It’s that time again. As ever, on the eve of the F1 season it’s F1 Colours’ duty to give you our full and official verdict on every one of the paint jobs that will adorn the cars competing to come second behind Mercedes in this year’s F1 World Championship.
Over the eight previous years we’ve done these roundups, we’ve been annoyingly inconsistent when it comes to the scoring system applied to the rankings – but for the sake of allowing some kind of comparison with recent years, let’s once again go with a nice and simple “marks out of ten”.
Remember, as if it needed stating, that these are the personal opinions of F1 Colours, and your mileage may vary significantly (just as McLaren’s did in testing from everyone else yet again, lol). Also, these are not a judgement on the aesthetics of the cars themselves – a badly-shaped car can still have a fantastic livery, although in some cases the liveries are judged by how well they’re applied to whatever the shape of the car is.
(What we really mean by this in 2018 is that all the cars are kind of ruined by having the halos, but we got through stub noses in 2014, we can get through this as well. But as a general rule, if halos are going to have to stick around, then for the love of god actually paint them in a colour relevant to the car. We didn’t dock any points for carbon-coloured ones this time, but if we see them next year, we might start doing.)
Anyway, without any further ado, let’s get on with the rankings! To increase the tension, they’re once again being presented in ascending order of goodness. But straight away, there’s a change at the bottom of the pile…
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport
They may be champions on the track, but they’re not champions of coming up with interesting liveries. Okay, so they do actually change how the turquoise Petronas pattern is used each time, and they get points for having differently-coloured race numbers for each driver. But they’ve been back in the sport for nine years now, and every car has been a variation of the same basic colour scheme. I know they’re Mercedes Petronas, and those two names carry a mandate for two very specific colours, but surely they could do something a bit different by now?
5/10 (last year: 6)
The new all-red Ferrari has certainly got its fans, and I’d agree it’s better than the last one, but there’s still something about it that just doesn’t work for me. It’s not that I necessarily think it needs black wings (although I do), but whether it’s the shade of red, or the inconsistent sponsor application (loads clustered in some places, nothing at all in others), it just doesn’t connect for me. It does, however, have comfortably the best halo.
6/10 (last year: 5)
Williams Martini Racing
If this weren’t going to be the last ever year of Williams Martini, I’d probably dock them further points for this. But as it is, I will be sorry to see the colour scheme leave the sport, so I’m being slightly kinder to it than I otherwise might have been. When it does go, it’ll be hard not to see it as a wasted opportunity – could they not have done a bit more with it year-on-year? This year is actually the most different it’s looked since it was introduced, although that’s mainly down to the bizarre decision to leave the bottom half of the car completely unpainted. But they do still have comfortably the best teamwear gear, so that’s something.
6/10 (last year: 6)
Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team
Oh Sauber, you’ve gone back to being all Sauber-ish again. Just because you came up with a rush-job livery to announce the Alfa Romeo partnership doesn’t mean you have to stick with it when the season comes around, you know. The metallic deep red is absolutely gorgeous, and if it were on the majority of the car this would be, like 2017’s blue/gold/white effort, one of the best things on this year’s grid. But as it is, too much of the car is just in a plain dull white with barely anything on it. Such a shame.
6/10 (last year: 8)
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing
If they hadn’t shown us the camo livery, I’d have been happier about them just sticking with the same matt job as the last two years. What would be even better, of course, would have been the introduction of a proper Aston Martin colour scheme – but I doubt that was ever really likely to happen. As it is, this is still a very good-looking car, but it’s not good-looking enough to justify being pleased with being basically identical (give or take some logos) this time around.
6/10 (last year: 7)
Sahara Force India F1 Team
It feels odd giving this the same score as last year’s car, given that I do actually prefer it by some way. But last year’s car was a middling design that got added points for the surprise factor and introduction of a (n almost totally) new colour to the grid. This is a better design that doesn’t have that “wow” to it. The shade of pink is a vast improvement, and while others have declared the use of white among it to make for a cluttered mess, as I mentioned at the time, it’s got a quite retro 1990s feel that works for me. There’s still a nagging feeling they could be doing something better or more dramatic with this sponsorship linkup, but this is still a massively distinctive livery that makes you forget they used to be black-and-silver for a couple of years before it. Good halo painting, too.
7/10 (last year: 7)
Haas F1 Team
Vast improvement. I didn’t like last year’s launch Haas, and I liked the replacement one even less. This time around, you can actually read the logos on it, the colours are better-chosen, and the layout more appealing. White, red and black aren’t the most exciting of colour choices but they work well together, especially on a team that has always felt slightly more like it ought to be in IndyCar. Haas have still to have a truly great livery, but at least for the first time they’ve managed “decent”.
7/10 (last year: 4)
McLaren F1 Team
I so wanted this to be a 10. I loved last year’s livery at launch, but I acknowledge in retrospect that it wasn’t quite the McLaren livery we were all looking for, especially after seeing the Indy version. So changing to an all-over papaya look, with added blue bits, should have absolutely nailed it. But it just… doesn’t. The problem is the sponsors – or, rather, the lack thereof. In the side view, it just looks terrible – so flat, so lacking in any kind of life or dimension. It’s improved between launch and the race weekend, as they’ve now got the Chandon and Dell logos on the side, but they’re just too small, especially from a distance. Which is a shame, because from the front or top, it is absolutely perfect, basically everything I could have wanted an orange McLaren to be. The blue tints work better than just going grey (and conversely the dark grey sponsors work better than if they were all in blue) and I even like the detail of the lighter blue outlining the race numbers. But man, that side-on view. It just brings it down so much. Gutting.
8/10 (last year: 9)
Renault Sport Formula One Team
Renault keep getting progressively better with their liveries each year – if only they’d introduce some more white (not just on the sponsor logos), and we could really get closer to the platonic ideal of a 1980s Renault livery. But this will certainly do for now. Like the Sauber and, to an extent, the McLaren, it has an odd effect of looking almost completely different from the side to how it does from the front – but in this case it actually looks quite deliberate, and works really well. It’s hard to deny that these colours work absolutely perfectly together, especially with that revised and slightly brighter shade of yellow. They need to fill in the race numbers, mind, but otherwise: spot on.
9/10 (last year: 8)
Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda
This was a 10/10 livery last year, and while the only real change is the addition of Honda logos this time, there’s nothing that means it’s not a 10/10 livery this year either. In fact, the Honda logos arguably make it even better. Will it still be a 10/10 livery if they keep rolling it out year after year? Well, the rule of Diminishing Williams Martinis suggests not, but equally, I can’t imagine a time when I ever won’t love this.
10/10 (last year: 10)
So that’s 2018. In one sense it’s a pretty good year, in that there’s no livery that I actively dislike – but there’s also an awful lot of middling ones, and only really three genuine standouts, the best of which is also identical to last year. What’s pleasing, though, is that only Sauber have really gone backwards – and even then, they’ve introduced a nice new colour tone to the grid (it’s just that they haven’t covered enough of the car with it).
This maintains, then, the current trend of a reasonably bright and colourful grid, and one upon which we can actually tell most of the cars apart when they line up. Sponsorship deals also continue to rise, although I’m not sure we’ll ever again see a time when full-on title sponsorship deals are commonplace, and Williams’ imminent loss of Martini is a worrying step backwards.
So that’s my take. Which are your favourites?