We’ve been here before. So we don’t want to get too excited. But the murmurs are swirling, and since January has been largely passing by without anybody giving us a sniff of a new car (none of the launches get underway until late February, presumably due to the change in regulations), let’s address them.
So: there’s increasing noise around the possibility that finally, finally, McLaren might be about to give the people what they want – namely (a) an actually new livery and (b) one that’s partly or entirely orange. With the departure of noted livery-phobe Ron Dennis, the team’s executive director Zak Brown has been quoted as saying “We’ve just signed off on the car livery and I think the fans will be excited to find out what the car looks like both technically and visually.”
Now, to be fair, I don’t actually hate the black and red livery the team ran with last season – it was certainly an improvement on the ridiculous thing they started 2015 with, and with a few more sponsors and some exciting flourishes, it could really have worked. But the problem with the team is that it’s never felt like they’ve put much thought into their livery over the past few years – something we’ve been disappointed by given that they’re responsible for some of the most iconic liveries in F1 history. Under Dennis, the edict seemed to be that change for change’s sake simply wouldn’t be countenanced – so a “default” silver and red livery, despite the departure of West, Vodafone and Mercedes over the course of a decade, was something he was happy to stick with.
But for twenty years, now, the idea of McLaren painting a modern car in the classic orange of Bruce McLaren’s 1960s cars has been a persistent myth – and to be fair to us fans who keep clamouring for it, the team brought it on entirely themselves. Because it was they who first started running their test cars in it, after the end of the Marlboro deal in 1997. Before unveiling the classic “Silver Arrows”, Mercedes-driven livery, they laid out their sponsors on an orange test car, and everyone went nuts for it. So then they did it all over again when the West deal expired, before introducing the 2006-onwards “chrome” livery.
We hoped they might go orange in 2014, but they stuck with a very plain silver instead; and when Mercedes were replaced by Honda in 2015, they hinted at a red and white car (neatly tying in not just with the Japanese engine company, but with their classic Marlboro stylings) before unveiling that thing. So why does everyone think it might be orange this time?
Well, because of this:
The clock is ticking… and the countdown to our 2017 car launch on Friday February 24th begins. pic.twitter.com/5qNSqfVLtw
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) January 16, 2017
The pattern on the picture resembles the scheme they put on a showcar while at an event for sponsor Richard Mille this week:
… but the fact that they’ve included it, and the orange text, in their launch date announcement suggests that orange will be a part of it in some way. Now, this might not mean an entirely orange car. It could mean taking the 2016 livery and replacing the red bits with orange, or doing something like this:
(concept by the ever-excellent Sean Bull)
Or they could have a new sponsor entirely, and with it something completely new. We’ll find out when they launch the car on 24th February. And yes, if it’s black or silver, you will probably be able to hear our scream of anger from space.