Well, here we are, then. We’ve somehow made it into the third newly-prefixed decade of F1 Colours’ existence. 2020 has something of a “holding pattern” feel to it as a season – with not much movement on the driver and team front (except for one team taking on a new identity!), but new rules and lots of movement due to happen in 2021. It’s been a good few years for liveries – since around 2017, we’ve had some bright and colourful schemes on the grid, as well as some nice surprises here and there; but some of the established paint jobs are starting to reach the natural end of their lifespan, and so we’re finding ourselves wanting to see things freshened up a little bit more.
How, then, do the teams stack up against each other this year? Let’s find out…
Last year’s Mercedes was probably their best one yet, although it still felt slightly like something was missing. Red trim might have been it, but this slightly purple-ish, gradient shade brought in by the new sponsorship with INEOS doesn’t feel like it’s it. It does provide a nice counterpoint to the Petronas turquoise but perhaps they both need to have stronger presence on the car to really work together.
Score: 7/10 – Improved in some ways, but not quite clicking completely
Black as the trim colour for a Ferrari is enjoyable to see, although it would be even better if they went full-on black wings with it. The new number font is great although the way it sits on a non-matt patch of red feels weird. There’s a strong identity here with this matt colour shade overall, but as with the last few years the car is still let down by those messy sidepods.
Score: 7/10 – Solid if unspectacular yet again for the Mission Winnow identity
Well, it’s… it’s basically exactly the same as last year. Yes, it looks good, but come on, guys – move something around, yeah? Maybe when the Aston deal ends after this year we’ll see it freshened up – they really ought to start taking cues from their smaller brother.
Score 6/10 – “It’s a nice-looking car, but one we’ve seen too many times by now”. As last year, so this.
After absolutely adoring last year’s, I still can’t work out if this year’s is an improvement or not – which probably suggests that it isn’t, although there are things that are better. I really like the way the blue and black are used together in stripes this time, but it does give it a slightly strange and elongated feel and it’s a shame to lose the striking pattern from the rear of the 2019 design. It’s also hard to tell whether the matt orange is better or worse than the standard style of last year – we’ll see that better on track, I guess. And I don’t love the race numbers. All in all, I guess it’s a bit of a step down, but it’s still a great-looking car.
Score: 9/10 – Still a great colour scheme, and with improved application of sponsors, but ever so slightly lacking the wow factor of last year
They kept us waiting and waiting for, it turned out, the addition of a new logo as title sponsor of the team – albeit one taking a less-than-prominent space, akin to AT&T’s late-2000s sponsorship of Williams. Otherwise, this is effectively just a tweaked version of what they’ve had for the last couple of years. It’s still an extremely good-looking car, although that blue logo on the sidepod throws things off a bit; but I’m still yearning for the day they properly add some white beyond just the logos.
Score: 8/10 – Can see why they don’t want to change this livery much, but freshness is always good and so this just loses a mark
The livery that got the world talking. Yes, at a glance it seems fairly straightforward, with a very dark blue and a not-quite-white that make you think of a 2000 Williams BMW. But the more you take this in, the more you realise that it’s a quite transformative livery – it does things we haven’t really seen before, whether that’s the standout Honda logo in an unconventional position on the sidepod, the way the AlphaTauri name and strapline are in a long banner form, or a logo that’s so huge it’s basically part of the paint job rather than a decal. The fact that one of the best liveries of modern times has been replaced with something almost as good is remarkable.
Score: 9/10 – It’s not quite perfect, but it’s exciting and fresh, and put liveries at the forefront of the F1 conversation, so how can we not love it?
Like AlphaTauri, Racing Point have done something here that feels like it’s designed to fit how F1 cars currently look, not just adhere to the existing norms of livery shape and sculpting. The side-on BWT logo would only work the way current-spec rear-ends are packaged, and some people have reacted with disgust, but I think it’s great. Just by virtue of not having all the blue on it it’s an improvement on the mess they had in 2019, but I think this is the most coherent and striking version of the pink livery the team have had yet.
Score: 8/10 – Feels like the livery they should have always had back when BWT first came in
The last vestiges of Sauber-ness are gradually being chipped away at, as the amount of blue on the car decreases further to just be thin stripes on the nose, bordered by much larger red ones. Extending the red down the nose (from the halo where it was added to last year) is a great improvement to the overall coherence of this livery, as is the addition of red Orlen logos – it no longer feels so much like a cut-and-shut from two completely different teams. Perhaps next year we might finally get something that completely takes on a single identity?
Score: 8/10 – Just about earns another point on top of last year, but let’s see it improve even more in 2021
Well, it’s not Rich Energy. It’s also not particularly exciting, but it is probably the least dull white-red-grey-black combo the team have had since their arrival in the sport, so we have to give them that. It does feel like they could be doing more – maybe a brighter red that popped off the car more, maybe make the black more of a carbon or matt effect? – but at least it’s smart and not egregiously ugly.
Score: 6/10 – Mediocre, inoffensive… just fine, basically.
This one was a bolt from the blue, and an immediate improvement on last year. It doesn’t feel like it has the “personality” of a Williams, and if anything it looks like it’d be better suited to racing in the US or Formula E… but it’s hard to deny that it’s a cool looking car that pops off the track and demands attention. The sponsors are integrated much better than last year, and the wispy blue fade effect is gone, too. Oddly they’ve got much worse driver suits than their excellent ones from last year, but otherwise, this is fun.
Score: 8/10 – Always nice to have an unexpected bit of excitement, though it’d be even better if it was more all-over blue and red than the dominant white
So that’s the 2020 grid. The big difference from 2019 is that we’ve lost a metallic blue car and a black one, and both have been replaced with cars with heavy amounts of white. Add that to the white front-ends that Alfa Romeo and Williams are carrying over from last year and, well, we’re not exactly at the late 2000s kind of level yet (2008 and 2009, in particular, were quite drossy), but let’s hope it doesn’t continue too heavily as a trend.
Despite another strong showing from McLaren, a nice surprise from Williams, and a good effort from Racing Point, the clear winner has to be the AlphaTauri. It doesn’t challenge the 2017 Toro Rosso or the 2019 McLaren to be the very best of the last few years, but it’s certainly up there. It’s yet another example of how great a car can look when everything works in harmony around a single design philosophy – and if Italy’s smaller team can get all their sponsors to agree to fit in with a colour scheme, it’s remarkable that Ferrari can’t follow suit. It’s disappointment, meanwhile, that Red Bull and Renault have stuck so rigidly to liveries that yes, are good-looking – but come on, we just like to see something new each time! And Mercedes continue their run of not quite getting it right, not that they’ll especially care what people think of the livery when the car inevitably runs at the front all the time again…