The best cars that have raced ‘ours’ in F1.
Throughout the history of Formula 1, a total of 13 Spanish drivers have participated in at least one Grand Prix in the premier class. From Paco Godia in 1951 to the current times, with Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz, passing through De Portago, Soler-Roig, De Villota, Pérez-Sala, Campos… Of the whole list, very few managed to establish themselves in the championship and access cars with the level to score points or get on the podium, let alone fight for victories or the title, something that seemed unthinkable that a driver from our country would do until the beginning of Alonso’s adventure with Renault F1.
Since 2000, Formula 1 has grown a lot in terms of popularity, and much of the blame lies precisely with Alonso and his successes. Also, in the grid in the last 20 years we have seen other Spanish drivers who have had good cars, who have been in the points regularly and who have reached the podium. These are the top 5 F1 cars of Spanish drivers who competed in the premier class for more than one season and/or in more than one team.
Marc Gené – Williams FW25 (2003)
After spending two seasons with the Minardi team (1999 and 2000), Marc Gené signed for the Williams F1 team as a test driver and reserve in 2001. This gave him the option to participate in numerous tests – at a time when they were not limited, as they are now – and to join a team that came to fight with Ferrari in the Constructors’ World Championship. Marc participated in three Grand Prix with Williams, always replacing the incumbent Ralf Schumacher.
His best performance was the 2003 Italian GP at Monza, where he finished in a creditable fifth position, scoring five points at the wheel of the Williams FW25, a car that allowed Williams to finish second in the Constructors’ World Championship, only 14 points behind Ferrari, with Juan Pablo Montoya third in the Drivers’ World Championship, 11 points behind Michael Schumacher.
Pedro de la Rosa – McLaren MP4-20 (2005)
De la Rosa’s case is similar to Gené’s: his participations with top cars came after his promotion to the team’s starting position for different reasons. The Catalan made his Formula 1 debut with the modest Arrows team in 1999, scoring a creditable sixth place in the always crazy Australian GP that year. Subsequently, Pedro repeated with Arrows (2000) and also raced for Jaguar before joining McLaren as a test driver in 2003. Just two years later he was given the opportunity to take part in the Bahrain GP, replacing Juan Pablo Montoya, who had been injured… and finished a superb fifth in the McLaren MP4-20 (which he knew perfectly, having done numerous tests), even achieving the fastest lap of the race. That year McLaren finished second in the Constructors’ World Championship, only behind Renault, in a fair fight for the championship.
This good performance meant that when McLaren had to find a replacement for Montoya, who was leaving to compete in the USA in the middle of the season, the British team relied on him. Pedro completed the second half of 2006 with the McLaren MP4-21 (which finished third in the World Championship). The Spaniard scored points in five of the eight races contested and achieved the memorable podium at the Hungarian GP.
McLaren MP4-18, the F1 car that only De la Rosa dared to drive
Fernando Alonso – Renault R25/R26 (2005 and 2006) and McLaren MP4-22 (2007)
In the list of the best F1 cars of the Spanish drivers we cannot leave out the two cars with which Fernando Alonso became World Champion: the Renault F1 R25 and R26. They were cars that gave Alonso the necessary tools to fight for the titles with Kimi Räikkönen (2005) and Michael Schumacher (2006), although he never enjoyed the technical superiority that we later saw in teams like Brawn GP, Red Bull or that we now see in Mercedes.
The McLaren MP4-22, with which he raced in 2007, was able to achieve a historic record and with a certain margin over Ferrari. However, the internal war in McLaren during that season and the espionage case for which the team led by Ron Dennis was judged and punished, ruined all the team’s aspirations. Neither Alonso nor Hamilton won the drivers’ title (Räikkönen, who had a magnificent season, won the title by one point) and McLaren was expelled from the Constructors’ World Championship. All despite the MP4-22 being the fastest car on the grid? but that’s not always enough.
Why isn’t Ferrari on the list? Unfortunately for Alonso’s aspirations, the Scuderia cars he competed with were not good enough to fight with Red Bull, winner of the title between 2010 and 2013.
Carlos Sainz – McLaren MCL35 (2020)
After his beginnings at Toro Rosso and a brief stint at Renault, Carlos Sainz arrived at a ‘wounded’ McLaren team in 2020. The British formation was at the back of the grid when the Spaniard arrived to replace Fernando Alonso, and Carlos grew up with it. His first year at McLaren was brilliant, and that served to erase any doubts about his quality: in addition to achieving his first podium (Brazilian GP), he finished a brilliant sixth in the Drivers’ World Championship and contributed to McLaren finishing seventh in the Constructors’ Championship.
Although these results seemed insurmountable in 2021, Sainz continued to be as effective and consistent at the wheel of the McLaren MCL35, a car that with points from Sainz and his teammate, Lando Norris, finished third in the Constructors’ World Championship and scored two podiums, one with Carlos Sainz at the wheel (Italian GP) and one with Lando Norris (Austrian GP). Will we include any Ferrari in this list in the coming years? We will see…
Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso STR6
Jaime Alguersuari participated in two and a half Formula 1 seasons, between 2009 and 2011, all with Toro Rosso. In his time in the premier class he left very good performances and his dismissal from the ‘Red Bull universe’ was considered unfair, as he had the talent to remain linked to the championship. In addition, he was told that he would not continue in F1 in 2012 at the end of the year, so he had no options to find another seat. Nor would he succeed in the following seasons, although he maintained contact with other teams.
In his two and a half years in F1, the Barcelona-born driver completed good races, and undoubtedly his best season was the last one, that of 2011. With the Toro Rosso STR6, Jaime scored 26 points, eleven more than his teammate Sébastien Buemi, and achieved his best results in F1: two seventh places, in the Italian and Korean GPs. After passing through the premier class, he tried his luck in other championships, such as Formula E, without much luck. In 2015 he announced his retirement as a driver and went on to devote himself to his other passion: music.