One of F1’s most venerable pub quiz answers, Arrows Grand Prix (also known at various times as Footwork Arrows and TWR Arrows) are most famous as being the team to have competed in the most races without winning one – competing 382 times between 1978 and 2002 without ever putting a driver on the top step. Five years after arguably their finest (and yet most bittersweet) moment, in which Damon Hill came within a matter of laps of notching the team’s first win in an otherwise woefully uncompetitive car, the team met an ignominious end partway through the 2002 season.
At the time of their demise, the team had one of the most noteworthy liveries in F1, courtesy of their dramatic and memorable Orange-sponsored scheme – although it had been diluted somewhat by secondary sponsors by this point, as we’ll see. But it was just one of a line of varied and often inspired designs the team employed in their lifetime, showing that what they lacked in race-winning craft, they frequently made up for in livery quality…
When the team made its debut in 1978, it did so in a car that was – unlike many startup teams of the era – already able to call on a strong visual identity, courtesy of a sponsorship deal with independent brewery Warsteiner. Despite the classy air it tends to lend a car, gold as a main colour tends to be rare in F1 – although it was present in the sport in the late ’70s as an accent on the black cars of Wolf and Lotus. The all-gold styling of the 1978 Arrows, therefore, was a bold step.
The following year, however, Arrows repainted the A1 car that they were carrying forwards by adding a black stripe that covered the entire nose and engine cover. An improvement to the livery was that the Warsteiner logo was now in white, rather than black – and stood out significantly more – but otherwise, it was a shame that the all-gold car was so quickly ditched.
Fortunately, the black-and-gold effort was ditched even more quickly. Arrows switched chassis partway through 1979 – as they had done in ’78 – and this time decided to tweak the livery, as well. The black engine cover remained, but was much smaller – and the gold nose cone was restored.
The livery was largely the same in 1980, albeit with an odd little addition – new sponsorship from Penthouse (the, ahem, “adult” magazine), whose name appeared in conjunction with cigarette paper manufacturer Rizla, just as it had done on the Hesketh in 1977.
Although Arrows again carried the same car – this time the A3 – to the start of the next season, in 1981 a new year meant an entirely new livery. Warsteiner were out, replaced by Italian ceramic tile makers Ragno – who brought with them an orange colour scheme. For the (eventually run as a) non-championship race in South Africa in February, the car was seen simply in all orange with black decals – but things were freshened up as the season proper drew on, with a much smarter design that included white sidepods in an unusual checked design that had the look of graph paper.
The following year, despite having been absent from the car in ’81, Penthouse – this time without Rizla – returned alongside another Ragno livery that this time made white a heavier feature. Something about it lost the verve that the ’81 effort had had, however – with the lines not really complementing the design of the A4 (or its successor, the A5) as well as they had on the A3.
Come 1983, however, Ragno were gone – and without a main title sponsor, Arrows underwent one of the most bizarre seasons that an established team (as they undoubtedly were by this point) has gone through, livery-wise. The base car had simply a white colour scheme – which, at its worst, had no more than a couple of sponsor decals – but throughout the year, various partners were brought in for one or a few races at a time, and in some cases were allowed to add large patches of colour, including red and green, to the car. It was haphazard and chaotic, and frankly, I don’t actually have to hand full evidence of exactly how many distinct liveries were deployed. Below are just some of the liveries I’ve been able to get images of, but let me know in the comments if you have any more!
Thank heavens for 1984, then, which brought Arrows a brand-new title sponsor, and a proper visual identity once more. Tobacco company Barclay, who would later plant their beige colour scheme on parts of the Williams, would here get to deck out the car. Hardly the most exciting colour, but with the accents of burgundy – and the blue sidepods brought by skiing equipment manufacturers Nordica – it actually looked kind of good.
Nordica only stuck around for a year, however, and so in 1985 it was the turn of De’Longhi to adorn the sidepods. With a more colourful logo, things were hence a little more clashy – but by the same token, the rest of the car looked a bit smarter, with a tidier rear wing endplate, and the Barclay logo swooping ever-so-slightly, but effectively, over the engine cover.
Barclay’s final year as title sponsor was in 1986, but their replacement had also already snuck onto the car that year – the third new sidepod name in succession was that of insurance company USF&G. Their plain logo, along with the departure of a number of other sponsors, made for a neat and tidy car – but also one that seemed a little bit insipid by comparison with the previous two years.
Despite reportedly suffering from financial difficulties in the late ’80s, USF&G took over as Arrows’ lead sponsors for the 1987 season. Although they retained their spot on the sidepod, they took the opportunity to give the team a somewhat American-looking red-white-and-blue colour scheme. The engine cover sponsor varied – sometimes showing the deliciously retro logo of engine badge Megatron, and sometimes the nicely complimentary blue of Italian fashion brand Trussardi.
