A livery can help a team stand out very well (even if their performances don’t), from the usual array of dull and boring colours all around. Ranging from the Ferrari Red over the years to Jordan’s variations like the 7UP design or the Bitten Hiss, Formula One has seen many, some crazy yet incredibly livery designs over the past. Essentially Sports brings to you 10 of the finest F1 livery designs:

Best F1 livery designs

Lotus John Player Special


Before Colin Chapman’s vision(that almost anything that could be sold could adorn a Formula 1 car), liveries were quite common, and unimpressive. Far were the times in which every country should have a racing color(the British Racing Green, as an example), but without big sponsors, teams tended to be conservative on their choices. So came Gold Leaf and later, the John Player Special – tobacco industry was the first that came in force. The combination of black and gold made for an unforgettable livery, made even more popular by those who drove for Lotus at the time. Emerson Fittipaldi and his 72 model came to stardom in 1972, and later came in Mario Andretti, Ronnie Peterson – then an interlude and the returning in the eighties, with Ayrton Senna(it is almost impossible to not remember his first win, in Portugal 1985).


Senna driving the Lotus

Sadly a market decision determined that the brand should change, and although the strong yellow brought with Camel proved popular, it was no match to the one that preceded it. It caused such an impact that when Lotus returned in its new guise, in 2010, black and gold were again the chosen colors, to make a plaused tribute – and it was emotional and nice to see it again on the top spot of the podium with Kimi Räikkönen at Abu Dhabi in 2011.

McLaren Marlboro

Gone were the times in which Bruce McLaren decided the fate of the team he created. Teddy Meyer, who inherited the team’s helms knew that the old orange color scheme could not pay the expenses and make the squad fight against the likes of Lotus and Tyrrell.

Until 1973, the money brought by Peter Revson(Yardley) was enough, but after his departure to the Shadow team, other financing sources had to be found. In came Aleardo Buzzi, the man behind tobacco giant Phillip Morris and a deal was found to bring in Emerson Fittipaldi, who could be a real title contender, having won in 1972 with Lotus. From then on, and until 1995, white and red were the colors of the Woking squad, and it was no coincidence that Emerson started an era of wins and world crowns – James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna followed. Not even the selling to Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh changed the partnership – it only made it more professional and strong.

Senna at the wheels of the McLaren which became a symbol for F1 in the 1980s thanks to a constant yet stunning livery design

As opposed to what happens now, there was no rush or need to change the livery; it was almost more of the same every new year. Not that it bothered any fan, as it became a classic.

Honda “Earth Car”

Honda’s experience in Formula 1 is quite bittersweet, as it tasted glory supplying engines, but wasn’t as successful as a factory team. It’s last incarnation started on what was the BAR squad – one that tried to share the livery of its cars in two halves, completely different from each other, as it was not allowed to use different liveries at the same time. But the post is about Honda, and one of its liveries that was a direct consequence of the results below expectations on track.

Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello with the stunning Honda

Honda relied on not using the sponsorship’s colors for their car, but instead on their concern for the environment to showcase properly at their car. Thus came to picture Honda’s 2007 Championship contender, the RA-107 driven by two very popular drivers: Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello. The car led Honda to finish 8th in the Championship with 6 points in the season. To be perfectly honest, not many were big fans of the green earth f1 livery. 


Ferrari of 2016

Here it is not just a case of the livery, but  liveries, because the bloody red with the Prancing Horse is popular and loved in all its guises, whether it was during the initial years with no sponsors, or as it is now, with an array of marques, more white and less red. Along the time, it really changed quite a lot. First of all, “il Commendatore” Enzo Ferrari hated even thinking about a sponsor that was not techinique. Then, slowly he saw that it wasn’t enough to be competitive. Fiat (that became the parent company) and Marlboro joined but the Italian flag colors were still quite constant. Then came the Luca di Montezemolo years at the command(his second tenure at the team), who brought an array of new sponsors, who couldn’t ignore the value of being linked to Ferrari.

Ferrari of 1996

That was the only way of securing the drives of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. To any person, even if they are not f1 fans, the moment they see a red f1 livery, the first thought is Ferrari

Jordan “Bitten Hisses”


Ever since Eddie Jordan decided to join Formula 1, in 1991, one couldn’t expect something ordinary, and that included the team’s liveries. The squad had many unique liveries during its presence on the circus – the 7UP green, the Sasol red and blue, the yellow of its last days.

When sponsors were rare and not strong enough to impose their own colours, one in special marked the British team’s existence: the Benson & Hedges yellow/black combination that prevailed from 1996 to 2004. At the time, tobacco sponsorship was still a force, just as F1 was the perfect global platform to show any kind of brand and it was the case of making the best of that. The PR and marketing guys created a concept that became immensely popular: the nose of the car portrayed first a snake face, with their venom teeth and later a bee with big and round red eyes.

The fascinating front end of the Jordan

And it wasn’t just that. Since many countries(specially Germany, Great-Britain and France) didn’t allow tobacco sponsors, something had to be done to still send the right message. While rival Marlboro opted for an anonymous barcode, B & H chosen a more direct approach. Words like “Bitten & Hisses”, “Buzzin Hornets” and “Be on Edge” worked as a smart substitute and helped to make the livery more and more popular. 2001 even saw a shark-based f1 livery on the car.

