Lesser-Spotted F1 Liveries

Some F1 liveries are iconic. The rosso corsa Ferrari, as used for decades. The red and white Marlboro McLaren, raced by legends such as Senna and Prost. The variations of the blue and white colour scheme used by Williams during their glory years in the ’80s and ’90s. The Silver Arrows Mercedes which was synonymous with both Mercedes in the ’50s and McLaren over 40 years later.

But not all designs reach this level of prominence. Some are consigned to the dustbin after no more than one or two events. Some are never raced at all. Others are never even intended to be raced! Created for reasons as varied as charity promotion, sponsorship changes and regulation disputes, this is a collection of obscure F1 liveries.

Red Bull 2004/ 2005

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When Red Bull bought the Jaguar team in November 2004, they had just a few days to come up with an all new livery in time for their first pre season tests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the result was hardly an imaginative design- it was little more than a combination of the logos from their days at Sauber and the design of a Red Bull can. Yet in many ways it was a superior livery to the permanent design which soon replaced it (and which is still in use today) with a lighter shade of blue and far more silver.

Spyker, 2007

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To some F1 fans, the purchase of the Midland team by Dutch car company Spyker in late 2006 meant only one thing- the return of orange to the grid. But Spyker’s livery designers would prove remarkably indecisive. Despite lasting barely 12 months in the sport, they came up with 3 different variations of their orange colour scheme.

The only one of the three not to race was the livery unveiled at the team launch in early 2007. However, it was ditched within a few weeks… because it was too orange! In fact, it appeared almost red on camera. Before the first race of the season in Australia it was replaced with a duller, more TV friendly shade of orange

British American Racing, 1999

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If you get the feeling you recognise these two liveries, it’s because you’ve probably already seen them. Or at least half of each…

British American Racing’s attitude towards their first season in F1 was, to put it mildly, somewhat overconfident. Their slogan was ‘’a tradition of excellence’ – a strange boast for a team which had never raced before- and team principal Craig Pollock declared them capable of winning their first Grand Prix at Melbourne. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the team failed to score a single point all season. In fact, it took the team 133 races to finally win a race- by which point its name had been changed to Honda, and Pollock was long gone…

Yet perhaps the biggest controversy in BAR’s debut season was their insistence on running separate liveries on each car in an attempt to promote two different cigarette brands, despite a specific clause in the FIA regulations forbidding it. The team’s attempt at overturning the law at the European Commission failed, Pollock was forced to make a grudging apology to the FIA and the love it/ hate it zip line livery was born.

Red Bull charity liveries, 2007 and 2008

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Red Bull have taken advantage of their lack of outside sponsorship by twice ditching their usual livery in order to promote their charity Wings for Life. At the 2007 British GP, their unique idea was to allow fans to buy a small spot on their cars to place a picture of themselves, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity in the process.

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The brown and white design produced for David Coulthard’s swansong at the 2008 Brazilian GP was far less innovative, and after Coulthard’s retirement just a few moments into the race, it was quickly forgotten. However, it did mark the first occasion in several years that two cars from the same team had raced in different liveries.

Orange Mclaren testing livery, 1997 and 2006

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Nowadays, when we think of colours associated with McLaren, we think either silver, or red and white- two colour schemes that McLaren have used almost exclusively for decades. But it hasn’t always been this way. Back in the ’60s, before the onset of sponsorship liveries in F1, McLarens were orange.

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Although the 21st century McLaren bears little resemblance to the outfit established almost half a century ago, it has retained the orange colour scheme for occasional use. Though sponsorship deals with Marlboro, West and Vodafone have taken precedence, McLaren have run their cars in orange in pre season testing before both the 1997 and 2006 seasons. And with the current tensions between McLaren and engine supplier Mercedes, they could yet be coloured orange again in the future.

Renault anniversary livery, 2007

To commemorate their 30th anniversary in F1, Renault painted their 2007 car, the R26, in Renault’s traditional sporting colours of yellow and black. It proved far more popular than the team’s regular orange, yellow and white livery, but due to sponsorship commitments with ING, it was never raced. However, following ING’s withdrawal from F1 in the aftermath of the Singapore race fixing scandal, it seems likely that Renault will revert to a similar yellow and black design for the 2010 season.

