Formula One is the most popular racing championship in the world. Every year, millions of fans watch 11 teams undertake 19 races in an effort to win the championship. Points are handed out to individual drivers as well as the constructors who build the cars. Like the lead singer of a band, the drivers usually grab all of the attention. Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher are all well known figures in the world of Formula One. The recent Ron Howard film, Rush, captured the rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, not necessarily the battle between McLaren and Ferrari. The drivers are the stars, they have the dramatic on and off-track rivalries, they can get hurt in crashes and hoist the champagne on the podium after winning.
The lead singer, however, is often nothing without a band. The driver, likewise, is nothing without his or her car. In Formula One, the great drivers were and are undeniably skilled. Yet, they are skilled because of how they handle their car and how their car can help them win. If it wasn’t for the constructors, the companies which design and build the cars, the drivers would be nothing more than a collection of people standing on a racetrack wearing flame-retardant clothing.
Formula One is an expensive championship to participate in. Teams at the higher end often have budgets of over $200 million. New race technologies and regulations force manufacturers and teams to constantly spend huge sums on research and development in order to keep their cars competitive. Over the years, many constructors have come and gone. Failure on the track has sent more than one constructor away with their tail between their legs. Financial ruin or tough economic times has forced many more to call it a day. Honda, Porsche, Toyota and Alfa Romeo have all come and gone. Nonetheless, some, like McLaren and Ferrari, have weathered tough times and challenges on the track to stick around. All of this leads to the main question; Who are the most successful constructors in the history of Formula One?
T9. BRM : 1 Constructors’ Championship
In the period immediately following World War II, Thomas Raymond Mays established British Racing Motors (BRM). Mays, keen on seeing Britain become a major racing power, had developed a number of competition vehicles before the war with manufacturer English Racing Automobiles. In the Formula One Championship, BRM often raced its cars under the team name ‘Owen Racing’. Through the 1950s and into the late 1970s, BRM won 17 races and secured one Constructor’ and one Drivers’ Championships. Both championships were won in 1962 with Graham Hill behind the wheel. Other notable drivers who piloted a BRM car over the years included Sir Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda.
T9. Benetton: 1 Constructors’ Championship
From 1986 to 2000, clothing manufacturer Benetton operated Benetton Formula Ltd. in the Formula One Championship. Looking to advertise and market itself to a broader world audience, Benetton began life in Formula One as a sponsor of teams such as Tyrrell and Alfa Romeo. In 1985, the company bought a team and started the 1986 season with a BMW engine. It was only when they partnered with engine maker Renault that notable success came. Driving a Benetton-Renault in 1994, Michael Schumacher won the Drivers’ Championship. The next year, Benetton, with the driving skill of Schumacher, won both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships. Other notable drivers of this team include Jenson Button, Gerhard Berger and Giancarlo Fisichella. In 2000, Benetton was bought by Renault for $120 million and officially became Renault F1 in 2002.
T6. Cooper: 2 Constructors’ Championships
In 1946, Charles Cooper and his son founded the Cooper Car Company in Surrey, England. Perhaps best known for the revolutionary Mini Cooper, Charles Cooper developed a variety of racers for Formula Three, Two and One. Cooper were influential in the development of the rear-mounted engine. This provided greater stability and balance and was soon adopted by all major teams. From 1950 until 1969, Cooper won 16 races and claimed two Contructors’ and two Drivers’ Championships. These championships were secured in 1959 and 1960, thanks in large part to the use of the 2.5L engine from Coventry Climax. Cooper used engines from other manufacturers, including Maserati, but never achieved the same level of success after the 1959-60 seasons. Notable drivers for Cooper included Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, founder of the McLaren automotive and racing ventures.
T6. Renault: 2 Constructors’ Championships
This French company existed as a Formula One constructor in three distinct phases. From 1977 to 1985, the team was known as Equipe Renault Elf. After purchasing Benetton in 2000, Renault F1 competed from 2002 until 2010. A final return was made in 2011, re-branded as Lotus Renault GP. During its time as a constructor, Renault won two Constructors’ and two Drivers’ Championships in 2005 and 2006. Fernando Alonso was instrumental in helping the company achieve success during these years. Renault withdrew its cars from Formula One after 2011 but continue to supply engines for the competition. The French company has played an important role in the development of Formula One. It introduced the turbo-charged engine to the competition in 1977. Drivers have enjoyed considerable success using the company’s engines. Notable drivers who won Championships with a Renault engine include Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost.
