It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

Sergio Perez driving Red Bull's RB19 - It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

Red Bull have won all 12 Formula 1 Grand Prix’s this season – Getty Images/Francois Nel

Red Bull’s march to a second consecutive double championship is inevitable, with their 12th win this season Max Verstappen’s eighth in a row.

Verstappen is so far ahead he could not enter the next six rounds and still lead team-mate Sergio Perez in the standings. The only potential intrigue at the front is whether Red Bull can achieve something that has never been done before and win every race.

The RB19 is currently the most dominant car in Formula One history. The team recently broke a long-standing record to take their consecutive wins to 13 in a row – not including sprint races – and there is little reason to bet against that being extended.

For it to remain the best by the end of the season, it has to beat some mighty contenders. The car that leads the way is the McLaren MP4/4 of 1988, which won 15 of 16 rounds that year in the hands of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Both Senna and Prost also lapped the field on two occasions, with the winner finishing more than 50 seconds ahead of the next-best car six other times. It has long been the benchmark in the list of dominant cars. It is looked upon with misty eyes by many F1 fans and rightly so.

Although fresher in the memory, you could also make a similar argument about the Mercedes W05 of 2014. That car was the first of new regulations and kick-started an unbeaten run of dominance. It won 16 of 19 rounds, took pole in all but one of the races and had an average winning margin over the lead non-Mercedes of 23 seconds.

There are a few other Mercedes cars from the start of the turbo–hybrid eras which are contenders for the most dominant F1 car ever. Ferrari’s 2002 season is up there, too. Are these cars more significant than the RB19? Perhaps. Are they more dominant? No.

So how is a car’s dominance decided? There should be a distinction between a car’s dominance, its speed and how significant it is. Dominance is maximising your results, speed is the winning margin, whilst significance takes into account things more intangible that are not measured by the stopwatch. When it comes to dominance, winning on Sunday is what counts and scoring the most points is the measure that matters.

There are undoubtedly other more significant and “iconic” F1 cars throughout history. The MP4/4 has 35 years of history and legend on its side when it comes to significance. The Ferrari 312T won three drivers’ and two constructors’ championships and the Lotus 78 was F1’s first ground-effect car. Neither of those can stake a claim to being the most dominant in F1 history though, no matter how important they are. In outright dominance, Red Bull lead the way and the statistics back this up.

Telegraph Sport has run the numbers using two metrics – a win percentage for the season and the percentage of available points a team scored – to come out with the most dominant F1 cars since 1980, when two-car teams became the norm and cars were more often than not replaced each year.

The overall dominance rating takes the percentage of race wins over a season combined with the percentage of available points scored (using a uniform points-scoring system used in F1 from 2010-2018), then halved to get a score out of 100. Therefore a perfect score of 100 is only possible if a team wins every race, finishing first and second in all of them.

The top 10 is stacked towards modern cars, with seven of the 11 coming after 2013. That says a lot about the modern state of F1 but that is down to the hugely increased reliability.

Most dominant F1 cars 1980-2022

Most dominant F1 cars 1980-2022

Ranking the most dominant cars in F1 – 1980-present

6th) 2014 Mercedes W05 – Dominance score: 83.48

Race wins: 16/19 (84.21%)

Available points scored: 82.74%

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg

Drivers championship: 1st Lewis Hamilton (359pts), 2nd Nico Rosberg (317pts), 3rd Daniel Ricciardo (226pts)

Constructors championship: 1st Mercedes (676pts), 2nd Red Bull (389pts), 3rd Williams (287pts)

Nico Rosberg in Mercedes-Benz F1 W05 - It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

Lewis Hamilton came first in 11 Grand Prix’s in the Mercedes W05 to win the F1 Championship – Shutterstock/Mirafoto

When Mercedes turned up to the first race of the V6 turbo hybrid era in Melbourne they blitzed the field, with winner Nico Rosberg finishing 26.7 seconds ahead of the best non-Mercedes car. That advantage continued throughout the season, with the average winning margin for the season only a few seconds down on that. Lewis Hamilton saw off his team-mate for the championship, winning 11 rounds on the way. The car also took pole in every race but the Austrian Grand Prix.

Although that winning margin came down over the following seasons, the W05 fails to outrank its immediate successors, largely because it had five retirements throughout the season compared to just two and three in 2016 and 2017. It may be a more “significant” car than what came after, but it does not quite beat them all in dominance.

5th) 2015 Mercedes W06 – Dominance score: 85.13

Race wins: 16/19 (84.21%)

Available points scored: 86.05%

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg

Drivers championship: 1st Lewis Hamilton (381pts), 2nd Nico Rosberg (322pts), 3rd Sebastian Vettel (278pts)

Constructors championship: 1st Mercedes (703pts), 2nd Ferrari (428pts), 3rd Williams (257pts)

Valtteri Bottas drives the Mercedes F1 W06 - It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

Lewis Hamilton won his third drivers championship in the Mercedes W06 – Getty Images/Clive Mason

The W06 of 2015 has exactly the same winning percentage as the W05 but a better record on the available points scored count. In fact, it ranks highest in that regard of cars to have completed a season – with its immediate successor second. This car was a simple evolution of the W04 and it carried on where that car left off as Hamilton took a second title for Mercedes and his third overall. Again, it took every pole but one.

The constructors’ championship was sewn up with four rounds remaining and the team also matched a record for both cars being on the podium for nine rounds in a row. Ferrari finished closer to them than Red Bull in 2014, but only marginally.

