Well, then. It’s been quite a livery season, with a flurry of activity all in quite a short period of time, as several teams introduced bold and striking changes in direction – and then just like last year, one team gave us a late twist by unveiling a much brighter and more unusual replacement design for their initially poorly-received one.
At the start of last year’s roundup, I wrote: “We’re now looking at possibly the most colourful grid since the glory days of 2010. We could still do with some green or orange out there, and several teams really need to find themselves more sponsors; but on the whole, I think things are moving in the right direction, and I also suspect teams are starting to think again a little more about how their visual identity is engaged with by fans. Let’s hope the trend continues positively next year!”
And while there’s still no green car, and some teams do still need some sponsors, I think that’s basically held true. Certainly, if there’s a recurring theme for 2017, “engagement” would be it – several teams have made a statement with their liveries, and for the most part they’ve done so with consideration of what their fans wanted to see.
So without any further ado, let’s run through the teams – once again, I’ve given them a mark out of ten (and I’ve also reminded of last year’s score, for posterity), but rather than running through in championship order, this time I’ve sorted them into a countdown from worst to best.
Haas F1 Team
I was already distinctly unimpressed by Haas’ 2016 livery, so the fact that they’ve made it worse this time around doesn’t exactly fill me with joy. The grey is simply not a strong shade for an F1 car – neither one thing nor the other, it doesn’t have the shine of a silver or the dramatic effect of a full on matt black. There are some nice uses of the secondary red here and there – and it would be scoring a full point lower if it weren’t for the pattern on the shark fin – but coupled with a near-total absence of external sponsors, this just isn’t good enough. They’ve Saubered it.
4/10 (last year: 6/10)
It was inevitable that Ferrari would move away from the 1970s-inspired white engine cover look after such an unsuccessful year on the track, but it’s still a shame. This isn’t an especially ugly car, and the white shark fin is a good use of an appalling car design feature; but it could also be just about any Ferrari from the last ten years. It’s also becoming a little too cluttered by sponsors – which may seem a churlish complaint when I’ve criticised other teams for not having them, but they could plaster them on with a little more care. Come on, Ferrari – what say you to a darker red and going back to black wings? You know it makes sense.
5/10 (last year: 7/10)
Williams Martini Racing
Yep, okay – this is the year we start to dock marks for it not changing. Come on, Williams – it’s a lovely set of colours, but it’s not 2014 any more, you need to do a little more to stand out in 2017. This has had a few tweaks since its initial introduction – the Rexona logo on the sidepod really helped, as does this year’s addition of JCB to the rear wing endplate – but it would be lovely to see them mix it up a bit more strongly next year.
6/10 (last year: 7/10)
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
Point gained on last year for reducing the amount of black and improving the way the turquoise is applied. Point taken back off for still being essentially the same livery, and for the fact that the casual observer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between every Merc since they started winning titles. It is what it is.
6/10 (last year: 6/10)
Sahara Force India F1 Team
You might have expected me to give a higher mark to Force India given the dramatic surprise of their new pink livery – and indeed, for the fact that they’re using a colour that’s basically never been seen on the grid before. But I’m reserving judgement until we see it on track. Yes, the relaunch gets them a lot of kudos – they would have been sitting flat bottom of this list with the previous effort – but I’m still not certain of just how good that shade of pink is going to look, and whether it’s going to look slightly washed out. I love that they’ve made the grid brighter, I’m just not sure this is an especially good-looking car in and of itself.
7/10 (last year: 5/10)
Red Bull Racing
No major changes from last year, and while the matt colour is still very sharp (it grew on me more as the season went on), they’ve been somewhat overshadowed by their sister team this year. But this is a stronger visual identity than they had throughout the Vettel years, so I’m happy to see them stick with it – for now. Just treat Williams as a cautionary tale.
7/10 (last year: 8/10)
Renault Sport Formula One Team
After spending last year’s pre-season seemingly unable to decide whether to have a black car or a yellow car, Renault have finally done what we all knew they should have all along: have a black and yellow car. Well, actually, in this writer’s view they should have a black and yellow and white car, but this will do until then. Again, much will depend on how this looks out on track – last year’s yellow had a tendency to look flatly orange on some tracks, and spectacularly vididly yellow at others – and it would have been nice to see the colours mixing across the car a little more, rather than essentially being split in two (aside from on the top down view, where the yellow stripes look fantastic). But these are nitpicks – it’s still basically what we want to see from a Renault.
8/10 (last year: 7/10)
Sauber F1 Team
Force India may have made a late play for this year’s “Didn’t see it coming” stakes, but it’s still a title that’s claimed by Sauber – it can’t be underestimated just what it means for this team to run a livery with a bit of style and invention. Aside from the fact that the colours are just lovely (never mind the jibes about it looking like a Ligier or a packet of Embassy Regal, it does so in a good way), this really gets the marks for addressing a specific comment I’d made about the last couple of years (“That blue would look better if it was metallic”). Take heed, Other Teams.
8/10 (last year: 5/10)
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team
It may not be the exact orange McLaren we were hoping for, but who cares? It’s an orange McLaren. It’s basically this website’s raison d’etre. And actually, while I might have liked to see just an entirely orange car with black/grey sponsors on it, like the fabled West testing livery, last year’s Renault showed how such an approach can actually look kind of dated. This is a 2017 livery for a 2017 car, and I actually really like the design philosophy (did you spot that it’s basically a giant version of McLaren’s speed motif? DID YOU?) It’ll look even better with a title sponsor, but for now let’s just enjoy what might be the greatest discrepancy between livery quality and on-track performance since the 1997 MasterCard Lola.
9/10 (last year: 6/10)
Scuderia Toro Rosso
She is beauty, she is grace, she will probably never win a race. But in the championship of 2017 liveries, there is only one winner. This is utterly magnificent, it’s almost certainly my favourite livery since the 2010 Lotus, and I just can’t stop looking at it. Boom, metallic Prost-style blue. Boom, shiny silver sponsor logos. Boom, random bright red bits. When it was rumoured that Toro Rosso were finally going to change their livery this year, I assumed I’d only be happy with a “Sugar Free” light blue. I was wrong. And I can’t wait to see how it looks at Singapore.
10/10 (last year: 6/10)