So, a new year brings with it a new team entirely, new names and identities for two others, and a brand new style of paint altogether for yet another. Is it one of the better grids we’ve had in recent years? Very probably, yes – things were looking troubled earlier in the launch run with an awful lot of black and grey out there, but with the arrival of the Manor and the (replacement) Renault, 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 in more than just the thin stripes on that Force India) and several teams really need to find themselves some 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!
For our team-by-team run-through, this year I’ve (again) dropped the category points system and just gone back to a simple mark out of ten. Because that’s just how I felt like judging them this year. To give an idea of how the marks fall, to get a 10 you’d basically have to be the 2010 Lotus, whereas a 5 represents something that’s disappointing but not downright dreadful. So, on with the ratings!
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team
Once again it’s evolution not revolution for the champions; and once again, it’s a mixture of good and bad changes. The sidepod pattern is stronger than before, but it feels like there’s a little too much black on the car now, drowning out what should be a more predominant silver. 6/10
A remarkable change in approach, with the decision to take inspiration from the 1970s apparently arrived upon at random. I really like this design (it looks especially good from the front), although it does feel weird to see a modern-style Ferrari with so much white on it. The things that harm it are the not-Marlboro flag on the engine cover, and that hugely incongruous UPS logo. Otherwise, this is their best in around a decade. 7/10
Williams Martini Racing
At what point do we start docking marks for them not changing it at all? Yes, the Martini design is lovely, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t getting a little old hat after three years. We don’t want to see them get rid of it, obviously, but mixing it up a bit would be nice. 7/10
Red Bull Racing
The matte colour job has grabbed all of the headlines, and it certainly is striking. I’m still not keen on the non-outlined “Red Bull” lettering (nor its slightly fluorescent colouring when out on track) but otherwise this is an excellent attempt at doing something new. Even without the matte, mind, it would be a huge improvement purely by virtue of going back to only three main colours, in a much more simplified design. 8/10
Sahara Force India Formula One Team
After all the excitement of potential linkups with Aston Martin and/or Johnnie Walker faded to nothing, we’re left with… basically exactly the same design as last season. Which isn’t a bad one at all, but is fairly easy to get bored of, and some variety would have been nice. 5/10
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Glory be, some colour! It’s striking just how much this adds to a field of 22 cars when they’re mostly dark colours, and for that alone we have to applaud it. But the yellow is still a little more muted than we’d hoped for, and while a very simple design means there’s nothing egregiously ugly about it, it really doesn’t feel very designed at all. Just a few lines here and there to define the shape of the car, especially around the nose, and this could have been an absolute classic instead of merely pretty good. 7/10
Scuderia Toro Rosso
There’s something oddly retro about this year’s Toro Rosso – having lost the CEPSA branding from the rear wing, they’ve replaced it with the Red Bull Cola ad they used to run a few years ago. Sponsor losses aside (other long-time partner Nova Chemicals are also gone), this is otherwise pretty much exactly the same as last year, and looks a little dated now that Red Bull have got their jazzy matte design. It would have seemingly made more sense to come up with something new for the sister team as well. 6/10
Sauber F1 Team
Also almost exactly the same as last year, except with a few sponsors added to the rear wing. I quite like the early 90s backmarker stylings of just sticking multi-coloured stickers on a white endplate like that, but otherwise both the good and bad aspects of this car are the same as in 2015 – that is, it’s nice that it’s a bit colourful (and the big race numbers are excellent), but that blue is far too plastic-looking. 5/10
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team
I find this to be a really odd take on their much-improved second 2015 livery – I still like the “graphite” colour scheme, and I thought taking the weird stripe off the nose would be a good idea. But it hasn’t really been replaced with anything, and as such the whole front end of the car looks only half-designed. And while I love big race numbers, the font chosen for McLaren’s 14 and 22 looks really weird and slapdash. Still, nice to see they’ve actually got a few sponsors now – even if they’d look much better with one on the sidepod. 6/10
Manor Racing MRT
So for all the time that Marussia were in charge of this team, they never got around to painting the cars in their logo colours of red, blue and white. Then it finally goes back into the hands of Manor full-time… and it’s the first thing they do. Aside from that, I’m really impressed with this – I like the new team identity they’ve come up with generally (the uniforms are especially great), and it’s a neat, smart livery that cleverly masks the fact that they’re so badly lacking in sponsors, with lovely detail such as the shadowed “M” logo on the engine cover. But the best thing about this is that metallic shade of blue, which really does show Sauber how it should be done. Comfortably the prettiest thing on the grid this year. 8/10
Haas F1 Team
By contrast to Manor, this is a big disappointment. There’s nothing inherently wrong with silver/red/black as a colour scheme, it’s just that we’ve had too much of it on the grid lately, and the way it’s applied here is pretty uninspired. The front view, with a striking race number font, is probably the best angle – but with a complete lack of sponsors to boot, pretty much the only thing I really like about the car is the stars and stripes flag on the side. 6/10
So that’s my take on 2016. What do you reckon?