retain the services of the cigar-shaped automobile for the following campaign. Their competitors had caught up a little, but the 159 Alfetta was still a cut above the rest, gifting Juan Manuel Fangio with the first of his 5 Drivers’ titles.
It won “only” 4 out of 7 of the rounds it was included in, which was partly attributable to an incredibly thirsty engine meaning the cars needed several more pitstops than the likes of Ferrari and Maserati.
7. Ferrari Tipo 500 (1952-1953)
Alfa Romeo pulled out of Formula 1 indefinitely at the end of the 1951 season due to a lack of funding by the Italian government. This gave the opportunity for other teams a chance to taste the sweet taste of victory. Many teams complained of the high running and manufacturing costs of Formula 1, and so the governing body at the time decided to run F1 under F2 specifications for the 1952 season.
In this regard Ferrari was extremely lucky as they already had a car built to run in the F2 Championship. The team simply decided to use the Tipo 500 for the Formula 1 season instead.
Like the Alfa Romeo, the Ferrari won every race that it entered. Piero Taruffi got his first and only race win at the season opener, before Alberto Ascari won every other race of the campaign to earn a deserved Drivers’ crown.
The Tipo 500 was still the car to beat in 1953, taking victory in all but the final race of the season, which was lost in outrageous fashion. Ascari spun on the final corner of the final lap, handing the win to Fangio’s Maserati. Ascari still managed to clinch the title for the second season in succession.
6. Red Bull RB9 (2013)
Sebastian Vettel won a then-record of 13 races in the 2013 season, including a faintly believable run of 9 race victories in a row until the end of the campaign.
The 2013 calendar actually got off to a slow start for the Red Bull Racing team, with defending champion Vettel duking it out with Fernando Alonso in the first 8 rounds. They were pretty close on points in the championship but a slight tyre compound change by Pirelli mid-way through the season acted as a catalyst for dominance by the German driver, who took 10 wins out of a possible 11 for the remainder of 2013.
The car was indeed hugely superior to the rest, but if anything the season proved what a maestro behind the wheel Vettel was (and indeed, still is) as teammate Mark Webber didn’t manage a single victory all season (he still got 3rd in the standings).
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article…