T6. Brabham: 2 Constructors’ Championships
Officially known as Motor Racing Developments Ltd., Brabham was founded in 1960 by Jack Brabham, a former Cooper driver and Formula One champion and designer Ron Tauranac. Between 1962 and 1992, Brabham claimed two Constructors’ and four Drivers’ Championships. Notable drivers for this team include Niki Lauda, Graham Hill, Nelson Piquet and Jack Brabham. Brabham’s 1966 Drivers’ title is unique in that it is the only one done in a car bearing the driver’s name. Engines for these championships cars were 300hp 3.0L V8s supplied by Australian company Repco. They were very competitive until Lotus began using a Ford Cosworth motor in 1967 which was more advanced and powerful. The team had a number of owners, including Bernie Ecclestone, but collapsed in 1992 after failing to make repayments of debts.
5. Red Bull: 4 Constructors’ Championships
In 2004, Jaguar Racing, owned by Ford Motor Company, was put up for sale. Austrian beverage company Red Bull stepped in and purchased the company entering its inaugural season in 2005. In 2013, Infiniti became a title sponsor. The current force in Formula One, Infiniti Red Bull Racing has won the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships for the last four seasons. All of these titles were accomplished utilizing a Renault engine and the driving expertise of Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull’s recent dominance may be challenged this year as Formula One regulations see a switch to a new 1.6L turbocharged engine. Red Bull beverages may not turn you into a Formula One driver – in fact, I still have no wings– but the company definitely knows how to build a Formula One contending team in a very short time.
4. Lotus: 7 Constructors’ Championships
Most people think of the Esprit or Elise when they hear Lotus mentioned. Yet, Lotus also had a very successful Formula One team from 1958 to 1994. During this period, Team Lotus won sevem Constructors’ and six Drivers’ Championships. Notable drivers include Emerson Fittipaldi, Ayrton Senna, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell and Mika Häkkinen. Financial problems brought about the downfall of the company in 1994. David Hunt, brother of Formula One Champion James Hunt, purchased the team, stopped development of new cars and fired the staff. Legal issues over use of the name ‘Lotus’ continued for many years after. By 2012, Lotus-Renault GP were given the rights to the name and renamed Lotus F1, although this team is in no way tied to Team Lotus, dissolved in 1994.
3. McLaren: 8 Constructors’ Championships
Based in Surrey, England, McLaren Racing Ltd. is the second oldest active racing team in Formula One. Founded in 1963 by Bruce McLaren, one-time driver for Cooper, this British team did not taste Formula One success until the mid-1970s. After that, McLaren became a powerhouse in Formula One, securing eight Constructors’ and twelve Drivers’ Championships between 1974 and 2008. In comparison with other teams on this list, McLaren has utilized one of the broadest ranges of engine manufacturers to power its cars. Titles were won using engines from TAG, Honda, Ford and Mercedes. Drivers who led the team to victory over these years included Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
2. Williams: 9 Constructors’ Championships
Officially known as Williams GP Engineering Ltd., this team was founded in 1977 by Sir Frank Williams. The team’s first race was the 1977 Spanish Grand Prix and it won its first championships just three years later. Between 1980 and 1997, Williams won nine Constructors’ and seven Drivers’ Championships. Its nine Constructor titles was a record which was not surpassed until 2000 by Ferrari. Success was achieved by using a mix of Honda, Ford and Renault engines, with the French-made engines powering the team to five of its titles. Of course, there was no shortage of driving talent to help handle the cars and victorious drivers included Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Jacques Villeneuve and Nelson Piquet. Currently, the team utilizes a Mercedes-Benz engine and employs the driving skills of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
1. Ferarri: 16 Constructors’ Championships
Could there really be any other manufacturer at the top of this list? Formed in 1929 by Enzo Ferrari, Scuderia Ferrari is the oldest surviving team in Grand Prix racing. Initially using Alfa Romeos, a disagreement led to Enzo leaving in the late 1930s. By the late 1940s, the reestablished Scuderia Ferrari team was using Ferrari-built cars to do battle with likes of Maserati and Bugatti. Between 1952 and 2008, Ferrari claimed sixteen Constructors’ and fifteen Drivers’ Championships. The team has claimed over 220 race victories thanks to excellent car and engine designs, as well as drivers like Alberto Ascari, Phil Hill, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen. Along with the most Championships and race victories, Ferrari also holds Formula One records for most podiums, pole positions, fastest laps and successful engine manufacturer, to a name a few. Furthermore, Scuderia Ferrari is not only limited to the Formula One Championship but has also competed successfully in endurance racing, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona, and road course races, like the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. Talk about an over-achiever.