Painting By Numbers

Painting By Numbers

With the teams planning to launch their 2007 challengers later this month, I thought I would take a look back at the 2006 cars and see which ones were pretty, and which ones were pretty ugly. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some cars just didn’t look good in anybody’s eyes, while others looked like masterpieces. I’ll also take a speculative look into my crystal ball and discuss how some of the new season racers will look now most teams have had an overhaul of title sponsors.

Robert Kubica Driving His BMW Around Suzuka - 2006So first up, the BMW team. As expected, BMW ran in their corporate colours for the 2006 season – blue and white – although the dash of red was pleasant to see. The team were also sponsored by predominantly blue companys as well – O2, Intel and Petronas – and this all led to a relatively plain, but organised livery. To be honest, the livery is a little boring, and while white tends to be a good colour for Formula One cars, the BMW and a little too much of it. And with the BMW marque continuing next year with no tobacco sponsorship issues to worry about, I cannot see the 2007 car looking any different.

Felipe Massa Driving His Ferrari Around Monza - 2006The Ferrari’s looked as red as ever, even though it strictly isn’t the correct red. Ferrari changed the colour ever-so-slightly when Marlboro started to sponsor the team, making the car look less scarlety. But with the usual lack of sponsors (Ferrari are backed by major car company Fiat and therefore tend to worry less with other sponsors) in comparison to other teams, the car did indeed look good. Although Ferrari’s dominance divides Formula One fans around the world, the Italians do have a knack of making their cars pretty. The introduction of the trims on the rear wheels did upset the profile a little, but the flowing lines of the highly developed car more than made up for it. And with tobacco sponsorship taking the backseat, maybe The Scuderia will revert to their original scarlet red colour in the not too distant future. Marlboro are still sponsoring the team, but they will not be allowed to fully display their logo, traditionally placed on the engine cover and rear wing. Many people believe that Marlboro will do a similar trick that Coca Cola did a while ago, only showing part of the image. With such highly tuned brand awareness, the tobacco company could probably get away with it, and still remain in Formula One as they have done for decades. Vodafone are also leaving the team to sponsor McLaren next year, but their replacement – Telecom Italia – is thought to not upset the red livery too much.

Jenson Button Testing His Honda - 2006Honda have pushed the boundaries of car liveries since their inaugural season in 1999 when the car was split in two. Back then the team was known as BAR after owners British American Tobacco. They painted one side of the car in the colours of one cigarette brand (555), and the other in the colours of another of their brands (Lucky Strike). This sparked a lot of controversy in the world of Formula One, and it was eventually stopped. In recent years, the team have remained with one livery with the exception at the Chinese Grand Prix, then the team changed their colours to promote 555, a cigarette brand that is better known in China.

I have always liked the recent livery design of the Honda, using the Lucky Strike colours of white, black, red and grey/olive/khaki, but the rumour is that this will all change for 2007. The team are apparently contemplating a green livery now that primary sponsor BAT have left. As Formula One moves towards a more environmentally friendly future, Honda could be jumping on a bandwagon that will see them catching headlines throughout next season, irregardless of their performance. The green could also be fitting to Jenson Button, particularly if the shade is close to good ol’ British Racing Green. The last time Formula One saw a green car was the failed attempt by Ford to win with their own car, branded as Jaguar. Forti also ran a livery splashed with green in their final season before bowing out of the sport. In fact, the only successful green car I can think of is the Lotus, so maybe changing the colour scheme on the Honda isn’t such a good idea.

Fernando Alonso Drives An Unbranded McLaren - 2006McLaren entered 2006 with something a bit special – their car was essentially a rather large mirror – as they painted it in shiny silver with the usual black and red lines dating back to the teams West-sponsored days. The car brought much media attention when it was launched, and added a new vitality to the aging non-reflective silver from the days when Mika Hakkinen drove the car to his world titles in the late 1990’s. The livery divided Formula One fans – some said it was innovative and pretty, others said they hated it – but whatever your preference, everybody was talking about it. The car also looked good with flowing lines going from the very front to the very back. The team applied a little more red into the colour scheme in preparation for Vodafone being a primary sponsor in 2007, and the West logo was replaced with Johnnie Walker, although the company left their logo in black to fit in with the car.

Personally, I enjoyed McLaren’s 2006 livery, and I hope they continue with it into 2007, adding in Vodafone appropriately and keeping the red to a minumum. However, it is unlikely that Vodafone will want to put their logo on the car without their corporate colour, so I imagine the McLaren will move towards the more vibrant red for next season.

Red Bull Racing Launch Their Car - 2006Red Bull Racing pretty much kept their 2005 livery for last year, remaining with their coporate identity of dark blue, a red bull and yellow on the tip of the nose. The Red Bull looks good, but it is a little on the boring side. Understandably, they want to promote their brand as much as possible, and the team – like Ferrari – have minimal sponsorship from other companies leaving their colours to stand out on the car. The car itself was not particularly distinctive either, but with the addition of Adrian Newey to the team last year, the 2007 car may include some more stylish details for 2007. I imagine Red Bull to continue with their image and I do not foresee any major changes to the team, having avoided tobacco sponsorship since they launched in 2005.

