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F1's most dominant cars ever from Red Bull RB19 to McLaren MP4/4 and more

The 10 Formula 1 cars with the highest win percentage in a season amid Red Bull dominance that leaves RB19 as one of the greats.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Red Bull produced one of the most dominant seasons in Formula 1 history, with Max Verstappen having cruised towards a third drivers’ world championship in 2023.

He and team-mate Sergio Perez had a combined 21 victories with the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix, won by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, the only time Red Bull did not stand on the top step.

Red Bull's race pace was so superior of its rivals that it did not really matter where they started a grand prix. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the team scored a 1-2 despite Verstappen, who came second, starting the race in 15th. 

But the RB19 is not the only legendary machine in F1 history. Dominant cars have come before it and no doubt, more will come. So how does the 2023 Red Bull compare to others in years gone by?

There are lots of metrics that can be used to compare, but F1 has changed throughout the years. Judging dominance by wins in a season would place a bias towards the modern years with the F1 calendar now bigger, also meaning it is unfair to determine by points in a campaign.

So, these are the 10 most dominant cars according to win percentage in a world championship season.

It does still mean that there are some notable exclusions. The revolutionary Williams machines of the 1990s miss out, as does the 1963 Lotus that delivered Jim Clark his maiden championship after Colin Chapman built F1’s first fully stressed monocoque chassis. 

*Indicates season is still ongoing

1. Red Bull RB19

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Race winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Year: 2023
Wins: 21 of 22
Win percentage: 95%
Pole positions: 14 of 22
Podiums: 30 of 42 
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 16 of 22

Lewis Hamilton said the RB19 is the fastest F1 car he’s ever seen, which isn’t quite right given the rule changes since the lap record-breaking Mercedes W11, but it was definitely the pacesetter of the new ground-effect era.

PLUS: How Mercedes created F1’s fastest car

It was quite clear from pre-season testing that Red Bull was the favourite for 2023. Verstappen said the RB19 had improved ‘everywhere’ from its predecessor, which is quite remarkable considering how successful the RB18 was with Red Bull winning 17 of the 22 grands prix in 2022. The talk early in 2023 was how could the team improve upon that, and one way was to win every race.

As the weekends went by, the chatter of that grew louder. Red Bull won the opening 14 grands prix, including 10 in a row for Verstappen, both of which set new records for most consecutive race victories.

But, the talk ended at the 15th round in Singapore. Throughout the weekend Red Bull’s low ride height struggled with the track’s bumpy nature, and it ended in both drivers off the podium as Verstappen finished fifth with Perez crossing the line in eighth.

The team was back to winning ways soon after as Verstappen won the next seven rounds, which included sealing the drivers’ championship with six grands prix left. He did it after coming second in the Qatar GP sprint race, which is the only sprint race of 2023 that Red Bull did not win as McLaren’s Oscar Piastri took the chequered flag that day.

The RB19 won the other five sprint races, with Verstappen winning four of those. By clinching the championship with six grands prix left, Verstappen matched Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of sealing the title with the most rounds to spare, further demonstrating the RB19’s dominance.

2. McLaren MP4/4

Alain Prost, McLaren MP4/4

Photo by: Sutton Images

Alain Prost, McLaren MP4/4

Year: 1988
Wins: 15 of 16
Win percentage: 94%
Pole positions: 15 of 16
Podiums: 25 of 32
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 11 of 16

The RB19 is not the only car to have won all but one race in an F1 season, but a larger win count gives Red Bull the higher percentage. Nevertheless, it does not discount the sheer superiority of the legendary MP4/4.

More: McLaren's 1988 MP4/4 voted fans' favourite Formula 1 car

It is arguably the most famous F1 car ever with its iconic red-and-white livery. After finishing second in the 1987 championship, and being comfortably beaten by Williams, McLaren knew major changes were needed for the following year.

