Like every Formula 1 car, it took its name and the story behind it: PlanetF1

Have you ever wondered why Formula 1 cars have the names they do? Well now you can find out.

Terms like RB18 and W13 came into common use last season and throughout history there will be many combinations of numbers and letters that mean so much to some Formula 1 fans.

But naming a Formula 1 car is by no means an easy choice. Maybe you want to name it after the year it will be racing or maybe how many seasons you’ve raced as a team or maybe if you’re Ferrari, you can never really decide.

However, we’ve tried to make your life a little easier by looking at the current 10 teams and describing what their cars are called what they are.

Red Bull – RB19

Red Bull’s numbering of their cars is pretty straightforward with RB standing for Red Bull and the number representing how many seasons the team has been racing.

2023 will be their 19th year since purchasing Jaguar and as such, the 2023 challenger will be called the RB19.

Interestingly there was no RB17 with Red Bull opting to use the same chassis for 2021 as they did in 2020 and therefore calling the successor version the RB16B. When it came to naming the 2022 car, they decided to skip the RB17 as they wanted to continue the trend of naming cars in line with their race season.

Ferrari – Unconfirmed (codenamed ‘Project 675’)

As the oldest team on the grid and one that has been there since the very beginning, it’s no surprise to see that Ferrari have a varied history when it comes to their car naming conventions.

The first theme was to name the car after the engines that powered its cars starting with the 246 in 1958 and this continued through the 1960s, 1970s before re-emerging in the late 1990s.

In the 1970s Ferrari modified the styling by adding a letter to indicate where the engine was located which started with the 1970 312B which featured a three-litre 12-cylinder boxer engine. The 312 B2 and 312 B3 followed, which is pretty basic so far.

But then, in 1981, the masterminds at Maranello dropped their previous naming convention and decided to name the car according to the degree of engine fitment, first followed by the number of cylinders. So the 126C was so called because the 12 cylinders were mounted at 120 degrees and there were six cylinders in the car.

This continued for a short time with Ferrari adding a number every year until the early 1990s when they changed the naming convention again. This time around, they decided to name the car after the number of valves followed by the number of cylinders and the type of gearbox used.

But if you’ve managed to figure it out, be careful because Ferrari is also a big fan of naming cars after the year they’ve driven. The 156/85, F1-86 and F1-87 are all examples of this as is the F2003-GA, which had a reference to the death of Fiat founder Gianni Agnelli.

However, the Italian team is not finished and has also used naming conventions such as engine/year, chassis number and significant anniversaries such as the 2020 SF1000 to celebrate the team’s 1000th Grand Prix, at Mugello.

The most recent car, the F1-75, was named after Enzo Ferrari who fired up the first F1 car, the 125 S, in March 1947, 75 years earlier.

So with the team adding SF as in Scuderia Ferrari to their car names, logic would suggest the 2023 car will be called the SF23 but considering it’s currently dubbed Project 675, who knows what they’ll come up with.


Once you get past the confusing mess of Ferrari car names, fortunately the Mercedes are a little easier to follow.

The Mercedes convention is pretty simple: the W stands for Wagen, which means car in German, and the number is the project number.

The first Mercedes car was the 1955 W196, named after the engine it used, the M196, and five decades later, when the team returned in 2010, they settled on the W01, which was the first car built in Brackley.

This is the convention they have stuck to ever since, with the W14 set to be the fourteenth car used since the team re-emerged.

Alpine – A523

Alpine are another team with a simple naming convention with the car name being a mix of the A500, the F1 project name and the year. So when the team first appeared in 2021, the car was called A521 followed by A522 last year.

Before the rebranding, Renault also followed a rather simple scheme. Between 2016 and 2020, the cars were called RS as in Renault Sport followed by the last two digits of the year (i.e. RS20).

During their first stint in Formula 1, they started with the RS01 in 1977 and kept that name for the following season. Then they started going up in multiples of 10 starting with the RS10 in 1979.

In 1980, the team was renamed Équipe Renault Elf as a subsidiary of the parent group and the car name reflected that switch from RS to RE which they maintained until they left the sport in 1985.

When they returned in 2002 the first car was called R202 as it was the successor to Benetton, the team they had just bought, B201 and then they switched to the R23 for 2003 until the R31 when the team left the sport again in 2011.

