Formula One is currently experiencing it’s boldest and brightest combination of colours it’s seen in years, thanks to brands being developed more in terms of marketing.

Now that the covers have come off all of the new challengers and the first test is finished, Craig Norman looks at each team individually and casts his eye on the colours of 2018.


Image: Octane Photograpy

This is everyone. This is the one we’ve been waiting for – a papaya McLaren. They did it! They listened to the fans! And I’ll grant you the notion that this does look good from certain angles, it’s also a tad worrying that running a 1960s colour scheme in the year 2018 makes a car look, well, a bit simple.

This is a small negative though. McLaren has completed the metamorphosis that started with a West special in 2015 and has ended with that glorious shade of papaya edged with bright blue. The black halo adds to the crispness of the livery with it falling in line with the aerodynamic bargeboards. It’s a feel-good story, amplified by the release of the Amazon documentary that showed just how horrible the start of last season was.

This time around the new colour represents a new start, one that hopefully ends with large, bold logos over as much as the car as possible once testing is finished.  And failing that, we as fans just need to be as vocal as possible to get something like “LOL RON” down the sidepods because, as the papaya shows, the power of the fans is real. But with the dawning of the papaya, what do they have left up their sleeves to appease the fans now?


Image: Octane Photography

I won’t go down the usual route of “we knew it’d be red” because it’s Ferrari and, well, we knew it would be red. Dammit. But this is a pure red and, quite frankly, very, very pretty. Yet there’s still an issue we need to talk about.

There are gaps when it comes to sponsors. This is Ferrari, whose hierarchy loves to tell us how “F1 is Ferrari and Ferrari is F1” whenever the opportunity arises, yet here they are with no sponsor on the rear and front wings, and a hefty blank space on the engine cover. Santander is gone, yet no one has stepped in. Even the Phillip Morris/Marlboro logo that wasn’t a cigarette advert yet was, has been lampooned for just plain red. Ferrari could whack a massive Ferrari badge on the side of their car and it would immediately look better, yet those are saved for the Halo (good decision) and above the barge boards.

Of course, there’s the other car brand that they could put on their chassis; Alfa Romeo. Only, Sauber seems to have borrowed that coat, and wear it well.

Still, it’s still pretty, in a simple sense. It’s a shame that it’s also a symbolic representation of the commercial state of Formula One, which is another topic for another day.


Image: Octane Photography

The reigning champions fall into the same character as Ferrari – you know what colour it’s going to be before the veil is removed; silver with hints of teal. And this year they’ve kept up appearances.

It’s almost like Mercedes have fallen into a pattern. David Coulthard wore lucky pants for the most part of his career and the German marque are following the same train of thought. They’ve got their lucky silver and teal pants on and aren’t changing them for fear of losing. And rightly so – it’s proved very lucky indeed.

There’s more black around the intricate sidepod/bargeboard area, which makes sense in terms of saving money on paint, and makes the car still look good from front on and above. The loss of the shark fins has removed the nice touches of national flags with the driver numbers, which is a shame.

Mercedes have produced a brand and are sticking to it, but when this car is probably going to be the one we’re going to see the most of as the year unfolds yet again, we could all end up sick of it by Belgium.


Image: Octane Photography

The French marque has done something pretty special with their black-and-yellow for this season. There are two liveries at play here; side on it’s black with yellow hints and predominantly white logos, while front on it’s blazing yellow with black accents. That’s a mean feat of graphic design.

While there are a few angles where the car looks like a poisonous frog, overall it’s a great step in the evolution of the modern Renault F1 team. It’s gone from the matte gold to the fisherman-like overalls to this Attenborough example, but it’s still mean, sharp and distinctive. There’s still an unhealthy obsession with black, and Renault should be white with yellow, but you’ll see it on TV and know exactly what car you’re looking at.


Image: Octane Photography

There’s a clear difference in livery mentality between Williams and McLaren, and it’s none more obvious than in 2018. On the McLaren side of things, the team has listened to fans and served up a scheme that’s been talked about for a while, to help boost loyalty and overcome the lack of sponsors. Williams, on the other hand, sits at the other end of the spectrum by sticking to the Martini colours that had us all clapping in 2014 and now has many of us shrug four years later.

Look, I get that money dictates the way a car is coloured, but there’s still wriggle room for creating something unique within those cash guidelines. Take the halo on the Williams, for example; why don’t the stripes appear in an area that cameras will end up focusing on? And another thing that’s bugs me a bit is the use of black on the underside of the car. It’s sweeping and obviously covers some intricate bodywork, but it’s uninspiring.

Seeing as it’s now been announced that this is the last Martini Williams, my heart sinks to think about what the design team can come up with now those restrictions are lifted.


Image: Octane Photography

If the Renault is two cars in one, the new Alfa Romeo Sauber is in essence three. Front on it’s a hark back to the successful BMW days with the thin blue stripes down the nose and is almost borderline a mock Martini Williams, like when a toy company tries to get around not having a license. Side on it looks like it’s borrowed a hoodie from the Ferrari shop. But from behind it’s a red-blooded Alfa with the red rear wing and logo.

This is a divisive car for me. Half of it is precision and detail like the Swiss outfit should be, the other is Italian in pure passion and colour. It’s reflective of where the team is and captures the imagination slightly that maybe, just maybe, they won’t be stuck at the bottom come Abu Dhabi. But at least their merchandise will be cool to wear.


Image: Octane Photography

Did you ever buy a coat and really like it, and you had other coats that you tried for a bit, and then went back to that original coat because it was comfortable, looked good and was a great fit? That’s Haas’ mentality when it comes to liveries.

Their original 2016 scheme has made a comeback after the American team’s sophomore year of grey with a hint of red, and flirtation a change with white. Not that it’s a bad scheme – it looks better on these aggressively designed regulations, and they’ve gone with the black halo to try and remove it from view – and it’s serving its purpose of selling Gene Haas’ businesses to the world audience, but it’s a rerun, and therefore a bit boring.

Toro Rosso

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Thank you, thank you, thank you Toro Rosso. Last season’s fresh new look continues into 2018 and it’s been tweaked a little to look even better, with the larger patches of red accommodating the new Honda logos. And, thankfully, the driver’s overalls now match the whole branding, instead of having a brightly coloured car and the old, darker overalls and the entire package is a clean, crisp change.

Force India

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Force India – or whatever this team will be called come Melbourne – caused a few sniggers and wide eyes when they went pink last year. But what they really did was do what all F1 teams have struggled to do in recent memory; change their colour based on money coming in.

This year’s offering is less a muddled pink and bolder, with panels of white and darker pink giving it more of a striking look. Losing Johnny Walker as a sponsor also means the loss of really dark parts of the car, and that makes it brighter when on-track. The grid has really ditched the “black is best” obsession from a few years ago, and no team has done this more than Force India.

But what’s going on with the ownership of the team? Last season it struggled to find an identity once a big sponsor came along and made colour changes to overalls and the car as the season went on, while this one starts just the same with no team logos on anything.

Red Bull

Image: Octane Photography

Sigh. Red Bull teased us all with the black and blue urban camo look for a single session and then reverted to type with the on brand, matte blue colour scheme it launched only a few years ago.

The launch livery was very, very unique and garnered a lot of attention, so switching almost immediately made it even more of a special edition. The now generic Red Bull livery shouldn’t be discounted as a great one though, as it’s now into year three, has the additional logos of Aston Martin this year and is pretty distinctive to see. But once you’re teased with something that looks fantastic, it’s hard to go back to the status quo, isn’t it?