The first change came in the form of a star signing. A relatively young Ayrton Senna joined to form an all-star, but heated, partnership with then double world champion Alain Prost. But, all top drivers still need the machinery and McLaren dealt Williams a major blow by prizing engine manufacturer Honda away from them. 

It gave McLaren the tools it needed to launch an attack on the championship. McLaren did just that, and then some, by winning the first 11 grands prix. Its dominance was particularly noticeable over one lap with Imola evident of that, as Senna and Prost both had qualifying times in the 1m27s while no other car could go sub-1m30s. But the Honda also gave great efficiency in a fuel-limited era.

McLaren’s only defeat came at the Italian GP, where Prost suffered an engine problem early and Senna retired from the lead with two laps to go when he clashed with Jean-Louis Schlesser at Rettifilo as the McLaren tried to lap the Williams.

McLaren dusted off the mishap to win the final four races, while Senna became F1 world champion for the first time. The MP4/4 was untouchable that season and remains one of the most renowned racing cars in history. 

PLUS: Senna’s greatest races

3. Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid

Year: 2016
Wins: 19 of 21
Win percentage: 90%
Pole positions: 20 of 21
Podiums: 33 of 42
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 17 of 21

Just like Senna and Prost, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were a team-mate partnership that blew over at times. Hamilton beat Rosberg in the three seasons prior, but 2016 is their most famous season together.

Mercedes was again the pre-season favourite, with the Silver Arrows just making “mini revolutions” on its past two title-winning machines according to technical chief Paddy Lowe.

The team started strong, with Rosberg winning the opening four races, until his collision with Hamilton at the Spanish GP caused a double retirement. It sparked fury within the team, while it proved more costly for Hamilton, who trailed Rosberg by 43 points after five rounds.  

Hamilton won six of the next seven races – Rosberg won the other – to take the championship lead going into the summer break. Rosberg responded strong by winning the three grands prix upon return before Mercedes lost for a second time in Malaysia.

The 2016 Malaysian GP was won by Daniel Ricciardo after Hamilton’s engine failed while leading, and Rosberg came third having to deliver a recovery drive from last after spinning on lap one. That was to be the W07’s final defeat of the season, with Rosberg winning at Suzuka before Hamilton won the final four races.

However, that was not enough for the Briton because Rosberg came second in each of those last races to clinch the championship.

4. Ferrari F2002

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2002

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2002

Year: 2002
Wins: 14 of 17 (14 from 15 starts for car)
Win percentage: 88% (93%)
Pole positions: 8 of 17
Podiums: 25 of 30/34
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 13 of 17

While Verstappen has arguably had F1’s most dominant season ever in 2023, Schumacher’s 2002 season runs him pretty close. Unlike Verstappen, Schumacher stood on the podium in every race that year.

He did most of that in the F2002, which replaced the F2001 after the first two rounds of the season. The F2002 was a lot different to its predecessor. Ferrari implemented a new gearbox system that reduced weight by up to 15%. Its lightness, which gave it a lower centre of gravity, proved to be one of its strengths, though Ferrari was matched in the power stakes by Williams-BMW.

While the British outfit sometimes pipped Ferrari to pole with its Michelin tyres, the whole package was not as good as the Bridgestone-shod F2002.

Ferrari won five of the opening six races, before winning each of the last 10 and the only race the F2002 failed to win was the Monaco GP, thanks to one of David Coulthard’s finest drives for McLaren.

PLUS: David Coulthard’s greatest F1 drives

Schumacher cruised to a then record-equalling fifth drivers’ world title, clinching the crown in July, with Rubens Barrichello finishing a comfortable second in the standings.

The F2002 was so good, the B version contested the first four races of 2003, scoring a win, a pole and two other podiums, results not included in the stats above.

