First up, let’s get something clear: I know not everyone loved last year’s McLaren, but I did. Okay, it wasn’t quite the right type of orange for McLaren, but it was still orange – in fact, it was a really smart and gorgeous orange and black and white livery that was exactly up my street.
But still, it wasn’t quite a McLaren. And then Indy happened, and showed everyone exactly what a proper, papaya-orange-and-blue McLaren could look like. From that moment on… this was inevitable, really.
And it is gorgeous. I actually think this shade of orange isn’t as good for a racing car (in general) as last year’s, but it’s unquestionably right for a McLaren. Introducing the blue is an interesting touch that I didn’t think they’d do – it was traditionally used by them in American racing series rather than F1, so despite it being on various fan interpretations prior to this I’m surprised to see it as the secondary colour rather than dark grey or even silver. But I’m glad they did, because it helps to make the car even more striking and distinctive (as well as creating a visual link to all the goodwill that Alonso’s adventures elsewhere have generated).
But for all of that, it does have a problem: and the problem is sponsors. There are some who will no doubt like the idea of an almost entirely plain car without any logos messing it up. To those people I say: it’s not 1958. A plain car looks like the car of a team with no money and support – and in the side-on view, the McLaren really does look weak. It needs something, and if it doesn’t have sponsors, then (like the sidepod on last year’s car) there really ought to be some kind of design element instead.
There are no such problems in the front-on view, though – which has several sponsors on the nose, lovely new race numbers, and Chandon emblazoned on the blue rear wing. From the front, this looks like a proper racing car, a great racing car, a car to bring the good times back to McLaren. Fans of the team will be hoping that it’s this car, and not the back-of-the-grid impression given by the side-on view, that’s most indicative of their upcoming performance.
So, all in all, I’m not sure if I think this is a better livery than last year. But is it a better McLaren livery? Categorically yes. They probably should have painted the halo blue as well, though.