Renault Test Their Car - 2005The reigning world champions – Renault – will enter 2007 with new title sponsor ING, taking over from Mild Seven who applied their colours to the car since it was owned by the Benetton family. The car has seen much media interest – not because of their colours – but because Michael Schumacher powered the blue-mobile to two consecutive titles in 1994 and 1995, and then with the change to Renault, Fernando Alonso did the same in 2005 and 2006. Since Renault bought the team, the car has seen the addition of yellow into the livery – yellow being Renault’s corporate colour, and the light blue was coincidentally the given-colour of Fernando’s home town of Oviedo in Spain. A marketing dream that worked very well in the previous two years. However, all this will change for next year, as Alonso is no longer driving for the team and Mild Seven have left. ING are known for their orange and blue colours, and there is much speculation as to how the Anglo-French squad will work this into next seasons car. It is expected that the blue will disappear, and while the car is thought to be more yellow, it will be interesting to see how the orange is integrated.

The car itself was quite pretty, but again it didn’t really stand out as beautiful. The 2006 vehicle was probably more functional than good-looking, and Renault used that functionality well. Although I have enjoyed their gilled-sidepods for the last couple of years.

Sebastian Bourdais Test A Toro Rosso - 2006Red Bull’s other team – Scuderia Toro Rosso – used the 2005 Red Bull chassis for their first year of competition since changing the team from Minardi, and the car wasn’t that good-looking back then. The car has a very square look to it, with little detail or flourishes that make it stand out. In fact, if it wasn’t for their garish colours, Toro Rosso would have been lost amongst the field. The giant red bull emblazened over the engine cover didn’t really do it for me, and the golden nose was too close to that of its older sibling, Red Bull Racing. While the energy drinks company want to push their identity as much as possible, I feel they could have been more creative and subtle when doing it. When viewing each car from the front, it isn’t immediately obvious which one is which, and many commentators made blunders last year when trying to pick them out. I’m sure an art student would receive a high mark if they submitted the design to their teacher, but for a Formula One car, it just looks plain awful.

Although not much has been said about the 2007 colour scheme of the Toro Rosso (I think they are too busy deciding who will drive the cars) I imagine they will continue with The Red Bull, but incorporating some new sponsors that will come on-board for next season.

Spyker Launch Their Car - 2006Spyker – or Midland as they were briefly known as – launched their new livery when the Dutch car company took over in the latter half of the season. Previously, the car was a very bland red, white and black, and many times I have been watching Formula One on the television and mistaken a Midland for a McLaren (and vice-versa). The car is simply boring, and to be honest, their isn’t much more to say about it. When Spyker hastily put together their new look, the car improved. The orange and silver works well and it does look distinctive. Although the team will have many sponsors next season, I hope they can integrate them better than they did in the final races of last year. And they really need to work on the orange colour – it looked very red at the Brazilian Grand Prix, probably because the team had little time to test the colour on cameras prior to racing.

Franck Montagny In Italy - 2006Honda’s B-team – Super Aguri – were launched in a great hurry last winter, and with few sponsors, the car strolled out of the Bahrain pit lane in white and red, reflecting the branding of the new team.

Super Aguri’s 2007 challenger will undoubtedly look similar to last years Honda, so this should be an improvement, both on looks and performance. Little is known how the car will be liveried, but I imagine it will look similar to last years.

Toyota Launch Their Car - 2006Toyota remained with their corprate colours as well – red and white – and the car looked similar to previous incarnations – have they no creativity? The blue Panasonic logo displayed on the sidepods and rear wing gave the car a welcome break from the already boring scheme, and unfortunately the performance of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli didn’t make up for the livery. The way Toyota have incorporated the red to the white is very reminiscent of the way McLaren did it with Marlboro for so many years. The Toyota red is more pink that Marlboro’s, but I feel the car manufacturing giant could be more creative with the way they do it. Again, Toyota will probably continue with their scheme into next season.

Nico Rosberg In China - 2006The unfortuante plight of Williams in 2006 was only made up for the fact that they made a beautiful car. Although the challenger failed to finish on many occasions – usually lost in the engine smoke on the side of the track – the car did look gorgeous. The FW28 had a really nice look, with a low nose stretching back to the sleek sidepods and engine cover. The team wisely chose the opportunity to use some colours from their past to reflect their partnership with Cosworth again, running the cars in dark blue and white. With sponsors HP, RBS and Allianz all using blue in their brand identity, the team worked the colours into the car really well.

Cosworth have left Williams (and Formula One) now, and the Oxford based team will have to incorporate Toyota into their livery. While this may be a helpful boost in performance, their livery is surely going to change, making the 2006 car a one off. If Williams do remain with the blue, it will almost certainly be more closely matched to the light blue of new title sponsor AT&T.

So I guess I should pick a favourite. It is actually very easy. Despite having one of their worst seasons, the best looking car from 2006 (in my opinion) is the Williams. McLaren were a close second, but from a distance they unfortunately resembled the Midland too much and caused too much confusion – it wasn’t their fault, but a fault none-the-less.

But that is just my view, what car made you drool last year, and why?

Formula One, F1, Sponsors, Liveries, Corporate Identities, Branding


  • I loved the McLaren and seeing it sponsorless when Alonso tested was even better. The Williams was very nice and I liked the orange Spykers too.

    Bottom of the pile has to be Toyota who have run the same bland paint job for five years.

  • Let’s hope the Williams-Toyota partnership benefits both teams (not just in looks). Perhaps the new rev limits will help iron out the aero inequalities which have dogged Toyota and the engine problems which so hampered Williams and Toyota in 2006.

  • The Williams FW28 was my favourite, and ultimately it’s looks and the livery were it’s only redeeming feature!

    The Toyota is horrible, the SA is alright, but ruined because Red is a little overdone in the field! The Honda looks like it’s trying a little too hard to be a modern website!

    Hopefully the Ferraris go a little darker with their red, but we may have to wait 5 or so years for that! They make nice looking cars though, after the ’05 car the F2006 was really pleasing to the eye (especially when it first tested, the paint was darker and it had black wings).

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