Where does the Red Bull RB18 rank among the most dominant F1 cars in history?

Henry Valantine
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in action at the Hungaroring. Budapest July 2022

Red Bull Max Verstappen in action at the Hungaroring. Budapest July 2022

Max Verstappen broke Formula 1’s single-season win record with 15 victories in the Red Bull RB18 in 2022, in one of the most dominant years the sport has seen – even after retiring from two of the first three races.

With Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez also notching two wins of his own in the car, the 17-win tally puts the RB18 right among the very best cars Formula 1 has ever seen – but where, exactly?

Well, we have delved through the history books to find the cars which have stood head and shoulders above the rest, and won the most races in the seasons in which they competed.

Because Formula 1’s race count per season has increased over time, we have put these cars in order of percentage of races won over the course of that season. It’s only fair, right?

This leads to some notable omissions on the list, it has to be said, including the double-figure race-winning Williams FW14B from 1992, the FW18B from 1996, a Red Bull 13-time race winner in the RB9 from 2013, and many other worthy contenders.

But numbers don’t lie, and here is a definitive look at the top 10 most statistically successful Formula 1 cars in history.

10: Mercedes-AMG W11 EQ Performance (2020)

Wins: 13/17 (76%)
Lewis Hamilton: 11
Valtteri Bottas: 2

Spoiler alert: This is far from the first time you are going to be seeing Mercedes on this list, and we will start with what is perhaps the outright fastest Formula 1 car of all time over one lap.

We know this as the long-held lap records (by another car in this list) were finally dismantled by this remarkable machine which, when hooked up, was almost unstoppable once the Covid-affected season was able to be put together.

Among its many innovations to raise eyebrows was seeing Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas pull the steering wheel towards them, which straightened the tyres while on straights.

This was the DAS, or ‘Dual Axis Steering’, which enabled Mercedes to reduce the drag even caused by the tyres to aid straight-line speed on their car, and the rest of the field was barely able to make a dent in their performances.

The only blemishes on the W11’s copybook came through the Red Bull of Verstappen and surprise one-off victories for Perez, then of Racing Point and out of a drive for 2021, and jubilant scenes at Monza as Pierre Gasly won for AlphaTauri.

With 15 pole positions – 12 of which front-row lockouts – and nine fastest race laps to boot, this car took some beating as Hamilton cruised to World Championship number seven.

9: Red Bull RB18 (2022)

Wins: 17/22 (77%)
Max Verstappen: 15
Sergio Perez: 2

Here’s where the newest World Championship-winning car comes into play. It’s easy to forget that the Red Bull RB18 had a troubled start to the season, particularly as it came in overweight and reliability was a problem for both drivers to begin with.

But a combination of continued development, a strong baseline of performance in a design led by Adrian Newey and Verstappen’s driving chops had Red Bull right in the hunt with Ferrari and their F1-75.

While the Scuderia qualified better than Red Bull for most of the season, Verstappen and the team’s race pace and strategy calls often got the better of their rivals as the Dutchman eventually cruised to a second World title in style – by a whopping 146 points come season’s end.

A mastery of Formula 1’s new ground effect aerodynamics – which formed the base of chief technical officer Newey’s university thesis – had Red Bull performing well from the off, and avoiding the worst effects of ‘porpoising’ that plagued their rivals, with the likes of Mercedes bouncing heavily along straights early on in the season.

The combo of superlative car design and elite driving talent rarely fails in Formula 1, and Red Bull and Verstappen made things look relatively simple in the end.

8: Ferrari F2004 (2004)

Wins: 15/18 (83%)
Michael Schumacher: 13
Rubens Barrichello: 2

Michael Schumacher’s final World Championship was won in some style, and the Ferrari F2004 played its part in one of the most dominant individual seasons the sport has ever seen.

Such was the car-driver combination in play that year, for those non-Schumi fans watching the sport at the time, it was all a bit predictable on track for much of the season as he racked up win after win after win in a car which set lap records at pretty much every circuit the sport visited.

Over one lap in qualifying and on race pace, it would be years before the F2004 would be beaten by Formula 1 cars of the future. With refuelling still in play, the ‘sprint’ element of the sport was evident in race trim and Schumacher especially was able to pump in qualifying-style laps with ease in a car which gave him confidence like few others ever could.

