An email to Badger’s editor this week from Octane Photos containing shots of a British F3 car sparked a thought in our minds- and that thought has now spawned an article.

The pictures were of the Litespeed team’s racer, which competes in the same livery as the Lotus Formula One squad. Why? Because Litespeed, in conjunction with Mike Gascoyne, were part of the initial bid to bring Lotus back to F1 last season. That was unsuccessful, and Lotus was eventually revived by Gascoyne and Air Asia boss Tony Fernandes, but the connection lives on in the F3 team.

And the thought it sparked? That was about teams outside F1 who run in Formula One teams’ liveries. A non-F1 fan who’d seen shots of a Lotus, a Red Bull, a Renault or a Virgin car could be forgiven for thinking they were looking at the real deal if they caught a glimpse of a World Series by Renault racer, a GP2 machine or an AutoGP car.

Because all of these series- and more- are home to teams who run in 2010 Formula One team’s liveries. Put basically they’re all their F1 counterparts ‘junior teams’, though it’s not quite that simple. Anyway, we’ll explain that later- here’s a selection of lower formula cars masquerading as grand prix machines.

Litespeed/Lotus Junior driver Jay Bridger at the wheel of the team's British F3 machine. © Octane Photos

Above is the aforementioned Litespeed/Lotus Junior British F3 car. This year it’s being piloted by Brit Jay Bridger. Led by Nino Judge, the team attempted to enter F1 for 2010 under the budget cap regualtions. When these were abolished that was no longer feasible, but Fernandes negotiated with Litespeed to obtain the Lotus entry and sealed a place on the F1 grid when BMW confirmed their withdrawal from F1. The connection was born there, and Litespeed are now running as a Lotus junior team.

As well as Litespeed Lotus also have a junor team in World Series by Renault. Formerly known as MoFaz Racing (as in Mohammed Fauzy, father of Lotus test driver Fairuz Fauzy) they now go by the imaginative title of Lotus F1 Racing Junior Team and run in the wonderful Lotus colours. Last season the team ran Fairuz to a mighty impressive second In this highly competitive championship, and though they’re not fairing quite so well under their new moniker you have to admit that the cars look great.

The Lotus Junior cars contest the Monaco round of the Renault 3.5 championship. © Autosport

There’s one more Lotus liveried car to tell you about. But this isn’t a little brother- more an American cousin. And you’ll probably be farmiliar with the man who pilots the car.

Because it’s our old pal Takuma Sato, who races KV Racing’s ‘Lotus’ machine the in Indycar Series. Sato’s racer is sponsord by Lotus Cars, who are owned by Malaysian manufacturer Proton. Although not formally linked to the F1 team Proton are one of Lotus’ backers, so there is a connection between Taku’s livery and the Formula One outfit. Indycar journos and commentators have widely praised this livery as the most pleasing in the series- and we wouldn’t disagree.

Sato's 'Lotus' Indycar, in which he's had a bit of a fruitless season. © LAT/Autosport

Next we’ve got the junior cars of another of F1’s new teams: Virgin Racing. They’re run by Manor Motorsports, who are Virgin Racing. Richard Branson’s company have put the money in, but it’s Manor- led by racing veteran John Booth- who run the show on race day.

Manor also run a few teams in the junior formulae, as they have done for years now, including a GP3 squad. They run in Virgin Racing colours (naturally) and  claimed a GP3 race victory earlier year, with 17 year-old Indonesia Rio Haryanto triumphing at the Turkish round.

The Manor GP3 cars, which run in Virgin Racing colours. © LAT/Autosport.

Renault’s new owners, Gravity Sports, have got a number of cars running in the F1 team’s livery this year. Most prominent are GP2 squad DAMS, who run Jerome d’Ambrosio and Ho-Pin Tung in the distinctive yellow and black of Renault.

In a strange twist Romain Grosjean was brought in to drive for the GP2 sqaud in Hungary, putting him in a racer with a very similar livery to the one he’d hoped to drive this year- the Renault F1 car.

Renault liveries can also be found in AutoGP. Adrien Tambay, whose dad Patrick drove for the Renault F1 team in 1984 and ’85 races in Renault colours there, and the 19 year-old will be hoping to keep the connection going as he moves through the ranks.

Romain Grosjean in the DAMS/Renault Junior GP2 car. What a difference a year makes. © LAT/Autosport

The amount of cars running in Red Bull colours (though not the exact F1 liveries) these days is huge, with most of the world’s racing series playing host to at least one Red Bull backed driver. The most prominent at the moment are Daniel Ricciardo, who races in World Series by Renault, and Jean-Eric Vergne, who’s just won the British F3 ttile. Both will be planning to run in Red Bull colours in F1 pretty soon, so Toro Rosso drivers Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Bumei best keep their pace up.

Daniel Ricciardo, a quick Australian driving a Red Bull liveried car. He's a total one-off in that sense. © Autosport
Vergne has sewn up the British F3 title with incredible pace in a Red Bull backed car. © LAT/Autosport

So that’s our look at F1 liveries outside Formula One. Know of any we’ve missed out, or remember any from the past? Let us know in the comments section.