Written by Richard Kelley
Gulf Oil's relationship with racing extends from the 1930s. However, the power of Gulf’s cladding in the late '60s created an unforgettable impression that has never faded.
Having been immortalised in the 1971 film Le Mans starring Steve McQueen, does the Porsche 917, a Ford GT40 or McLaren M20 Can-Am look as formidable and yet sweet without orange and blue paint?
The Porsche 917 KH of Richard Attwood and Herbert Mueller sporting the Gulf livery at the 1971 24h Le Mans. Image Courtesy: Motorsport Images.
McLaren gave their modern twist on one of motorsport's most iconic liveries with a one-off track debut of their 2021 MCL35M, with the Woking team swapping their usual papaya colours for the blue and orange of fuel partner Gulf Oil in Thursday practice at the Monaco GP.
The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix wasn't the first time a McLaren race car carried the iconic Gulf livery. The #41 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail finished second at the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans while sporting Gulf's racing blue and Fluro orange colour scheme. McLaren's drivers, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, wore the colours on their race suits and sported retro designs on their helmets which were raffled for McLaren's mental health charity partner, Mind.
Daniel Ricciardo drives his McLaren MCL35M wrapped in a special Gulf livery throught the streets of Monaco during the 2021 Grand Prix. Image Courtesy: Motorsport Images.
“This will be McLaren's homage to Gulf's celebrated race car design,” said McLaren chief executive Zak Brown at the launch of that single race tribute.
“We're enormous fans of brave and bold design, and the striking Gulf blue is among the most loved liveries in racing, a celebrated piece of culture which transcends the world of motorsport.”
“Design has always been important to McLaren - you see this in everything we do from our return to papaya to our stunning headquarters, the McLaren Technology Centre. We're excited to exhibit this as a team and celebrate our proud association with Gulf in Monaco.”
A vital feature of this campaign was a bespoke range of merchandise that allowed fans to own their part of the special weekend. Inspired by the Gulf liveried MCL35M design, the limited-edition merchandise line featured a range of team wear and lifestyle clothing that fans could purchase from the McLaren Store.
Lando Norris pushed his McLaren MCL35M wrapped in a special Gulf livery to a P3 finish at the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. Image Courtesy: Motorsport Images.
In 2023, the power and aura of Gulf Oil has returned. Gulf has joined Williams Racing as another significant step for the team as it continues to grow its new era of commercial investment since Dorilton Capital bought it. Williams Racing and Gulf will expand their new partnership beyond Formula 1 to include the Williams Racing Driver Academy and Williams Esports.
The face of Gulf Oil’s high-octane sponsorship will be seen in the vibrant colours of Gulf adorning the new FW45, race driver suits, pitstop gantry and some of the team’s key pitstop personnel.
As part of the new-look FW45, the team has taken the opportunity to heavily evolve the sidepod concept, the front suspension layout, and the primary external aerodynamic surfaces. As a result, the FW45 is more aerodynamically efficient than the FW44.
But the most exciting bonus is yet to come, as William’s fans can choose the FW45 livery at three flyaway races this season, following feedback earlier this year that fans wanted to see the colour scheme used.
At the start of the 2023 season, Williams announced a multi-year partnership with Gulf Oil International. Image Courtesy: Williams Racing.
Gulf Oil International CEO Mike Jones released a statement which read: “Gulf’s iconic colours have created stunning liveries throughout motorsport history, and this year will be no different.
“We are incredibly proud to announce that a Gulf livery will run on the Williams Racing cars at the Singapore, Japanese and Qatar Grands Prix in 2023. This project is all about giving fans control and placing them at the centre of our partnership with Williams Racing”.
“We feel strongly that each theme and livery will go down extremely well and look forward to seeing which one the fans choose. We hope that Gulf and Williams Racing fans alike love this vote and get excited about their role in choosing the latest Gulf livery.”
The four options — ‘Bolder than Bold’, ‘Contemporary’, ‘Visionary’, and ‘Heritage’ — can be voted for on the official Williams website.
Fans got to chance to vote between the four versions of the Gulf Fan Livery for the upcoming Singapore, Japan and Qatar Grands Prix. Image Courtesy: Williams Racing.
Announcing the project on a yacht in the Monaco harbour, Jones was joined by James Vowles, Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant, who all preferred the “heritage” design. However, the team has produced all four to provide different options.
“I’m excited to announce the livery vote as part of our partnership between Gulf and Williams Racing,” Vowles said. “The winning livery will showcase two iconic motorsport brands coming together. Our fans have the opportunity to create motorsport history with their livery decision, bringing this partnership to life. I can’t wait to see the winning design and watch the Williams Racing fans cheering the team on.”
Dave Robson, the Head of Vehicle Performance at Williams Racing, also echoed the excitement of the new partnership.
“We’ve all reacted exactly as you’ve described.” Robson replied. “There is something synonymous about it and it’s a great brand to have onboard. All of their history couple that with Williams’ history, it’s great to see those two brands together. They’re clearly very keen on embarking on this relationship and being part of the journey…that’s really good.”
Mike Jones, James Vowles, Logan Sargeant and Alexander Albon present the winning ‘Bolder than Bold’ Gulf Fan Livery. Image Courtesy: Williams Racing.
Gulf and Williams Racing share an illustrious motorsport heritage, and they are clearly determined to create new fans and conquests with their partnership.
Follow the link below to discover our tribute to the Williams x Gulf partnership in form of a Design Poster showcasing all four Gulf Fan Livery designs.