It was just the 13 victories that year for Schumacher, and along with Rubens Barrichello the Ferrari team-mates combined for eight one-two finishes to be well ahead of the rest come season’s end – with the German wrapping up title glory with four races to spare.

=6: Mercedes W05 Hybrid (2014)

Wins: 16/19 (84%)
Lewis Hamilton: 11
Nico Rosberg: 5

Lewis Hamilton leads Nico Rosberg. Bahrain April 2014.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leads team-mate Nico Rosberg into Turn 1. Bahrain April 2014.

With Formula 1 moving into the turbo hybrid era, the 2014 Mercedes would lay the foundations for what would become the most dominant era by a single team in the sport’s history, even eclipsing Ferrari’s incredible run in the early 2000s.

And the W05 was the perfect base for what grew into one of Formula 1’s most intense modern rivalries too, with Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg starting three years of almost private battles for race wins which would spill over into outright animosity on multiple occasions.

The W05 was comfortably the class of the field in 2014, with only the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo able to steal race wins away from the Silver Arrows that year.

The Bahrain Grand Prix of that season, now dubbed the ‘Duel in the Desert’, underlined just how much faster Mercedes were than the rest when the gloves came off.

A late Safety Car saw the field close up, and Hamilton and Rosberg diced for victory over the final 10 laps. Even in that short time, and while losing time racing each other, they opened up a huge 24-second gap to third-placed man Sergio Perez.

The friends-turned-rivals shared 16 wins, 11 one-two finishes, and took 18 poles from 19 races. Felipe Massa taking pole for Williams in Austria is the quiz answer we’ll all be searching for if the subject comes up…

=6: Mercedes W06 Hybrid (2015)

Wins: 16/19 (84%)
Lewis Hamilton: 10
Nico Rosberg: 6

Given the success the W05 had, the relatively stable regulations heading into 2015 made it not much of a surprise that Mercedes were at the forefront of proceedings again in 2015 with the W06.

Even though Sebastian Vettel, now a Ferrari driver, was able to wrangle as much as he could from his car – taking Ricciardo’s place as the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race in 2015, and finishing only 42 points behind Rosberg in the standings at the end of the season – there was only ever going to be one team winning the World Championship.

There were 12 one-two finishes this time for Hamilton and Rosberg, and only two races in which neither driver finished on the podium. Their combined 703 points in the Constructors’ Championship was 86% of the maximum number available throughout the whole course of the season, too. Now, that’s dominance for you.

5: Alfa Romeo 158 (1950)

Wins: 6/7 (86%)
Juan Manuel Fangio: 3
Giuseppe Farina: 3

Now, we’re heading all the way back to the beginnings of the Formula 1 World Championship, and the ‘Alfetta’ itself.

The Alfa Romeo 158 had been winning Grands Prix long before the Formula 1 era began, having first been built in the years before the Second World War.

But its longevity and speed was remarkable, entering 54 Grand Prix events over the years and winning 47 of them, and it won all six of the races it entered in the first ever Formula 1 World Championship season back in 1950, split between eventual World Champion Nino Farina and eventual five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio – the only race un-entered being the Indianapolis 500, which counted towards the Formula 1 standings at that time.

The Alfetta’s first ever Grand Prix victory came all the way back in August 1938 in Livorno, Italy, and its development continued on for years after the war, with its 1.5-litre, eight-cylinder engine producing upwards of 300bhp by the time Formula 1 started.

The 158 would later be updated into the 159 for the 1951 season, where its success continued for another year as Alfa Romeo showed themselves to be a dominant early force in Formula 1, before being forced to quit the sport prior to 1952, as it could not gain the financial support required to meet its extensive development needs.

4: Ferrari 500 (1952, 1953)

Wins: 14/16 (87.5%)
Alberto Ascari: 12
Giuseppe Farina: 1
Mike Hawthorn: 1

Following Alfa Romeo’s departure and a dearth of constructors, Formula 1 opted to run the following two seasons to Formula 2 regulations – and Ferrari had just the chassis for the job.

In fact, the Scuderia were the only team to have a car built to specification and ready to go, with the simple but extremely effective Ferrari Tipo 500 propelling Alberto Ascari to title glory over the following two seasons.

