After a somewhat disappointing 2013, there have at least been a handful of significant changes to the 2014 livery portfolio – including one brilliant new addition. Some teams could still do with freshening things up a bit more – and a certain Woking-based squad really need to get their act together – but in general the grid looks a bit more interesting, compared to last year, than 2013 did compared to 2012.
As per usual, then, let’s go through one by one and rate the cars! I’m using a new scoring system (again) this year – rather than totting up points based on individual categories, I’m just giving a simple grade from A+ down to D-. I’ve yet to work out the exchange rate of these grades against last year’s scores out of 20, but feel free to try and figure it out yourselves…
All car artwork by and copyright Andy Blackmore Design. Used with permission. These images are part of the Unofficial 2014 F1 Spotter Guide, which you should go and download and enjoy because it’s excellent.
Infiniti Red Bull Racing
The purple has a less “spray-painty” feel to it this year, which is good, although it still feels like one busy element too many. They might as well just drop the blue and make the car full-on purple, to be honest. Anyway, this is what a Red Bull looks like, and we’re all pretty used to it by now.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
For as many of the elements from last year that this improves, there are others that it… uh… deproves? I like the new effect on the sidepod’s turquoise patch – like Red Bull, the spray paint motif is thankfully gone – but I’m not sure about the black areas on the engine cover. And I really miss the white circle surrounding the race numbers on the nose. Still, though, the Mercedes once again looks great on track.
The increased amount of black on the car is interesting this year, as it seems to have been done for bodywork-hiding reasons rather than aesthetic reasons. It does imbalance the car slightly, though – making the front wing, endplates and all, black would – I think – have a much stronger effect. But I like this, especially that Italian flag motif along the side – it’s only that bloody UPS logo that looks horrendously out of place once again.
Lotus F1 Team
Adding red to the black and gold looks good on a can of Sure For Men (in fact I’ve got one of those by the side of my bed right now), but I still just don’t understand the logic of making a big deal out of the JPS throwback livery, and then gradually adding all this clashing red so that it no longer resembles it at all. If Lotus have all these sponsors that insist on being on red backgrounds, why not go back to the red, white and blue Toleman livery or something? They just about got away with it last year, but I think this time around they’ve passed a tipping point.
If they were sticking with the launch livery all season, we’d be mightily annoyed – it’s got no imagination, no sponsors, it’s not orange, and it’s far too easily confused with the Mercedes. The special “one-off” Mobil livery for Melbourne is a marked improvement, simply by virtue of having something to break up the lines, and the hope is that the basic design will carry on for the rest of the season with the addition of an actual title sponsor.
Grade: D if they’re using the launch livery all season, B- if they stick with the black bits.
Sahara Force India F1 Team
Force India didn’t have a bad livery before, but it’s nice to see they’ve got a willingness to change things up. This is kind of a mess, but it’s a mess in a “mid ’90s Minardi” kind of a way, i.e. a way that I like. There are some odd design choices – I think the whole nose should be black rather than have such a large white area, and the Claro logo is as incongruous and ugly as Ferrari’s UPS – but this is an enjoyable livery beyond much in the way of reasonable sense.
Grade: The objective head says C, the 90s-F1-loving-heart says B
Sauber F1 Team
I don’t really like this livery all that much – it’s grey, and it’s dull – but it continues to get goodwill by simple virtue of not being the 2011 or 2012 Sauber livery. I just wish they’d make it full-on black, though.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
It’s a Toro Rosso. It’s better without the gold bits that had crept onto it in recent years. It’s basically kind of what the Red Bull should look like. Yes.
Williams Martini Racing
Just delightful. Yes, it could have more sponsors on it. And yes, they could have made even more of a big deal out of the Martini branding. But come on, this is just a great-looking racing car. It’s not quite sex on wheels – if a team like Red Bull had Martini as a sponsor you suspect it’d be even more dramatic – but it’s the best “new” F1 livery since 2010, no question.
Marussia F1 Team
This is as back-of-the-grid as a livery gets, really – it’s not ugly, but it’s got no sponsors, and some detailing on the nose and wing endplates aside is barely distinguishable from last season. To be fair to it, that new nose styling is quite nice, but this otherwise feels like it’s lacking in imagination.
Caterham F1 Team
I rather like the metallic green, and it was sensible of them to ditch the silver sponsor logos after all – but I still don’t understand that baffling fluorescent strip. I’m also not sure that all-over green looks as good as it would with contrasting wing plates – say in black, or even dark grey. I love a green F1 car, as you know, but the best ones – Jordan ’91, Jaguar 2000, etc. – had something to break it up a bit. As with all the liveries Caterham have had since they stopped being Lotus, the “this is quite nice” is balanced out by “but they could also have made it so much nicer”.
So that’s our 2014 grid, with Williams the clear stand-out – although even that shows room for improvement. On the flipside, though, there’s also no car that stands out as being notably the worst-looking, with the possible exception of the Lotus (and even then I suspect we’ll get used to it, as we did with the previous ones). Perhaps the most disappointing cars are the ones that don’t look awful, but also don’t show much in the way of imagination – and despite Williams’ Martini deal, there’s still a worrying dearth of major sponsors around the place. It’s definitely an improvement on 2013, though – so let’s just hope that upward trend continues next year…