New Williams livery: just don’t say “Rothmans”

So, then. The new Williams is basically a continuation of the team’s post-BMW identity (with the layout of the nose section in particular deviating little from the 2010 version), but infused with a deliberate nod back to a certain era in the team’s past. Although, blimey, it’s a weird day when “mid-90s” can be straight-facedly referred to as “retro”.

For a kickoff, there’s something fairly clever about the way the car’s been presented, at the launch itself and in these shots. Because, from the lighting, and at an initial glance, the second trim colour on the car, along with the red, appears to be gold – successfully calling to mind the Rothmans livery of the 1990s that the car is intended to evoke. But in fact, when you look closer up – and I’m sure this will become more apparent when we get either a studio launch, or some shots of the car on track – those stripes aren’t gold. They’re silver.

Embed from Getty Images

So in other words, should someone in authority accuse the team of advertising cigarettes, they can turn around and say “No, we’ve just put red and silver on the car in honour of our new sponsor PDVSA, I don’t know where you’ve got the fag packet idea from”.

Anyway. Just in case you don’t know what this car is supposed to remind you of, it’s one of these – or see here for a pic of your beloved site author with one. Rothmans sponsored Williams between 1994 and 1997 (before switching to their Winfield brand for 98-99), and the car was hence associated with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve’s back-to-back titles, although also with the disappointment/defeats/tragedy of ’94-’95 (as it happens, I actually think the paint job looked best on the ’94 car, but more on that when we get to the Williams Livery History article in a short while). It’s still a slightly odd choice, mind – it’s a memorable design, but perhaps not as quintessentially “Williamsish” as, say, the Canon/Camel cars of the late ’80s/early ’90s.

The line of thinking here is clearly that, as red is being added to the car anyway in the form of PDVSA’s logo, the team might as well use its introduction to go back to a fondly-remembered colour scheme – but it’s still slightly odd, as unlike Ferrari they’re not covertly advertising cigarettes (unless a deal has gone on in secret, Rothmans – now owned by British American Tobacco – have nothing to do with the team), and unlike Renaultus they’re not trying to convince people they have anything to do with a classic team (they are the classic team the livery calls to mind).

As for the success of the application of it – well, it’s mixed, I’d say. The nose section doesn’t work for me at all – I wasn’t hugely convinced by the way the white bordering worked on the 2010 car (I’d prefer either the same colour on the top as on the sides without borders, or two contrasting colours – but not the same colour with a white line sandwiched between), so I don’t really like it here, and the way the coloured lines tail off just makes it feel confused. I think they’d have been better served having white run to about halfway down the nose, then have the rest be solid blue.

But from the cockpit rearwards, it significantly improves. The profile view looks great – even though the way it’s a bit like the Rothmans livery but in a different stripe configuration calls to mind what Sauber have done with the old BMW design – and I especially like the way “randstad” occupies the space that would have been “Rothmans” (that is, on the 1997 car – which swapped the patterns of blue and white on the engine cover from the way they’d been for the previous three years). Viewed from behind through the rear wing, too, the effect is really good. Some of the white space, though – especially on the airbox – could really do with another sponsor.

As a Williams fan, it’s nice to see a bit of discussion/excitement about the team’s livery – and after testing there seems to be a good level of optimism about their chances in 2011 (although “this could be the year we get back towards the top” is the mantra of the Williams fan). But it has to be said that the livery isn’t that different from those of previous years, and after making such a big deal of launching the livery when the car itself had already been seen in testing, we might have felt entitled to expect something a bit more radical and different. And I simply can’t get over the idea that, for reasons apparently based in nothing other than nostalgia, we now have three cars on the grid that look like they have tobacco advertising on them. Something about that just doesn’t feel right.

Oh, and now that we have all the new cars: yes, I’ll be doing my customary run-down of what I think about each in comparison to one-another. Look out for that before the season starts, along with – yes, and I know I promise this every year and never get around to it, but this time I absolutely will – a look at each of the drivers’ helmet designs!



    February 24, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Well it’s not much different from last years livery apart from the Rothmans-esque lines. God do I wish those lines ran all the way to the tip of the nose though.

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Seb Patrick, f1colours. f1colours said: New Williams livery: just don't say "Rothmans" – #williamsf1 […]


    February 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    One word: yawn


    February 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Anyone else seeing early eighties Brabham here too?? Nice and subtle I think


    February 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I like it. In fact, ANYTHING different from last years livery is an improvement. I would just change the dark blue (wich is so boring) with a more light one. Like the original Rothmans livery.

    Im not worried about these “tobacco liveries”, because let’s be honest. That era had the best ones and I havent seen nothing REALLY good since they’re banned.

    What bothers me is the grey/chrome rims. Im tired of them. Its nice when a team use another color there.


      February 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      They almost look blue due to the lighting in those photos, would be nice if they were really blue wouldn’t it?


    February 24, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I think that that back half of the car looks great (both shape and livery), but the front half isn’t so good.


    February 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I am happy with it – after Sauber I decided not to get my hopes up about Williams as they always have a decent interim livery, and end up with just about the same white/blue combination, so why would this be different. Starting from those low expectations, the back half especially is great – maybe in line with the aero of the car being nothing special until you look at the back?

    Anyway, since Williams are in a lot of ways rather conservative, this car and livery is for them fairly revolutionary. I hope it helps them finally find the way back to the top!


    February 24, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    That car looks pretty good, but I felt a bit like watching the Bahrain GP after having high expectations from all new things during testing. Let down.

    As for Tobacco, I get the feeling the others have found a way of catching up with Ph.Morris blatantly ignoring the laws and agreements between manufacturers. Who was it that felt the HRT reminded them of the BAR luckies livery? Makes it 1/3 of the grid going for a smoke.


      February 24, 2011 at 11:09 pm

      Hmm when you squint at it the HRT does look a tiny bit like a BAR, perhaps the 2003 livery


    February 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Actually, now that I’ve had a bit of time to get used to it, I must admit that the tweaks to the Williams livery are quite cool. The main reason I hate it so much is because the big fuss over a seperate livery launch fooled us into thinking it’d be a whole new look. Or it fooled me anyway


      February 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      I agree with you Ned, due to the seperate livery launch I was hoping all those MasterCard sponsership rumours from before Chrsitmas were going to be true. I’m a bit disappointed with the nose section, why the stripes don’t go all the way down to the tip of the nose is a bit strange, it just boxes off a blank area, a bit pointless really. Other than that it is pretty cool, one of the best thay have had since the BMW/HP scheme.


        February 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

        If you look at the Rothmans liveries, the nose split between white and blue, with the cockpit side being the white part and that made it look ok. Just looks strange with blue on both sides.


    February 25, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    The side looks great but the nose. Bleh. Poorly thought out I think.

    I made a few tweeks to the front. What do you think?


      February 28, 2011 at 8:28 am

      Cool update to the livery! I still think the stripes should go down to the tip of the nose and the sponsers should be blue on white down the nose instead of having a blocked off section that is blank.
      Good work with the photoshop!


    February 27, 2011 at 4:56 am

    It´s a good reminder of better days, I do remember the Rothmans livery it´s was such a cool car back in the days, this is really good, I hope they achived something really good.


    February 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Why is it in such a dark room? Can barely see it

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