• Top five teams in F1 history

F1's greatest teams

ESPNF1 Staff
November 17, 2011

As part of ESPN's series on the greatest teams in sport, we look at the top five teams ever to grace the pit lane in F1. Vote for yours to win a top-of-the-range Samsung device

5. Williams 1992-1993

Alain Prost driving the Williams FW15C during his last title-winning season © Sutton Images
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In 1993 Williams won the title with arguably the most technologically advanced car ever seen in Formula One. With dominant back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993 the team set new standards in the fields of active suspension, traction control and anti-lock brakes, all of which shifted the bias from driver skill to car technology. In 1992 the team took 10 wins and 15 pole positions from 16 races and delivered Nigel Mansell his one and only world title. But, from a design perspective at least, the 1992 car was a development mule for 1993's FW15C, which was built to fully incorporate active suspension from the start and had aerodynamics finessed by the pen of a young Adrian Newey. In the hands of Alain Prost and Damon Hill it took ten victories as the team secured back-to-back drivers' and constructors' championships. Williams' dominance was brought to an end in 1994 when the FIA banned driver aids, but the team still took the constructors' championship and went on to secure two more titles in 1996 and 1997 to bring its tally to nine constructor's titles in total.

4. McLaren 1988-1991

As Formula One's turbo-era wound down there was only one engine to have: the 1.5-litre Honda V6. And when it was bolted to the McLaren MP4/4 chassis with either Ayrton Senna or Alain Prost at the wheel it was near unbeatable. In fact the combination was only beaten once as McLaren took 15 victories from 16 races in 1988 as well as 15 pole positions and 10 fastest laps. It heralded the start of a four-year period of dominance for McLaren which delivered Senna all three of his world titles and Prost one. However, there were nasty undercurrents that threatened to disrupt the whole team as Senna and Prost became embroiled in a fierce rivalry that ultimately saw the Frenchman leave for Ferrari after winning the 1989 championship. For that reason, the ruthlessly efficient McLaren team from the late 1980s and early 1990s is only fourth on this list.

3. Lotus 1963-1968

Jim Clark drives his Lotus on the limit in 1963 © Sutton Images
Among his peers in the mid-1960s, Jim Clark was regarded as the best driver in the sport. Exceptionally talented inside the cockpit but modest and unassuming out of it, Clark was the perfect driver for Colin Chapman's Team Lotus, and together they proved to be a near-indomitable force in 1963. Driving the Lotus 25 - which featured the first monocoque chassis in F1 - Clark took seven wins from ten races to take the title and went on to take his second championship in 1965. Graham Hill's arrival at the team in 1967 gave Lotus one of the strongest driver pairings on the grid, and Chapman provided a suitably impressive car in the Cosworth DFV-powered Lotus 49. But just as a third title looked on the cards for Clark in 1968, tragedy struck as he was killed racing in a Formula 2 event in Germany. Hill went on to win the 1968 title but Clark's death marked the end of an era at Lotus.

2. Mercedes 1954-1955

No other team has dominated Formula One in quite the way Mercedes did for two years in the mid 1950s. The German marque had a strong pre-war pedigree in grand prix racing, but its first foray in the F1 world championship came in 1954 when it rocked up at the fourth round of the season with a car like no other in F1 history. Led by team principal Alfred Neubauer, the same man who had overseen Mercedes' pre-war rivalry with Auto Union, the Silver Arrows set a new standard for professionalism in Formula One and the results were clear to see. With Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel, Mercedes won four of the six races it entered in its first season and then followed that up with five wins from six in 1955. In its second year of competition a young Stirling Moss joined the team as an understudy to Fangio, creating, arguably, the greatest driver line-up of all time. But the team's unprecedented success in 1955 was completely overshadowed by Pierre Leveigh's horrific accident in a Mercedes at Le Mans the same year that killed over 80 spectators. The team announced its withdrawal from all motorsports at the end of the season and the Mercedes name didn't appear as a constructor in F1 for another 55 years.

1. Ferrari 2000-2004

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari celebrate their fifth title together in 2004 © Sutton Images
The first half of century saw the longest period of dominance by any single team in the history of the sport. From 2000 to 2004 Michael Schumacher took five back-to-back titles while Ferrari made it six from six with the constructors' title in 1999 to boot. But the roots of success story go back to the 1996 season when Schumacher, then a double world champion with Benetton, joined forces with team principal Jean Todt and set about creating the ultimate Formula One team. Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne soon followed the German from Benetton and the results gradually improved against stiff competition from Williams and McLaren. By 1999 the team was eager for title success, but an accident at Silverstone broke Schumacher's leg and put the drivers' crown out of reach. In 2000 he made amends with Ferrari's first drivers' championship since 1979 and then added additional titles in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The team reached its zenith in 2004 when Schumacher won 13 races in a season - a record to this day - and sealed the championship at the Belgian Grand Prix with four rounds remaining. A change in the tyre regulations caught Bridgestone off its stride in 2005 and the team dropped out of contention that year. In 2006 Schumacher announced his (first) retirement but was pipped to the championship by Fernando Alonso and Renault. Nevertheless, Ferrari's reign at the top of the sport in the early 2000s had set new standards in teamwork, not to mention several records along the way.

ESPN's series on the greatest teams in sport is in partnership with Samsung Mobile Project Team Work.

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