The livery was similar in 1988, albeit with a changed logo for rear wing endplate sponsor Camozzi, which would persist until 1991. But in 1989, the dramatically changed shape of the car – due to the banning of turbo-aspirated engines – gave a larger white canvas upon which USF&G could now place their logo, with the smaller sidepods hence reducing the overall amount of red on the car.
Arrows were joined by another brand new sponsor in 1990, as Japanese logistics company Footwork pumped enough money into the team to wrestle control of the livery away from USF&G – although the former title sponsors did keep their name on the car’s sidepod. Although the red stripes were a nice touch, in this first year they were perhaps a little under-employed, making for a slightly uninspired look.
Along with buying full naming rights to the team, Footwork took a better hold on the design in 1991 – although still a predominantly white car, the Footwork logos were picked out a lot better, and the overall look was also improved by the addition of Shell logos. There was still perhaps a little too much white space, but all in all this was the smartest car the team had had in some time.
Shell were replaced by BP for 1992, with the green logo not complementing the design quite as well as the yellow-and-red had, but with the addition of further red blocks to the airbox, the overall effect was a bit more coherent. Driver Aguri Suzuki, meanwhile, brought sponsorship from Toshiba.
Indeed, the team evidently liked the livery enough that they continued with an almost identical one in 1993, upon which the only major change – and certainly an improvement – was the expansion of the BP logos to become part of the actual livery rather than simply a rectangular decal.
Although Footwork were still running the team, in 1994 they decided to take a different tack with the livery. A company called Matrix Design – who also got their name on the car in the process – came up with what might just be the most firmly 1990s-esque paint job of the entire decade. The car was still predominantly white, but this time the previous secondary colours of blue and red were splattered across the car in apparently random (but presumably very carefully laid out by a quite expensive designer) geometric patterns – and there were also splotches of yellow and green.
Nevertheless, it worked as a surprisingly coherent effort, but something went badly wrong in 1995. To begin with, the design was a simple enough refinement of the previous year’s – a bit more heavy on the red, and with a few more sponsors cluttering things up, but otherwise smart enough. But then Hype came along.
As far as I can see, Hype – an energy drink brand that took the novel step of advertising the brand in F1 before actually producing the drink – started sponsoring Arrows at Portugal – although they may have come along earlier, my trusty copy of Murray Walker’s Grand Prix Year doesn’t provide pictorial evidence – and in doing so they took over the engine cover completely for some races, painting it blue – and adding their fluorescent pink logo – but not actually changing the rest of the car. Essentially, it was as if someone had used the “fill” tool in MS Paint, and it just looked ghastly. The airboxes, to which Sasol’s logo had moved, were actually painted red on one car, and blue on the other – but on the latter this created an especially awful effect, with two clashing shades of blue.
And the car looked even worse by the time of the final race at Adelaide, since Hype’s penchant for fluorescence meant that the previously-red areas of the car were now bright pink. Salvation was at hand, however, as Hype decided to up sticks to Williams and Benetton for 1996 – and Footwork were on the way out, as well…
New owner Tom Walkinshaw bought the team in March 1996 – too late to rebrand the outfit as “TWR Arrows” this time out (in fact, on the season’s entry list the team were still officially Footwork), and indeed at the start of the season the cars had continuity of sorts in the livery. With the fluorescent stylings of Hype thankfully gone, the ’96 car started the season looking quite like it had a year earlier – although the “splattering” was toned down considerably, and there was a new energy drink in town, courtesy of the Austrian Power Horse brand. Walkinshaw had also secured another major sponsor, in the shape of Philips.
But there were changes afoot by the time the teams rolled up at Europe. TWR had now officially and fully taken over, and unveiled a brand new livery to ring in the changes. This was a simply awesome effort – predominantly red, with secondary blue and white as an accent, it was simple, yet stylish and effective. Perhaps the only downside was that it made the cars look a little too much like they should have been driving around ovals in the USA – but otherwise, it marked the team out as a serious concern. Unfortunately, this design only lasted until the end of the year – but fortunately, it was replaced by something even better…
Arrows’ 1997 car was launched in a blaze of publicity – probably the first blaze of publicity the team had ever had for a pre-season launch – as the shock of incoming world champion Damon Hill joining the team began to sink in. Indeed, it’s probably still the thrill of that launch – as a young, relatively new F1 fan who was seeing “my” driver join what was for all intents and purposes a brand new unknown team – and the launch images of Damon with the car and its big fat “1” on the nosecone, that contribute to my affection for the livery.