McLaren – MCL37 (unconfirmed)

Like Ferrari, McLaren has been in the sport long enough that they’ve had different naming conventions over the years, but unlike their Italian counterparts, they’ve at least kept them easy to follow.

Bruce McLaren joined the team with the M2B which was the successor to the M2A development car. This pattern continued for the next few years with the letter changing at the end whenever the same loom was used.

The numbers would prove to be quite inconsistent, as he moved from the M2 to the M4, the M5 to the M7 and a brief burnout with the M9 before switching to the M14 for the 1970 season.

Eventually McLaren began using fewer variants of a model number and increased the numbers, reaching M30 in 1980.

The following year saw a dramatic change when Bruce McLaren’s team merged with Ron Dennis’ Project 4 Formula 2 team and with a future F1 advertising icon on board, the partnership’s first car was called the McLaren Marlboro Project 4 or MP4.

From here, the naming convention changed with the MP4 always remaining followed by a slash and the model of the car and its variant. So in 1981 it was the MP4/1 and in 1984 it was succeeded by the MP4/2 driven by Niki Lauda and Alain Prost.

That format continued until 2017 when McLaren dropped the MP4 following Dennis’ departure and replaced it with MCL.

The MCL style has continued to the present day with the 2023 car expected to be called the MCL37.

In 2021, McLaren decided not to call the car the MCL36, which would have made sense after the 2020 MCL35, but instead called it the MCL35M as it kept the same basic chassis from the previous year. Unlike Red Bull, McLaren did not skip a number and went to MCL36 for the 2022 season.

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Alfa Romeo – C42

Easily the most romantic name on the list as when Alfa Romeo joined forces with Sauber in 2019, they continued the latter’s naming style with the C38.

What does that C mean? Christine, of course, which is the name of founder Peter Sauber’s wife.

Sauber has been using the C prefix since its first introduction in 1993 with the C12. This continued until 2006 when BMW bought a stake in the team and decided the car would have the prefix F1 followed by the last two digits of the year.

However, when BMW sold their stake back to Sauber in 2010, the team reverted to the C prefix, but skipped numbers that should have been represented while the team was a BMW car, meaning there are no C25s, 26, 27 and 28.

Whether or not the C prefix will survive once Audi takes over in 2026 remains to be seen.

Alfa Romeo also have a long history in Formula 1 and followed a similar pattern to their Italian counterparts Ferrari, naming the car after the engine in the early days. After a 26-year hiatus, Alfa returned to the grid in 1979 and loosely followed a naming convention dictated by the year the car competed.

Aston Martin – AMR23

It’s simple for Lawrence Stroll and co. with the 2023 car to be called AMR23. This stands for Aston Martin Racing 2023.

This was the same pattern for the team’s first car in 2021 and Racing Point before it followed a similar convention (RP19 etc.)


The origins of the Haas car name go back to their owner, Gene Haas and his early days on the job.

In 1988, Haas Automation produced their first CNC machine which they called the VF-1, with the V for vertical being the industry standard designation for a vertical mill, and the F-1 added by Haas to unofficially designate it as ” Very The First’.

As a result, Haas F1 has maintained that tradition with the VF-16 combining the VF-1 with the year (2016) it was launched. That styling has remained ever since with the 2023 car to be called the VF-23.

AlphaTauri – AT04

As is the case with their sister team, AlphaTauri’s car is named after their initials plus how many years they’ve competed as a team, so the 2023 car will be called the AT04.

This was also the case for the team when it was Scuderia Toro Rosso with the 2006 car called the STR1 through to the 2019 STR14.


Williams first entered the sport as a customer team of chassis manufacturer March Engineering, so the 1977 car was called the March 761, but after that season, Williams has used the same naming convention ever since.

1978 was the first time the team designed their own car and it was called the FW06. It was named after owner Frank Williams and was the sixth car designed by the legendary motorsport figure.

The Williams team has occasionally added letters to the end to denote variants of the same model, but in general they have gone from six onwards. Even after the Williams team was sold to Dorilton Capital in August 2020, the cars continued to follow this pattern with the 2023 edition expected to be called the FW45.

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