‌4th) 2002 Ferrari F2001B/F2002 – Dominance score 85.36

Race wins: 15/17 (88.24%)

Available points scored: 82.49%

Drivers: Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello

Drivers championship: 1st Michael Schumacher (380pts), 2nd Rubens Barrichello (223pts), 3rd Juan Pablo Montoya (175pts)

Constructors championship: 1st Ferrari (603pts), 2nd Williams (332pts), 3rd McLaren (245pts)

Michael Schumacher drives the Ferrari F2002

Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello won 15 out of 17 races between them across the 2002 season – Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Ferrari won six consecutive constructor titles between 1999 and 2004 with Michael Schumacher at the helm. They only really cleaned up in two of those seasons, however, in 2002 and 2004. 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003 all had win percentages of less than 60 per cent.

Technically, the F2001 from the previous season competed in the first three rounds of 2002, so it would be more accurate to say we are rating the dominance of Ferrari cars in 2002 rather than of a single machine.

Ferrari’s 2002 season is their only one to make it into the top six – although the F2004 comes in at seventh, with a fairly comparable record. The 2004 Ferrari season perhaps is more memorable as it made it five in a row as Schumacher strolled to his seventh title but 2002 was a better year based purely on results, though not by much.

‌3rd) 2016 Mercedes W07 – Dominance score 87.6

Race wins: 19/21 (90.48%)

Available points scored: 84.72%

Drivers: Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg

Drivers championship: 1st Nico Rosberg (385pts), 2nd Lewis Hamilton (380pts), 3rd Daniel Ricciardo (256pts)

Constructors championship: 1st Mercedes (765pts), 2nd Red Bull (468pts), 3rd Ferrari (398pts)

Nico Rosberg drives the Mercedes W07 - It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

The Mercedes W07 is one of two cars to have won more than 90 per cent of races in a season – Getty Images/Paul-Henri Cahier

Five of the top 10 in this list are Mercedes cars and 2016’s W06 is the third in the top five, capping three stunning years for Toto Wolff’s team. Whatever Red Bull’s statistics look like at the end of this season, it is worth remembering just how far ahead of the opposition Mercedes were at the start of the turbo-hybrid era.

Although their average winning margin was down to 14.6sec by 2016, the 90.48 per cent of the races they won this year is second to only the MP4/4 in completed seasons. They are the only two cars to have won more than 90 per cent of races in a season. Their 84.72 per cent of available points is also second in the list of completed seasons, too.

Without Lewis Hamilton’s retirement in Malaysia and Rosberg and Hamilton’s clash in Spain, it might have been the new benchmark.

2nd) 1988 McLaren MP4/4 – Dominance score 88.74

Race wins: 15/16 (93.75%)

Available points scored: 83.72%

Drivers: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost

Drivers championship: 1st Ayrton Senna (275pts)* 2nd Alain Prost (301pts) 3rd Gerhard Berger (147pts)

Constructors championship: 1st McLaren (576pts 2nd Ferrari (239pts) 3rd Benetton (193ts)

*Prost scored more points than Senna but Senna won the title as only the best 11 results counted towards the championship.

Ayrton Senna - It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4/4 set the standard for F1 cars for nearly four decades – Getty Images/Paul-Henri Cahier

The Gordon Murray-designed McLaren MP4/4 has been the benchmark for Formula One cars for 35 years. Its aesthetic brilliance is one thing, but its record as the most dominant car across a full season in F1 history still stands intact, for now. Prost won seven and finished second seven times but it was not enough to beat Senna, due to the way the drivers’ championship was calculated.

That is all the more impressive given that in the Eighties and Nineties there were fewer races, which means the penalty for not winning one race had a greater effect on the percentage of races won. Reliability was also far worse in this period. No other team in the period we looked at won all but one of the races in a season. The percentage of available points scored was also the third highest.

If Red Bull manage to topple the MP4/4 at the end of the season, then it would be a monumental achievement.

‌1st) Red Bull RB19 – Dominance score: 94.38

Race wins: 12/12 (100%)

Available points scored: 88.76%

Drivers: Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez

Drivers championship: 1st Max Verstappen (286pts), 2nd Sergio Perez (172pts) 3rd Fernando Alonso (142pts)

Constructors championship: 1st Red Bull (458pts), 2nd Mercedes (233pts) 3rd Aston Martin (183pts)

Sergio Perez drives the Red Bull RB19 - It’s official – the Red Bull RB19 is the most dominant F1 car of all time

Red Bull’s RB19 car has dominated this season – Getty Images/Peter Fox

Of course, the big caveat here is that we are barely half-way through the season. Yet Red Bull’s dominance score in 2023 is so far some margin ahead of the McLaren MP4/4, even with Sergio Perez’s performances tailing off after Miami.

All things being equal, Red Bull will beat McLaren’s rating at the end of the year. That car had at least the threat of their drivers colliding and was at a time when reliability was far worse. Perez is no match for Verstappen and the Red Bull looks bullet-proof. Things can still go wrong, though. F1 throws up odd results from time to time and there is not a great deal of margin for error.

To have the best winning percentage of any team in F1 history (beating McLaren’s 93.75 per cent in 1988) they need to win nine of the next 10 rounds. That would take them to 30 wins from 32. Staggering. But if they fail to win more than one race from now until the season’s close, McLaren’s record is retained.

They also currently have the best percentage of available points in this era, too, but that would quickly fall with any retirement or if Perez’s form worsened. The difficulty for Red Bull in topping this list in five months’ time is that there are 10 opportunities for things to go wrong.

If they do manage it, it would be a mind-boggling accomplishment for everyone involved. Even if they do not, the current Red Bull outfit and Max Verstappen will be remembered by the sport as one of the greatest combinations in history.

Do you think the Red Bull is currently the most dominant car in F1 history? Is there a better way to measure dominance? Have your say in the comments below.

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