It is a lovely car, though. It’s bold and chunky, it works the sponsor logos into the colour scheme (rather than allowing them to stick out from it), and although the shift to a predominantly blue and white scheme is unusual (with Arrows’ traditional red relegated to a tertiary colour used largely for Power Horse’s spots – and even that changed later in the season when Danka took over the rear wing), it works pretty well. As with the ’96 car, it’s only surprising that they only kept it for a single year…
… but then, perhaps TWR wanted to signal their intent to move away from the disaster that was (Hungaroring aside) Hill’s truncated stint with the team, and hence the ’98 livery, which kept almost all of the same sponsors, but in a dramatic new colour scheme. Or, rather, absence of colour scheme.
This was simply one of those remarkable ideas that, when they happen, you wonder why nobody had thought of them before. Sure, we’d had all-black F1 cars in the past – in the early ’90s alone there was Andrea Moda and the ’93/94 Saubers – but here, Arrows had insisted on a completely monochrome look, with every single sponsor logo forced into white text. Well, almost every single one – Bridgestone and Quest were allowed to keep flashes of red, which compromised the approach slightly, but on the whole this was an inspired and hugely memorable effort.
1999 was a bizarre season for Arrows, as the promise of investment from the mysterious Prince Malik Ado Ibrahim, and his even more mysterious “T-Minus” brand, overshadowed the first half of the year. The black car from the previous season had already been embellished by splashes of red, white and orange courtesy of a big new deal with Repsol – which meant a livery that, while not as immediately inspired as the previous year’s, was still kind of smart (and the sponsor, brought by incoming driver Pedro de la Rosa, was vital following the departure of Danka). But for the first few races, the cars’ sidepods carried a mysterious countdown to what was apparently going to be an exciting and revolutionary new brand launch.
In the end, however, T-Minus turned out to be an almighty white elephant, a pointless branding exercise that didn’t bring a single penny to the team, and Ibrahim was gone before the season was out. Later in the year, software company BaaN took over the sidepods instead.
Having introduced orange back to the team’s cars the previous year, it became the dominating feature once more, some 19 years after the first Ragno car. This was courtesy of a new sponsorship deal – and one that pretty much rescued the team – with mobile phone giants Orange. Quite aside from being an utterly gorgeous paint job on a neat and tidy little chassis design (albeit one that sadly couldn’t translate its often excellent qualifying pace into decent reliability and points finishes), part of the joy of this arrangement is that the car could simultaneously be called the “Orange Arrows” (i.e. the official team name on the entry list) and the “orange Arrows” (describing the look of the car itself). It’s rare for a small team to come up with one of those completely perfect, memorable, iconic sponsor/livery arrangements, but it’s something that Arrows undoubtedly managed in 2000.
The following year, changes were made to accommodate engine marque Asiatech (the suppliers of rebadged old Peugeot machines), and secondary sponsor Red Bull (brought in by driver Enrique Bernoldi), and although the additional colours they brought with them threw the design slightly off-theme, it was still pretty strong.
Sadly, the team themselves continued on a downwards trend, both in terms of results and financially. Despite the hiring of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the 2002 season was catastrophic – and this was reflected by a livery for the A23 car that, while it still boasted Orange’s presence, felt like a bad cover version of the original 2000 design. The lines didn’t feel right, it was suddenly bereft of most of its original sponsors, and the ones it had left were suddenly harming the colour scheme – most notably the awful addition of Red Bull’s yellow to both the airbox and the nose. Even so, though, it was a car that would only compete in twelve events that year – and it was disqualified from one of those and deliberately failed to qualify for another – as chronic money problems that this time even having such high-profile sponsors as Orange and Red Bull couldn’t solve (this is what happens when you don’t pay your driver and he becomes the third driver to sue you in the space of a couple of years) killed the team off for good.
Red Bull, of course, still had other spots in F1 courtesy of their sponsorship of Sauber and imminent purchase of some team or other, but Orange haven’t been seen in the sport since – a shame, as their presence did, and still could, make for a genuinely distinctive and exciting livery.
>Incidentally, although it wasn’t an Arrows livery, it behoves us as a postscript to mention the fact that the A23 did actually enter Grands Prix subsequent to the team’s demise. It was Minardi who had first attempted to make a later car out of it – ultimately rejecting it for 2003 in favour of a modification of their own 2002 car – but in 2006 it made a surprising return, as the basis for Super Aguri’s ill-fated effort. We can’t be sure whether any of the SA05s, as they were now called, actually were the same physical cars as had run in Orange livery in 2002, or if the design was just used as a basis – but what the heck, let’s call it a “bonus Arrows livery” anyway. Especially since it didn’t look a million miles away from the team’s early ’90s, Footwork-branded days…