Feature Image Credit: Eurosport

The most iconic cars in F1 history: 2000s part 2

What are the most iconic cars from F1's past and what makes them so memorable?

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In the second part of our look at 2000s iconic cars, we will take a look from 2006 to 2010. F1 made a dramatic change at the start of 2006, ditching the V10 engines.  The new V8s still produced a good soundtrack, but not the same as the screech of the V10s. 

Lewis Hamilton leads the field into the first corner at the 20008 Canadian Grand Prix (Image Credit: Eurosport)

McLaren and Ferrari battled away from 2007 to 2008, having dethroned Renault. This was the period of a toxic rivalry that has softened in recent years. In 2007 and 2008, McLaren and Ferrari hated each other, for reasons that will become clear. Both teams created iconic cars during this period. 

The manufacturer influence so prevalent at the start of the decade began to decline. Engine deals were beginning to come back slowly, as manufacturers counted the monumental cost of running in F1. The great financial crash of 2008 was what killed off the manufacturer era. Boardrooms across the world looked for urgent ways to save money as the world’s financial system collapsed. F1 teams were an expensive hobby for some, and big names withdrew as the decade drew to a close. 

The result of the financial crisis combined with the introduction of radical new technical regulations led to a change of the guard. Ferrari, McLaren and Renault were no longer the powerhouses they once were. 2010 saw the new order cement itself, 12 years later in 2022, only one of the old guards has returned to winning regularly.  

 
2007: McLaren MP4-22
The MP4-22 at its launch in 2007 (Image Credit: Autosport)

After a winless and disappointing 2006, McLaren had high hopes for 2007. A new title sponsor deal produced an evocative livery.  Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso had defected from Renault, hungry for a third title. Protege Lewis Hamilton stepped up to an F1 race seat after winning the GP2 title. The 2021 rivalry between Mercedes and Red Bull pales into insignificance compared to the drama of 2007. McLaren was at war with Ferrari but also as it turned out, with itself. 

The MP4-22 was a very quick car, with McLaren and Ferrari a long way clear of the rest of the field. Equally matched, Hamilton and Alonso were difficult for the team to manage. Wins were almost always on the cards for Alonso and Hamilton, whose rivalry began to turn toxic as the season progressed. It was in Hungary that tensions finally boiled over. Alonso stayed in his pit box for over 20 seconds after being given the go signal in Q3. This meant Hamilton did not reach the start/finish line in time to start a final lap. McLaren lost all Constructor points for that weekend. Alonso’s 5 place grid drop after qualifying back compounded a tough weekend. Pictures of that weekend are now iconic. 

The summer of 2007 was tumultuous for  Team Principal Ron Dennis, and after a one-two at Monza, McLaren seemed to turn a corner, even if the driver situation was getting worse. By the end of the season, the relationship between Alonso and McLaren had broken down completely. 

McLaren’s tough season then culminated in an espionage scandal.  Chief Engineer Mike Coughlan had possession of a huge dossier of Ferrari data. Disgruntled Head of Performance Development at Ferrari Nigel Stepney was the source of the leak. In the initial July hearing, no action was taken against McLaren. New evidence came to light in September and the team was fined £100m, and excluded from the Constructor’s title. The scandal came to light after a staff member of a photocopy shop noticed the Ferrari symbol on the papers, and alerted the Scuderia. 

Alonso left at the end of the year, heading back to Renault. Both McLaren drivers were in the hunt for the title but lost to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by a single point.  2007 promised so much for McLaren, with a now-iconic livery.  But its iconic 2007 car will always be remembered as a symbol of the team imploding and losing both championships.

2008: Ferrari: F2008, McLaren MP4-23
The Ferrari F2008 and McLaren MP4-23 battle on track (Image Credit: The Guardian)

The F2008 and MP4-23 are the last cars from F1’s former powerhouses to win a world championship. Ferrari would win the constructors, while Hamilton would become World Champion.  2008 proved to be a repeat of 2007, with McLaren and Ferrari dominating the season. The spy scandal had calmed down, with the two teams at the opposite ends of the pitlane. Ferrari had won both championships after McLaren’s exclusion, with the Woking team demoted to the last garage. The intense rivalry continued to push both teams to their limits, the previous year still fresh in the memory of Woking and Maranello. 

The pendulum swung between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa across the season, with both drivers putting in standout performances. Massa dominated in Valencia, achieving the perfect weekend of pole position, fastest lap and the race win. He also led every lap, including through his pit stops. Hamilton meanwhile achieved a childhood dream of winning the British Grand Prix. Conditions at Silverstone were severe, with heavy rain causing spins galore up and down the field. Hamilton won the race by over a minute.

The scene was set for a spectacular end to the season in Brazil. Hamilton needed P5 to take the title, Massa had to win for any chance of glory. Changeable weather conditions added real drama to the closing stages of the race, with everyone pitting to change tyres. A young Sebastian Vettel passed Hamilton putting in out of position.  Massa out in front looked set for his first title. However, Timo Glock in the Toyota had stayed out on dry tyres. On the last corner of the last lap, the cameras picked up Glock struggling. Martin Brundle exclaimed “Is that Glock?”, a question that is now in F1 legend. Massa had crossed the line by this time, Champion in front of his home crowd. Then the news filtered down that Hamilton had won the title by metres.  Emotions ran high, Ferrari utterly devastated, while McLaren simply couldn’t believe it.  

Both of these cars are iconic as they represent the very best of F1’s giants at their best. Both of these cars are remembered as a symbol of the intense and toxic rivalry between the two teams. Hamilton won his first title by a corner, while Massa was champion in his car for less than a minute. They are a reminder of a time of intensity, your loyalties dictated by your team colours. 

2009: Brawn: Brawn GP 001
Jenson Button in the Brawn GP 001 (Image Credit: Formula1.com)

Honda became the first manufacturer to withdraw from the sport following the financial crisis. Running the team from Brackley outright, Honda announced its withdrawal in the off-season, leaving the team without an engine and no buyer. 2008 had not been kind to Honda, the car hopelessly slow. A podium at Silverstone proved to be the highlight. 

The 2008 car was so off the pace that a decision was taken to abandon its development. Focusing on the massive technical overhaul due in 2009, Honda poured its funds into creating what it hoped would be a leading car. When Honda pulled out of the sport, work continued over the winter to ready the 2009 car. Team Principal Ross Brawn led a buyout, and the team was reborn as Brawn GP. Sadly job redundancies were required for the reduced budget.

A Mercedes engine deal saw the car make its debut at the second Barcelona test. Despite the car’s design for a different engine, the car lapped 0.700s faster than the rest of the field. Honda had indeed made a leading car, but would never race it. The Brackley team’s winter of uncertainty led to a dream start to the season at the first race. Now under the name of their Team Principal Ross Brawn, the team locked out the front row in qualifying, then achieved a one-two. 

Brawn’s advantage over the field ebbed away as the season progressed. Brawn had exploited a loophole in the regulations and built a double-decker diffuser system. But as budget issues prevented any real upgrades to the car, the team could not remain at the top the whole season.  Jenson Button won six out of the first seven races, while teammate Rubens Barrichello won two more midseason. The strong start to the season provided enough of a buffer to repel Red Bull Racing and win both titles, Jenson Button emerging victorious as World Champion. 

Mercedes bought the team at the end of 2009, Brawn disappearing as quickly as it had arrived. Brawn GP is a fairytale of drama, redemption and battling against the odds. It is highly unlikely to be repeated. For that reason, the Brawn GP 001 is one of the most iconic and loved cars in F1 history. 

Feature Image Credit: Eurosport

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