5. Alfa Romeo 158

Juan Manuel Fangio, Alfa Romeo 158

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Juan Manuel Fangio, Alfa Romeo 158

Year: 1950
Wins: 6 of 7
Win percentage: 86%
Pole positions: 6 of 7
Podiums: 12 of 18/21

With a mighty line-up of Giuseppe Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio, Alfa Romeo was a cut apart in the modern world championship’s first season. A big reason behind that was the 158, which was first built in 1938 but impressive development and 350bhp proved key for such longevity.

And, of course, back then competition was minimal, with other constructors having a far smaller budget than Alfa Romeo. The development time and finances used to build the 158 proved evident with Alfa Romeo winning every race it competed in. Not only did it win them all, but the 158 lapped every non-Alfa Romeo car in all but two grands prix.

Farina and Fangio battled closely for the championship crown, with the Italian driver taking it by three points. The 1950 Indianapolis 500, which counted for points but which Alfa Romeo did not contest, is what’s stopping the 158 from being number one on this list. 

The ultimate evolution of the ‘Alfetta’, the 159, continued to set the pace early in 1951. It was eventually overtaken by Ferrari’s 375, which dealt the factory Alfa Romeo team its first defeat in five years at the British GP, but Fangio still pipped Alberto Ascari to the drivers’ crown.

More: F1’s first great racing machine

=6. Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid, leads Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W05

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid, leads Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W05

Year: 2014
Wins: 16 of 19
Win percentage: 84%
Pole positions: 18 of 19
Podiums: 31 of 38
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 16 of 19

The W05 marked the dawn of a new era for F1. Out went the V8s and in came hybrids, which caused a new team to dominate as Mercedes ended Red Bull’s run of four consecutive championships.

Key behind its title charge was the W05’s PU106 powerplant. Mercedes split the turbocharger arrangement in what proved to be a great feat of engineering. This meant the compressor was housed on one end of the engine with the turbine at the other. While it kept the hot and cold sides of the turbo away from each other, it also allowed the MGU-H to occupy the space between that and the engine’s V-shape. 

Mercedes left its rivals for dust as a result. The W05 won from pole in its first six grands prix, with a 1-2 in all but one. The first of three defeats that year – all to Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull – came in Canada when Hamilton retired because of a brake problem while Rosberg came second after his MGU-K failed.

But the team bounced back with three straight wins, as Hamilton and Rosberg battled fiercely for the championship lead. Ricciardo then won back-to-back grands prix on either side of the summer break, at Spa thanks to Hamilton-Rosberg contact, before Mercedes was victorious in each of the final seven races.

Hamilton became just the second driver after Fangio to win a championship for Mercedes, while in 2014 the Silver Arrows also claimed pole in all but one qualifying session. The W05 was a terrific piece of engineering, and a car that left rivals playing catch-up for the several years that followed.

Top 10: Mercedes GP cars

=6. Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W06

Photo by: Sutton Images

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W06

Year: 2015
Wins: 16 of 19
Win percentage: 84%
Pole positions: 18 of 19
Podiums: 32 of 38
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 15 of 19

Because 2014 was such a dominant year for Mercedes, the W06 was an evolution of its predecessor, with Hamilton at the time saying “it is difficult to pick up any differences”.

And Mercedes was right to not change much. The Silver Arrows claimed pole for the first 12 races, going on to win 10 of those, as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel’s won the other two. The third and final defeat of 2015 also came at the hands of Vettel, in Singapore, before Hamilton and Rosberg won three each to finish the season.

But the championship fight between the two was much less in 2015. Hamilton sealed his third title in Austin with three rounds to spare and, by this point, the relationship between the Mercedes drivers had turned sour. 

Nevertheless, the W06 was an all-conquering machine, which at the time set many records: highest percentage of points in a season (86%), highest percentage of podiums in a season (84%), most 1-2 finishes in a season (12), most front-row lockouts in a season (15) and most consecutive races with both cars on the podium (9). 

