Of Paint Guns and Liveries
The 2021 Formula 1 season is due to spark into life beneath the floodlights in Bahrain – but who has captured the attention with the paint guns this year?
There’s been little change in terms of regulation owing to the unanimous decision to carry over last year’s cars – a cost-cutting measure implemented because of the pandemic. There have been some alterations, concentrated on the floor due to downforce cuts, while teams have been permitted two development tokens. Some engine work has been allowed – a boon for those who struggled in 2020 – but already the boffins are studiously applying their efforts to the big rules reset coming in 2022.
There are also the human-interest stories to look out for – can Lewis Hamilton claim a record-breaking eighth title? Will Sergio Perez avoid his predecessors’ fate alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull? Will champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso add iconic chapters to their careers at Aston Martin and Alpine or fade away into obscurity? And what of the next generation – the likes of Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and George Russell, keen to underline their credentials to be Formula 1’s next big thing.
But with their cars remaining largely the same it means focus shifts away from technical school and towards art class – a simple case of how good does a livery look? Different teams have adopted different approaches, depending on brand identity, sponsor requirements and mere aesthetics.
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team have their sights set on Title no. 8.
Reigning World Champions Mercedes – the class of the field for the last seven years – switched to a predominantly stealth black livery for the postponed 2020 season. It was part of the manufacturer’s push to promote greater diversity within motor-racing and marked a departure away from the Silver Arrows identity that it has sported since the very inception of grand prix racing. For 2021 the black scheme has been largely retained though blends towards the corporate silver at the rear, with AMG logos extremely prominent, and title partner Petronas’ turquoise shades remaining.
Only one other Formula 1 team has such an identity – the scarlet red of Ferrari. The squad is seeking to bounce back from its latest annus horribilis, in which it failed to win, and plunged into the lower half of the standings for the first time in four decades. Its SF21 will still be red – though it has put a twist on its scheme. The two-tone livery blends into a burgundy across the engine cover, acting as a nod to its history, as the colour which adorned the first racing car produced by the company in 1947: the 125S.
Retaining the black livery, the new W12 that Mercedes-AMG hope will drive the team to a record 8th consecutive win. Image courtesy Hoch-Zwei
Ferrari hope the SF21 in its two-tone livery can end the team's winless 2020 campaign. Image courtesy Hoch-Zwei
The biggest changes have come at Aston Martin, Alpine and Haas – as rebrands and new title sponsors dictate their say.
Aston Martin was always going to serve up a portion of British Racing Green and a winter of hype was duly delivered upon when the AMR21 was revealed. It hasn’t historically been associated with winning Formula 1 cars, with recent green machines such as Jaguar and Caterham proving wildly underwhelming, but it marks a new identity for the operation. For the last four years title partner BWT mandated a garish pink scheme but the company’s involvement has now been scaled back, extending to patches on the overalls and a few splatters on the car.
Renault’s similarly striking livery has also been consigned to the history books, with the bumble-bee yellow and black making way for the blue, red and white of Alpine. The sports car company’s blue has historically adorned only road cars but will now appear on Formula 1 machines, with the rather patriotic approach reflecting the team’s split identity – based across different divisions in the United Kingdom and France.
National identity has also reared its head at Haas – though with a customary dollop of controversy. The arrival of new title partner Uralkali means Haas has ditched its predominantly grey base and repainted its VF-21 in a blocky white, blue and red that has drawn parallels with the colours of the Russian flag. Not so much the American Dream but the Tsar Spangled Sputnik
The popular McLaren team, now featuring the perma-smiling Daniel Ricciardo, has stuck with the papaya that recognises its origins.
Williams have gone for history, stability and reputation and the same is reflected in their livery,
Elsewhere there have been evolutions not revolutions. The popular McLaren team, now featuring the perma-smiling Daniel Ricciardo, has stuck with the papaya that recognises its origins while Red Bull and AlphaTauri have kept the corporate colours that promotes energy drinks and clothes. Backmarkers Alfa Romeo and Williams have also gone for history, stability and reputation. Alfa Romeo keeps the red and white colours, albeit with slightly modified styling, while Williams’ blue and white features a splash of yellow as a tip of the hat to its 1980s heyday, as it enters its first full year under the ownership of Dorilton Capital.
The field of 20 will burst into action for the first time at the end of this month in Bahrain and conclude just across the water in Abu Dhabi in mid-December, with a record-breaking 23 events planned. It’ll be all out as they show their true colours across all four corners of the globe.