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Is the era of sponsor-based liveries over?

February 7, 2010

The Art of Formula 1 guest writter and The Bull Run editor Tom Bellingham shares his thoughts on how car liveries changed in the past decade, from distinctive colours to mostly white cars splashed with corporate logos.

The launching of the new cars has always been my favourite part of the off-season. When I was younger I couldn’t wait to see all the new liveries and what each team had chosen for the season ahead. I remember the colours, the red Ferrari, the silver McLaren, the orange Arrows, the yellow Jordan and the blue Benetton. Each team had it’s own colour with many teams changing the liveries every year.

This image from Melbourne 2000 shows what the F1 grid was like back at the start of the millennium.

2000 Australian GP start

2000 Australian GP start

In recent years the launch season has been very disappointing. The colour white has taken over the sport, as we can see by looking at last years driver photo.

2009 Australian GP drivers photo

2009 Australian GP drivers photo

Teams also seem to keep the same livery from year to year, not changing the design at all. I always found it disappointing looking forward to a new launch to see the team has painted on exactly the same livery as last years car. Yes, team’s often keep the same sponsors from year to year but does this mean they can’t change the livery at all. When Jordan was sponsored by Benson & Hedges back in the late nineties and early noughties, they could have quite easily kept the same car for the 10 years they were sponsored by the brand but they didn’t.

Jordan - 2001Jordan - 1997

Jordan - 1999

They sported a new livery each year, and I always looked forward to the Jordan launch as I knew they’d come up with a great new design to get people talking about it. Of course teams care more about making the cars fast then what they look like and I’m sure the last thing on their minds is to make a nice looking livery, but how many people choose to support a team simply because of the teams livery? A lot I’m sure. Who likes the JPS Lotus because “the car shape is nice” or “it was quick”? We love it because of the stunning black and gold livery.

A friend of mine, Hayley, did a piece of F1 inspired art for her dissertation. Each block shows each year and the colours of the cars used in that year. As we can see the first few blocks (2008-2005) show how much white cars are on the most recent cars, the later blocks (2001-1999) show the amount of colour and variety we used to see on the F1 grid.

Formula 1 livery colours - 1999-2008 (click to enlarge)

So it looks like the time of classic F1 liveries are over…. or is it? This year colour has come back into the sport with a bang, most noticeably with the new Renault. Many people wondered why Renault didn’t use black and yellow in the first place but of course, they went for team sponsors colours instead. It is a real shame it took the spy scandal, resulting in ING leaving the team, for Renault to go back to their classic colours. Just looking at the testing photos you can see how much the Renault stands out on track and I, like many others, think it looks brilliant.

Virgin released their car on Wednesday and I haven’t heard a bad word about it yet. The black and bright red will stand out on track and it’s nice to see the car have patterned designs on instead of being covered on sponsor logos. Another team that have gone for a pattern on the car is Toro Rosso. Having a pattern on the car is a great idea and gives the car its own identity instead of it just being a 200mph billboard.

We also have many other liveries to look forward to this year: Lotus (expected to be yellow and green), USF1 (blue, red and white), Campos or even Stefan GP? I can’t remember a more exciting launch season in recent years and everyone is talking about liveries again. It looks like colour is back in F1 once again.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Griffin permalink
    February 7, 2010 10:24 pm

    My personal favourite livery was when Orange sponsored Arrows, the car looked fast and was often just as quick!

  2. February 7, 2010 10:39 pm

    Thank you very much for publishing the post. Hopefully people will enjoy it :) BTW remember its not FTR anymore so the link doesn’t work

    • February 7, 2010 11:51 pm

      To be honest I didn’t noticed your blog URL changed! I edited it on the post, and also on the blog list =)

  3. February 8, 2010 12:04 am

    I’m I the only one who found the new Renault horrid? The yellow is just to bright, seems like an egg yolk, but combined with those black stripes, it resembles a giant bee! Those black stripes could have been used in a better way too, to give the car a speed impression. But no, it gives the car a rather old look. And the engine cover is just terrible :P

    The Virgin looks awesome though!

    • February 8, 2010 8:35 am

      I didn’t like the Renault either-much preferred the R29.

      • February 8, 2010 9:45 am

        you preferred the ING-liveried r29? i mean, the current scheme isn’t all that fantastic but surely anything is better than that orange-yellow hodgepodge!

  4. wasiF1 permalink
    February 8, 2010 2:25 am

    Nice article,I think the main problem is that car liveries really depends on the sponsors less on the car colour. But like you I am happy that the car colour are back in F1.

  5. February 8, 2010 12:21 pm

    Raunaq yes I did…it’s not the first time people have been surprised at that lol I didn’t like the 08 car much but I thought the 09 shape and livery was beautiful. It looked even better when ING went!

  6. Ratboy permalink
    February 8, 2010 7:03 pm

    I always used to like the lower teams because they didnt have many sponsers so they could do the car as they liked, Pacific ’94 is a favourite of mine its plain and very simple,
    The team that always had a good livery was Benetton from the early days of the united colours to the yellow and green of camel to the blue at the end, it was a shame to see them go,

    Oh and when did your blog name change Tom?

  7. February 8, 2010 9:52 pm

    No? Virgin, Red Bull, Santander @ Ferrari

    Then there’s the dark blue Williams because of RBS.

    So… no, I don’t think so.


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