Black nosed Ferrari, 2001

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The Italian GP of 2001 was held just 5 days after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, one of the first major international sporting events to be held in its aftermath. Most F1 teams ran some sort of tribute on their cars at Monza; Ferrari’s was the most obvious.

Toyota testing livery 2001

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Toyota’s Formula One liveries came to symbolise the team itself: uninspiring, over-corporate and extremely boring. Throughout their 8 seasons in F1, they stuck to the same red and white ‘paint splash design which they had introduced in 2002. At the end of 2009, the Toyota executives back in Tokyo – perhaps out of shame of the livery- pulled the plug on the team.

Only once did Toyota produce a variation on this design. As the team prepared for racing with a year of testing in 2001, it used a predominantly red livery. Although hardly a classic, it would prove far more interesting than the design that succeeded it.

NART Ferrari, 1964

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For the millions of members of the Tifosi scattered across the globe, the concept of a Ferrari painted in anything other than the traditional Rosso corsa is unthinkable. Yet in 1964, after a dispute with the Italian motorsport authorities, Ferrari was forced to temporarily abandon tradition. For the first (and only) time ever, the Scuderia competed in two races not in Italian Racing red but the blue and white colours used by the North American Racing Team. Though the car did not win either event, John Surtees clinched the drivers’ championship at the final round in Mexico, becoming the only Ferrari champion not to triumph in a red car.

MasterCard Lola, 1997

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The short lived MasterCard Lola team have gone down in history as one of the most inept Formula One outfits of all time. Rushed into competing a year ahead of schedule in 1997 by title sponsors MasterCard, their cars were some 11 seconds off the pace at the only event they competed in, the 1997 Australian GP. Hardly surprising, given that they were adapted Indy Car’s which had barely been tested in wind tunnels never mind on the track. After failing to qualify in Melbourne, Lola were forced to quit before the following Grand Prix due to the £6 million worth of debt they had amassed, and they have never returned to F1 since.

The only credit in an utterly miserable project must go to the team’s vibrant, MasterCard inspired livery, arguably one of the best colour schemes of the late ’90s, despite never making it onto the grid.

Force India testing liveries, 2007/ 2008

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In late 2007, the Silverstone based Spyker team was bought by Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya and rebranded Force India, its fourth different name in four years. One of his first acts as owner was to try and stamp an Indian identity on the team, and this meant the removal of the Dutch orange from the car.

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Yet Force India, like Spyker before them, have found it difficult to come up with a decent Formula One livery. In the two years they have been in F1, Force India has created four different colour schemes, two of which have never even raced. Their first attempt, a smart white, maroon and gold design, was probably their best effort, but it was consigned to the dustbin within weeks. Its replacement, a unique white, gold and silver livery, was also a tidy effort, but by the start of the 2008 season it had been transformed by the McLaren- esque day-glo red paint covering the front and rear wings and the sidepods.

Marlboro Lights McLaren, 1986

One of the most iconic and popular F1 liveries ever created was the Marlboro McLaren. The red and white design graced 9 championship winning McLarens over three decades, before being unceremoniously ditched in 1996 as Marlboro defected to McLaren’s great rivals Ferrari.

At the 1986 Portuguese GP, for the first and only time ever, McLaren’s Keke Rosberg ran not in red but in a gold and white livery, designed to promote the new Marlboro Lights brand of cigarettes. However, as the gold came across on TV as yellow, and because Rosberg put in such an inauspicious performance in the race, the experiment was never repeated.

Anthony Davidson’s BAR Friday testers, 2004

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Throughout the 2004 season, BAR took advantage of the fact that they were one of the teams permitted to run a third car and driver in Friday practice by having a bit of fun with the paint scheme of Anthony Davidson’s car (with the Friday cars not subject to the same strict regulations as the actual race cars). Most notably, for the Chinese GP, his car (along with the uniforms of all team personnel, including lead drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato) was decked out in a blue and yellow livery in order to promote cigarette brand 555 – calling to mind the abortive Ricardo Zonta car from 1999. Elsewhere, the Brazilian GP saw a “graffiti”-style paint job that included Davidson’s own face, and in Italy black “x-ray” effect – with a silhouette approximating to Ant’s seating position – adorned the monocoque and nose.



