Castrol Ranking: What is F1's most successful car?
You were expecting the McLaren MP4-4 (right) perhaps? Well here's a shocking statistic; despite taking Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost to 15 wins from 16 races during a dominant 1988 season, it doesn't even get close.
We've delved into our extensive Castrol Rankings database to find out which car has triumphed on most occasions in world championship grand prix racing and turned out a couple of surprising results. Did you know, for example, that not only is the MP4-4 only eighth on the list, it's not even the most successful McLaren.
So what has come out on top? Read on and find out.
1. Ferrari 312T: 27 wins
A surprising result, perhaps, but the 27 wins scored by the Mauro Forghieri-designed 312T (T denoting a transverse gearbox, and therefore a necessary major change in design philosophy from its predecessor that had its roots in the three-litre, 12 cylinder, 312 of 1966) make it the most successful car in the history of the World Championship.
Debuted at the 1975 South African Grand Prix, Ferrari team leader Niki Lauda took the car's first win on only its third start in Monaco that year (pictured) and drove it to six more wins plus his maiden world title. Two additional victories by his team-mate Clay Regazzoni made the original 312T more successful than any of its variants, but that didn't stop the team trying new things to keep the car competitive.
The updated T2, which did away with the now banned high airbox and featured revised rear suspension, came into service midway through '76, scored eight wins via Lauda and Carlos Reutemann, and took the former to his second world title in '77. Had the Austrian not had his unfortunate crash at the Nurburgring, then the car may even have made it three in a row.
The T3, which featured a new monocoque chassis and heavy aerodynamic revisions, was also a winner, contributing four wins for Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve in '78, but was beaten by the groundbreaking (and ground effect) Lotus 79 whenever Colin Chapman's car lasted. What was needed was a ground effect Ferrari, and it came in the shape of the T4, which Jody Scheckter drove to the '79 world title, ahead of Villeneuve as the pair recorded three wins each.
The car unbelievably still wasn't done, although the T5 of 1980 was an unmitigated disaster as the wide 'boxer' engine left massive compromises to be made in the aerodynamics department. As a knee-***** reaction, a six-wheeled version, the T6, was tested, but never raced, and a totally new concept, dubbed the 126CK, was introduced in '81.
2. McLaren MP4-2: 22 wins
Unsurprisingly there's a McLaren on the list, and it's one of the earliest of the machines produced during the Ron Dennis era, the MP4-2, which has proven to be the team's most successful. Across its original and its B and C versions, the John Barnard-designed car provided the platform for Niki Lauda and Alain Prost to win the 1984, '85 and '86 world titles, although each with a different level of dominance.
The original car featured carbon brakes and superb fuel consumption figures from its V6 turbocharged TAG-Porsche engine, which gave it a huge advantage over its rivals in race conditions, although didn't make much of a difference in qualifying.
Phenomenal reliability and the skill of its drivers made the car a winner 12 times and gave Lauda his third world title by just half a point from Prost, but the Frenchman made up for his disappointment the following year by becoming champion himself.
That title came in the MP4-2B, which featured redesigned wings to comply with aerodynamic rule changes and new suspension in response to a switch from Michelin to Goodyear rubber. The points racked up at the start of the season proved crucial as Prost won five times to Lauda's once, but the challenge provided by Williams late in the season was a sign of things to come.
And so to '86, by which time Williams had established itself as the pace-setter while McLaren, with Keke Rosberg rarely performing to Lauda-like levels of consistency, failed to match its rival as a team. Nevertheless, reliability was superb for a car now in its third year (and badged as an MP4-2C), allowing Prost to play the consistency game and keep in touch with rivals Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet who, fuelled by hatred, kept on taking points off each other.
Prost won a total of 16 races in various derivatives of MP4-2, making it his most successful F1 car. Lauda was the only other man to drive it to victory, doing so six times.
3. Lotus 72: 20 wins
One of the most iconic grand prix cars of all time sits third in our list, catapulted there by 20 victories in four glorious seasons.
The car stunned the F1 paddock when it first appeared at the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix in the hands of Jochen Rindt and John Miles; its wedge shape incorporating inboard brakes, side-mounted radiators and aerodynamics that were factored into the design from the word go rather than as an afterthought, as was the case with the 49 that began the season.
Rindt won that year's Dutch Grand Prix to begin a run of four straight victories for the 72C, but was tragically killed in qualifying at Monza while on the verge of becoming world champion. As fate would have it, the Austrian had already done enough to win the title, a point made certain when his replacement, Emerson Fittipaldi, triumphed at the season-ending US Grand Prix.
Fittipaldi became the car's most successful driver, recording seven wins in the 72D to add to single successes in the C and the E and becoming world champion himself in 1972 in a car that had benefitted from Tony Rudd-led revisions to the rear wing and suspension.
There were yet more revisions for 1973 season, leading to the 72E that included new wing mounts, larger bodywork and integrated sidepods to cater to new safety regulations. Swede Ronnie Peterson joined the squad from March and took the E to seven spectacular victories, including back-to-back successes at Monza, while Fittipaldi added his final Lotus win in Spain.
The 72 even gained an F derivative, but this was far less successful. Only brought out as a means of avoiding having to use the sorry 76, the outdated car was pensioned off at the end of 1975 without so much as a podium finish to his name, despite the efforts of Peterson and Jacky Ickx.
4. Williams FW11: 18 wins
The 1986 Williams FW11 was a triumph not of Colin Chapman-style technical innovation, but of Patrick Head and Frank Dernie's solid engineering concept mated to the most powerful powerplant in the sport in the shape of the 1.5-litre Honda V6 producing over 1000bhp in qualifying trim.
Driven to nine wins in its original spec in '86 and then a further nine as the FW11B the following year, the car was the one in which Nigel Mansell suffered his famous Adelaide tyre blow-out while on the verge of becoming world champion, and in which Nelson Piquet was then denied the crown himself when the team called him in for a precautionary check that handed the initiative to Alain Prost.
Progress does not stand still and small improvements led to the creation of the FW11B the following season. Most famous for the role it played in the sensational end to that year's British Grand Prix as Mansell dummied Piquet and then flung himself into the lead, but ultimately providing a title success for the Brazilian after his team-mate wrenched his back in a qualifying crash at Suzuka.
It was Mansell though, who performed better in race situations, winning 11 times in 32 races against Piquet's seven victories.
5. Williams FW14: 17 wins
The Williams FW14 was born out of necessity, engine partner Renault pressuring the squad to raise its game after a poor year with the FW13 in 1990 that had resulted in just three wins in two years. Design genius Adrian Newey, recruited from Leyton House, began work on the car 12 months before its race debut, and the result was the basis for what was to become the most technologically advanced car ever seen in F1.
The FW14 first appeared at Phoenix in '91 and was clearly the quickest car around, but suffered from a plethora of teething problems - most relating to a new semi-automatic gearbox - that let Ayrton Senna build up an insurmountable points gap by the time the season was half over. While the '91 season was written off there and then, Riccardo Patrese did give the car its maiden win in Mexico at the sixth time of asking (which sparked a run of four successive victories), and made it clear to all watching that the car would make Nigel Mansell a clear title favourite for the following year.
With the gearbox and its fully active suspension sorted by the start of 1992, the FW14B proved almost unbeatable as Mansell and Patrese won 10 times and set 15 pole positions, the British ace finally ending a 12-year wait for his one and only championship crown.