An Analysis of Curiously Named F1 Cars Like Mercedes & Haas

Published 10/21/2021, 11:22 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in action at the start of the race Pool via REUTERS/Giuseppe Cacace


Formula One cars, some of the fastest in the world, represent the pinnacle of engineering and innovation. Their cornering speed, their downforce tend to lie on the extremes. These beasts are engineering wonders that have been created by teams of hardworking and talented engineers and innovators who are always trying to gain that one-tenth of a second advantage over their opponents.

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However, one of the lesser-known facts is about how these wonderful cars get their names. People who follow F1 will know that the new Mercedes F1 Car for the 2021 season is called the W12, but why so? The Alfa Romeo car is known as the C41, but what does the C stand for? We will analyze and understand the meanings behind each of these names, so let’s jump right into it!

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Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance

The Mercedes car is known as the W12. The ‘W’ in the name stands for ‘Wagen,’ which means car in German. The number denotes the project number, so basically, the W12 is the 12 Mercedes Car that was born in their factory at Brackley.

This car was preceded by the W11, the car which won Lewis Hamilton his seventh World Championship. And as expected, the first-ever car was the Mercedes W01, in 2010.

Red Bull RB16B

It’s pretty evident that RB stands for Red Bull, which is followed by a chronological number for years of the new car, starting in 2005 with the RB1. This year, the car is an updated version of the previous year’s car so it is named 16B with the B referring to the car being a B spec.

This car was preceded by the RB16 in 2020.

McLaren MCL35M

McLaren started using the MCL nomenclature after the departure of previous team boss Ron Dennis. The cars were earlier named MP4; however, in 2017 the naming was changed to MCL which means McLaren.

Formula One F1 – Turkish Grand Prix – Intercity Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey – October 10, 2021, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in action during the race REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The MCL is followed by a chronological number which is a continuation from the first-ever MP4-1 produced in 1981. From then, it’s the 35 new car produced by McLaren.

The M in the name is a nod to the fact that they have recently returned to using Mercedes Engines. This car was preceded by the McLaren MCL35, which as we saw above, means that this year’s car is just an upgraded version of the last one.

Ferrari SF21

Ferrari has a very interesting naming system, in the fact that they don’t have a proper system of nomenclature for their cars. When a big milestone is coming up in the next season, they tend to name the car around that milestone.

Formula One F1 – Turkish Grand Prix – Intercity Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey – October 9, 2021 Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during qualifying REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The Current Car is named SF21 with SF meaning Scuderia Ferrari and 21 representing the 2021 season. In 2020 the car was known as SF1000 because they were set to participate in their 1000 Grand Prix that season.

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In 2019 the car was known as SF90. This is because they completed 90 as a company. In 2017 it was SF70H, which was a nod to the fact that they had completed 70 years as a car manufacturer, the H stood for Hybrid, their new engine technology.

In 2011 they named their car 150º Italia because 2011 was the 150 year of the Unification of Italy.

Alpine A521

Formula One F1 – Dutch Grand Prix – Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands – September 3, 2021 Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in action during practice REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

The letter A clearly stands for Alpine, with the 21 denoting the 2021 season. The 5 might be a nod to the A500, which was an F1 car tested as part of Renault’s preparation for its first-ever season in F1 in the 70s

AlphaTauri AT02

The AT clearly means AlphaTauri, with the 02 denoting that it is the second car produced under the AlphaTauri naming. Last year the car was named AT01 because it was the first car produced after Scuderia Toro Rosso was renamed AlphaTauri.

Aston Martin AMR21

Another easy to understand the name – the AMR clearly stands for Aston Martin Racing, with the ’21’ being the year of competition, 2021.

Williams FW43B

Formula One F1 – Italian Grand Prix – Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza, Italy – September 10, 2021, Williams’ George Russell during qualifying REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

Williams has a long history in Formula One, and the FW in their name is the initials of Frank Williams, the founder of the team. The numbering system is the chronological order of cars produced since the first car named FW01 was made in 1973.

Alfa Romeo C41

Alfa Romeo has a very interesting naming system. If they had the same nomenclature as other teams most likely their car should have been named AR-something. But their cars are always named C, followed by a numerical.

Formula One F1 – Dutch Grand Prix – Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands – September 4, 2021 Alfa Romeo’s Robert Kubica during practice REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The C stands for Christiane, the wife of Peter Sauber. Peter Sauber’s first-ever race car was named the C1 and it won the 1970 swiss sportscar championship. Since then the “C” has become a trademark for Sauber race cars.

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Their first ever F1 car was the C12 in 1993. It was 12 as they had produced 11 other cars for other motor racing categories before they stepped into Formula One

Haas VF-21

Another interesting naming, the Haas is named VF followed by the year of competition, this year being 2021.

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Formula One F1 – Dutch Grand Prix – Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Netherlands – September 4, 2021 Haas’ Nikita Mazepin REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

The name VF comes from the first CNC machine manufactured by the company Haas Automation in 1988. The “V” in the name denotes ‘vertical’, an industry-standard designation for a vertical mill. Later Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation and later the Haas F1 team, added “F1” to the name to make it VF1 which would be a short form of ‘Very First One’.

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Riddhi Mondal

106 articles

Riddhi Mondal is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having previously worked as a student reporter at The Statesman, she is an ardent follower of all things F1. A nerd through and through, the complicated physics that goes into the cars is what drew Riddhi to the sport.

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