    January 12, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Great article, Ned. Lots of quality research too.
    But there’s something I don’t quite understand. If BAR were refused permission to use two different liveries on their cars, how come Coulthard was able to do so in 2008? Have the FIA regs changed, and could we see something like a Ferrari plastered with Santander logos for Alonso and an Etihad Ferrari for Massa?

    Seb Patrick

    January 12, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I’m pretty sure that was special dispensation – I’d imagine the FIA were a bit keener to allow promoting a charity for a single race at the end of a respected driver’s career than they were for a brand new (and, as Ned points out, somewhat upstarty) team promoting two fag brands over the course of an entire season!

    Stephanie Farnsworth

    January 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Greg is this your first article? It’s really terrific. Excellent detail and research and your passion shows. It taught me quite a bit too, usually the obvious liveries like JPS Lotus come to mind so it was a good idea to do an article based upon lesser known liveries. I hope to see more in the future.


    January 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Brilliant article. You know what would be an amazing livery? Haynes livery. That would look amazing.


    January 12, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Great post Ned. I’m a huge fan of liveries and are much more interested in them as opposed to the shapes of the cars 🙂


    January 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Ligier ran a special Gitanes livery in the last couple of races of 1993 – try a Google image search on “ligier brundle gitanes”.

    Less rare but still interesting in terms of experimentation, Ferrari ran a retro 1970s-style livery with a thick white stripe down the side of the car in ’93 but reverted to solid blood red for 1994. The B&H-sponsored Jordans ran in pale yellow or gold during 1996 before adopting the distinctive bright yellow colourscheme. The gold came over as a sludge brown so wasn’t hugely successful.

    The 1983 Brabham-BMW had the colours of its livery reversed mid-season – dark nose on white background became white nose on dark, which made it look considerably better.


    January 12, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone! Just for the record, I think my favourite livery from this collection is the MasterCard Lola. If only the car was as good as the livery…

    HBG- Like Seb says, the FIA probably gave Red Bull a one off special dispensation to run two liveries. It would’ve been pretty cruel not to as it would have denied the charity some publicity

    Steph- Unfortunately after a single article I already have writers block! Hopefully I’ll come up with another livery idea soon

      Stephanie Farnsworth

      January 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

      Don’t worry inspiration will hit you. 🙂 Maybe argue just how great the 09 Renault livery was? 😛
      Good choice with the Lola, it has the best colours I think. I’m fond of the black nose Ferrari’s because it had true meaning and was a sign of respect.

        Ed Greenhalgh

        January 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

        The Renault 2009 livery isn’t too bad in small doses, especially when they used it on the R28 car at a few public events.

        Infact I have a theory that the 2009 livery was designed on the 2008 shape, and as it happened, it just didn’t transfer well onto the radical 2009 shape (particularly the nose)


    January 12, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Nice one Ned, spread the fanatic love around.

    The FIA would probably have given Coulthard a dispensation for his last day as well, no?

    I’ve never been entirely convinced by the need for two cars in exactly the same livery, I mean broadly the same but if drivers, an I suppose their sponsers, could personalise the cars a little, more of them would be on the car and it would be easier to tell them apart, etc.


    January 13, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    An article about testing liveries would be quite interesting. One set you missed above is the Line of Special Livieres Williams did in early 2008 for their anniversary. It might be a bit harder to find stuff, but I think it would be much appreciated. 🙂


    January 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm


    January 21, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Great article.


    November 25, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Excellent article.

    BAR Honda also ran a Petro Ofisi livery in Turkey that year I think. Also the book Unraced which is really interesting a number of liveries that never appeared including DAMS and Dome in 1995. Liveries really do make the car more than the car lol.

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