Such was Ascari’s own dominance over the rest of the field, his seven race wins in a row in the 500 was only eclipsed by Sebastian Vettel in his nine-race winning run in the 2013 season for Red Bull.

The chassis of the 500 would later be modified for a return to Formula 1 regulations and a larger engine in time for 1954, and it would run for two more seasons in the sport as the 625.

3: Ferrari F2002 (2002)

Wins: 15/17 (88%)
Michael Schumacher: 11
Rubens Barrichello: 4

With how many times he took to the top step, Schumacher could lay claim to this being his, and maybe even Formula 1’s, most dominant season ever.

The F2002 was the perfect combination of being both lightning fast and reliable, at least on Schumacher’s side of the garage, so much so that he finished every single race that season on the podium – and all but one inside the top two.

There was the drama of team orders in Austria, where Barrichello let him by on the line, though the favour was later repaid in a ‘dead heat’ finish at Indianapolis, and Schumacher took 11 wins from only seven pole positions, with Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya proving a particularly prolific qualifier that year with seven poles of his own, including a run of five in a row.

But ultimately the speed and power of the Schumacher-Ferrari combination shone through. Once he got into the lead in ’02, he very rarely let go of it.

The F2002 was re-purposed into the F2002B for the first four rounds of the 2003 season, which gave Schumacher a further victory at Imola before the team switched to the F2003.

2: Mercedes W07 Hybrid (2016)

Wins: 19/21 (90%)
Nico Rosberg: 9
Lewis Hamilton: 10

The Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry reached its crescendo in their fourth and final season together as team-mates, and the car they had underneath them – as well as their outright determination to beat each other – provided a superb season with it.

Continuing on from their dominance of the two previous years, Rosberg capitalised on problems for Hamilton at the start of the year to win the first four races, and from then on the reigning champion was having to play catch-up.

The two crashed into each other on the opening lap in Spain, which cleared the way for Formula 1 to crown its youngest ever race winner in a new Red Bull driver called Max Verstappen, in his first race for the team. Never heard of him.

That would be one of only two non-Mercedes wins that season, with the sister Red Bull of Ricciardo taking victory in Malaysia.

As was the case with its predecessors, the W07 provided both remarkable speed and the base for superb drama all year long, with Hamilton and Rosberg trading winning streaks throughout the year.

Hamilton won the last four races, but Rosberg did what he had to do and finished second in each of them to take his first World title, and promptly retired afterwards. What a way to go out.

1: McLaren MP4/4 (1988)

Wins: 15/16 (94%)
Ayrton Senna: 8
Alain Prost: 7

McLaren MP4/4
McLaren MP4/4

For the look, speed and success of this car, the McLaren MP4/4 is right up there as one of the most iconic challengers Formula 1 has ever had – not least for the tempestuous relationship between the two drivers who raced it.

Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost teamed up for the first time after the young Brazilian made the move from Lotus, to partner the Frenchman who had already tasted title success in 1985 and ’86.

But rather than play second fiddle, Senna took the battle to his team-mate all season long, dominating the qualifying battle in the red-and-white McLaren which was the class of the field – Senna having taken pole at 13 of the 16 races of the year.

But Prost’s racecraft kept him in the mix for the title all season, and the points system in place at the time actually prevented him from taking the World Championship himself – scoring more points outright than Senna, but only the best 11 results of the year counting towards a driver’s overall tally.

A second place finish behind Prost in Australia gave Senna his first title, with much of the season having been a one-team battle at the front of the field.

With engine powerhouses Honda switching from Williams to McLaren, and the clever design which came into play on the MP4/4, along with the quality of its drivers, there would be no stopping the team that season.

The San Marino Grand Prix was a prime example of just how advanced the MP4/4 was. Senna’s pole lap was a 1:27.148, almost eight tenths clear of Prost in his own right – but no other driver dipped below the 1:30 barrier. Both drivers went on to lap the rest of the field in the race.

With that kind of form, is it any wonder that the only race they didn’t win came (at Monza) from a Prost engine misfire, and Senna retiring after contact from a lapped car?

Read more: Where are they now? The 12 different champions of the defunct GP2 series