Shadow UOP

The Shadow team, by itself, was surrounded by attention and curiosity, as the brainchild of a former CIA agent and World War II veteran Don Nichols, who entered the automobile racing business on United States, first with Can-Am chassis. Their logo had a spy, which added to the legend and during the 1973 season, strong from the partnership with Universal Oil Products (UOP), he decided to make the jump and start his Formula 1 activities- the first car was designed by Tony Southgate and among other notables, Alan Rees and Jo Ramirez were part of the squad.

While Lotus hit the headlines with its gold and black John Player Special-sponsored car, Nichols and his DN1 made a lot of noise by keeping the livery already popular on Can-Am: a bright black with white logos and the american flag on the top of the air intake. Sadly, the need of more money to keep the growth made the black give space to a much more subtle white, in which Alan Jones conquered Shadow’s only win (Austrian GP 1977). While not seen on an F1 livery anymore, the spy black scheme is still worshiped and alive on diecast models (be it the Can-Am or the F1 ones).

Toro Rosso

The Toro Rosso of 2014

While Red Bull became a more serious effort over time, leaving behind the party-led and cool ambience to fight for titles and wins, Toro Rosso as the “younger brother”, whose mission was to nurture and prepare young talent to the top, always had more freedom to work and that involved the F1 livery design.

If Red Bull cars always kept the symbol of the energetics giant as it is(and with more and more sponsors joining), its Italian counterpart, specially at its birth, after rebranding what was the Minardi team, opted for a more audacious approach. And since the name of both teams is the same– Toro Rosso stands for Red Bull in italian– “their” bull was always conceived as an artwork, with bigger space on the bodywork and visual impact. Even when the squads shared their car projects, it wasn’t complicated to differentiate them. Add some gold ribbons and a blue tone that never changed radically– Red Bull was almost forced to change its to a purple one when it had Infiniti (Nissan) as a sponsor – and we have the reasons to consider their livery one of the most renowned of the last times. A popular success also on the diecast model market. One of the cases in which “more of the same” not necessarily means something bad.

Williams Canon

Mansell behind the wheels of the Williams FW14b

It would be hard not to include any of the Frank Williams’ creations on this list and although some choices could be counted, one, specially, comes to mind. In 1985, when Honda joined as the engine supplier, the Grove team chose a very elegant combination of blue, white and yellow that integrated quite well.
The car’s history and racing performance justified Enzo Ferrari’s famous saying, “a beautiful car is the one that wins races“. In 1986, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell went to the title fight until the very last race, only to have it stolen by Alain Prost, due to tyre problems in Australia. A year later, however, the Brazilian didn’t miss the occasion. Even though Honda decided to join rival McLaren in 1988, their colors remained the same until 1993, with Renault on board, tasting glory in 1992, with Nigel Mansell, and in 1993, with Alain Prost. Only the need to surrender to tobacco money(which proved to be necessary to bring Ayrton Senna in) made the end of the line for that f1 livery.

Mercedes Silver Arrows

Silver Arrows driven by the legendary Fangio in early 1950s

If now any and every inch of a Formula 1 car livery is developed having the TV concerns and the global visual impact in mind, it was far from being the case earlier which led to the creation of one of the most famous liveries that ever appeared on the grid. Way ahead of the World Championship era, still in the Grand Prix times between world wars, Mercedes-Benz tech genius Alfred Neubauer had the solution right on his mind when the W25 machine appeared to be a bit overweight: scrap the paint on the bodywork and let it show what was below it, immaculate aluminum. Some believe that it is no more than a legend, but, be it anyway, the Silver Arrows were born then. It became a synonym of the Stuttgart brand on motorsports. In F1 it appeared in 1954, and already on the top spot of the podium, with Juan Manuel Fangio, who spare-headed a squad with Hans Herrmann and Karl Kling. Sadly, the tragedy involving Pierre Levegh the year after in Le Mans forced Mercedes to withdraw every official world campaign, until the return on the World Endurance Championship, in partnership with Sauber and with a certain Michael Schumacher as a driver.

F1 livery
Mercedes Silver Arrows of the current era

When the decision was taken to come again in force to F1, in 2010, it wasn’t hard to choose a color scheme – plain silver, with only a little concession to the Petronas green along the time that only added to the livery popularity, without putting the tradition in risk. And as they are on the top since 2014, it is the case of saying that it is not only a famous, but also a quite well-known f1 livery.


F1 livery
The British Racing Green of the Jaguar

What was initially Jackie Stewart’s brainchild, Stewart Grand Prix was brought in by Ford, which was already one of its strong partners in the year 2000. The Blue Oval Factory decided to rename the team to Jaguar to promote the brand and as we are talking about a british legendary factory, no other color could be chosen other than the “British Racing Green”, in a bright guise, and the feline elegantly silhouette designed on it. When it appeared, it also helped to launch the career of Mark Webber on the circus, but results were never enough to justify the immense budget spent. Then, in 2004, as no main sponsor was found, not only the iconic F1 livery, but the team as a whole disappeared, saved by Dietrich Mateschitz and his Red Bull empire.


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