In F1 there’s more to liveries than just good or bad ones. There are iconic liveries, boring liveries, liveries that are just ‘ok’…and so on. Then there are also the liveries that are so bad that they become, well, kinda good.
1997 Lola T97/30
The Mastercard Lola team was one of the worst F1 teams in history and to make matters worse, their livery was incredibly messy. Even though they had Pennzoil sponsorship (which has made for some iconic colour schemes in other series), their sidepod logo was so small that it just looks lost.
But for some reason – perhaps because of how slow the car was, perhaps because there’s a bit of an early 90s Benetton vibe going on with the use of multiple colours – after a while it starts to look, well, kinda cool. Also whilst it was pretty ugly compared to some of the other liveries around at the time, if it cropped up on a modern F1 car it’d probably go down as a classic.
If you squint a bit it’s not entirely unlike the 1999 Williams, so in that way you could say that Mastercard Lola were ahead of their time – just not the 107% time.
2011 HRT F111
There seem to be a lot fewer sponsors around in F1 now, which you’d think would mean that teams could go back to making more exciting colour schemes because they don’t have some corporate image to maintain. Sadly that’s not the case and teams that need sponsors the most tend to go with a pretty bland paint job.
But when HRT found themselves in a similar situation in 2011 they went berserk and came up with this. The livery was created by a Hollywood designer who worked on the film Tron: Legacy – not that you’d know it.
With no meaningful sponsors to talk of they filled the empty spaces with enticing phrases like ‘This is a cool spot’ and ‘Your logo here’. Along with a chequered flag design it makes the whole thing look like a knock-off toy you’d buy in a pound shop. It’s properly naff, but at the same time it’s completely awesome – especially when you remember that Narain Karthikeyan raced it, as did some guy called Daniel Ricciardo.
1985 Arrows A8
The Arrows team often came up with brilliant liveries, but for a period in the 1980s they were rather fond of painting their cars beige. Yes, beige, the same colour as hearing aids and your neighbors old Volvo estate car
It’s also the same colour as white plastic that’s been left out in the sun for too long, and the DeLonghi sponsorship does nothing to stop it from resembling an old appliance. But then again, an F1 car that looks like discarded white goods? That’s an aesthetic that no one before or since has ever aspired to.
1992 Brabham BT60B
Brabhams featured some of the truly great F1 liveries during their time in the sport, so it’s a shame that their final car looked like this.
You don’t tend to see a lot of pink liveries in motor racing but that doesn’t mean they have to be as bad as the BT60B. But because it’s so unique (and because it gave Damon Hill his debut), I think that makes it pretty cool. Hopefully we’ll see another (better) attempt at a pink F1 car at some point in the future.
1979 Shadow DN9
It’s a well known fact that adding flames to something makes it a million per cent cooler…if you’re eight years old. If you’re any older than that, adding flames just looks a bit…corny.
But this was the 1970s, the decade that taste forgot, so of course there was an F1 car with flames on it – and not just any flames, but flames on a lion’s mane! It’s a ghastly livery in every way, and it’s brilliant.
1998 Williams FW20
One of the ‘red Williams’ of the late 90s had to be in here and although it was a difficult choice, I’ve gone with the 1998 FW20.
Why? Well after the epic Rothmans liveries of previous years seeing a Williams in red was a shock…and not the good kind. To make matters worse it was just any shade of red, but one which made it look like it’d already been parked out in the sun for a few years. The 1999 livery was a bit more polished (though that’s not saying much!)
The sponsors do nothing for the design either. I’m pretty sure that if you put all the stickers up your nose and sneezed on the car they’d land in a better layout than this. But as the years go by, it starts to become more and more memorable. A red Williams still seems so bizarre it’s almost like it came from an alternate universe.
1979 Team Rebaque Lotus 79
Mexican driver Hector Rebaque raced in his own team in F1 in 1978 and 1979, driving customer Lotuses (he also commissioned his own car, the Rebaque HR100).
Ahhh, the Lotus 79. One of the most iconic and influential of all F1 cars, made even better because it had the classic black and gold JPS livery. But Rebaque didn’t use a classic livery for his car. Oh no, he painted his brown. Brown! Nothing looks good in brown…does it?
Throw in some gold accents (and in this picture, a bodged sidepod and hand painted number) and you’ve got one of the most kitsch liveries ever. And that’s why it’s brilliant.
1996 Forti FG03
Forti were a short lived team, and their first effort (the FG01) looked fantastic. Fluorescent yellow with deep blue sidepods, green wheels and Parmalat sponsorship, in my opinion it’s one of the most underrated liveries ever.
However in in 1996, mid-way through their second season, money was tight and they were bought out by an Irish company known as Shannon Racing. The livery changed to green and white and it looked, well, a complete mess.
But when you look at it you just know that this is the livery of a backmarker. In fact it might be the most backmarker-ish livery of all time and for that, it rocks.
1999 BAR 01
When BAR launched in 1999 they wanted to promote their two tobacco brands with two different liveries – a Lucky Strike one for Villeneuve’s car and a 555 one for Zontas.
However this went against FIA rules which state that both cars have to look pretty much the same and they were told to change it. But instead of coming up with a new design they went with this half-and-half livery with a zipper in between them.
It could have been done so much better, but that’s what makes it so amazing. We need more asymmetric liveries in F1, although perhaps done with a little more thought than this one was.
1976 Hesketh 308D
Hesketh didn’t have much success after James Hunt left the team. For the first time they had to find some sponsorship, which they did in the way of Rizla and Penthouse.
Because this was the 1970s this of course meant that Guy Edwards’ car was plastered with artwork of a scantily clad woman, more like what you’d expect to find on the nose of a Second World War bomber than an F1 car.
It’s so ‘of it’s time’ it’s unreal. It could have been worse though – originally Edwards wanted the girl to be totally naked! The livery carried on in the following years, but it wasn’t as bold or as brash as it was in 1976.