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The most successful F1 car in history?

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January 20, 2004

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The incredible domination of the highest level of motorsport this year by Ferrari is not without its equal in history. The 2004 achievement of the Ferrari team drivers of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello is on track to equal the 1988 feat of the McLaren Honda Formula One team which won 15 of 16 races in the season.

In that season McLaren was blessed with two drivers amongst the best of all time (the late Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, who staged a monumental season-long battle which saw the team lead the race for 1003 of the 1031 laps in the entire season.Between them, they took 15 of the 16 pole positions, thanks to Senna's exceptional ability to produce a stunning lap whenever it was required - he started from pole an incredible 13 times from 16 starts. The pair also scored the most one-two finishes with ten from 16 starts.

By comparison, Ferrari this year has only won seven of12 poles, and led less than 80% of the laps completed But the manufacturer's title is scored only on points, and after 12 races, scored on the same points system (adjusted to current points based on 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 instead of the 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 of 1988), the Ferrari team has edged ahead of the McLaren 1988 performance (184 points to174 points).

The Honda-powered McLaren MP4/4 dominated the 1988 season partially due to the extraordinary quinella of drivers, but mainly due to its 800 horsepower 1.5 litre turbocharged engine.

Turbocharging was banned in 1989 and where other manufacturers stopped development of turbo engines when the ban and 1988 fuel consumption penalities were announced, Honda developed a miserly horsepower machine which trounced the competitors. Indeed, had it not been for a remarkable incident where Ayrton Senna was comfortably leading the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and crashed into a driver he was lapping, the car would have won every race of the season.

The accident handed Ferrari a famous 1-2 result on its home circuit just a few weeks after Enzo Ferrari passed away.

Ferrari's performance this season is hence extraordinary - it has achieved a degree of professionalism which stands out in the toughest technology game on the planet, taking what they have learned each year in winning the last five constructors championships to completely redesign every part on the car. The F2004 car is the fiftieth car Ferrari has designed for Formula One, and a very different machine to McLaren of 1988, particularly in areas such as driver safety. It's also a naturally-aspirated 3 litre V10 compared to the turbocharged Honda engine.

One remarkable coincidence in comparing these two remarkable machines is the Marlboro sponsorship they share. Ferrari changed its racing colours from Maranello Red to Marlboro Red as part of the sponsorship deal.

One final note for all those enraged motorsport enthusiast: while the McLaren and Ferrari may have had the most successful Formula One year in F1, the most successful racing car of all time was undoubtedly the Bugatti Type 35 - the first real racing car sold to competitors in numbers during the 1920s. With a production total of 340 cars built, the famous Bugatti Type 35 is believed to have won over 1800 races worldwide during the 1920s.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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