8. Ferrari F2004

Ferrari celebrate as Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2004, finishes in 2nd position and clinches his 7th Drivers World Championship

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Ferrari celebrate as Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2004, finishes in 2nd position and clinches his 7th Drivers World Championship

Year: 2004
Wins: 15 of 18
Win percentage: 83%
Pole positions: 12 of 18
Podiums: 29 of 36
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 13 of 18

Schumacher set the then record for most points in a season (148) in the F2004 for his seventh and final championship in F1. The F2004 held strong similarities to the F2002 but with a few differences as the rear wing was enlarged, the rear suspension was redesigned to reduce tyre wear and the exhaust became smaller.

New regulations for 2004 also meant the gearbox had to be redesigned for greater resilience to last the whole race weekend, while electronic driver aids like launch control were banned.

And the F2004 was almost as dominant as the F2002. Schumacher won 12 of the opening 13 races – he crashed in the other – while team-mate Barrichello stood on the podium in all but three of those. Ferrari also clinched the constructors’ championship after the 13th round before winning three of the final five races.

The F2004 was a cut above and another reason for its dominance was strong reliability, as Ferrari only retired twice, both of which were collisions. That car still holds the lap records for Monza and Shanghai, which shows that its legacy remains strong today.

PLUS: The car so good it shocked Ferrari

9. Ferrari 500

Alberto Ascari, Ferrari 500.

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Alberto Ascari, Ferrari 500.

Year: 1952 & 1953
Wins: 13 of 16
Win percentage: 81%
Pole positions: 13 of 18
Podiums: 20 of 36

When Alfa Romeo withdrew from F1 for 1952, Ferrari was left as the only serious F1 contender. To boost grids, the championship was switched to F2 regulations, but Ferrari remained the team to beat with the two-litre 500.

In 1952 the 500 won every championship race that it competed in but, like the 158, the presence of the Indy 500 on the calendar means it misses out on the 100% season record.

Ferrari continued its dominance for 1953, when the 500 won all but one of the races it contested. The winning streak came to an end in the 1953 finale at Monza, where Fangio won for Maserati on a dramatic final lap. Once again, the car also didn’t compete at Indianapolis, which ran to different regulations despite being part of the championship.

Ascari claimed back-to-back drivers’ titles in the 500, while setting the record for most consecutive race victories (seven, or nine if you exclude the Indy 500) until Vettel broke it in 2013.

PLUS: Ferrari’s first world championship winner

10. Red Bull RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, celebrates victory with donuts

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, celebrates victory with donuts

Year: 2022
Wins: 17 of 22
Win percentage: 77%
Pole positions: 8 of 22
Podiums: 28 of 44
Round clinched the constructors' championship: 19 of 22

It is quite astonishing what Red Bull achieved with the RB18, considering it started developing its 2022 car much later than everybody else. The season marked the beginning of the ground-effect era for F1 but because Red Bull were in a mega title fight with Mercedes in 2021, the team delayed starting work on the RB18.

That was perhaps noticeable in the early races as Ferrari was the team to beat. The Italian outfit started the season with a 1-2, while both Red Bull cars retired. Although Verstappen won the next race, more reliability problems struck as he retired from the Australian GP.

It increased his championship deficit to leader Charles Leclerc to 46 points, with Ferrari well out in front of the constructors’ standings, so Red Bull was largely playing catch up from the off-set. But, as the season went on, Red Bull brought continuous upgrades to a point where the RB18 became dominant. 

Its most distinguished feature was the very aggressive sidepod, which proved crucial for aerodynamic load. The sidepods helped to move air flow directly onto the rear wheels, rather than suspension, which meant downforce was there immediately and consistently under braking. It was a design feature that many other teams then tried to adapt as the season went by.

Come July, Red Bull had stormed ahead of Ferrari following a run of six consecutive wins. The team won 10 of the final 13 grands prix, which included a terrific drive from Verstappen at Spa, where he won from 14th on the grid.

That dominant day proved other teams had a lot of work to do to catch up with Red Bull, which sealed the constructors’ championship with three rounds to spare while setting many records in the process.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Erik Junius

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

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