An interesting point was made recently on that there Twitter, brought about mainly by these excellent renders of the bonkers Nismo LMP1. Why do we yearn for a return of classic liveries, and seem so reluctant to accept modern ones?
The answer comes from someone being uncharacteristically succinct. Ron Dennis, who says title sponsors are a thing of the past. Bringing us back around to the point: they have taken the liveries with them.
Ron’s own McLaren has a strong back catalogue of liveries, and all bar the early orange days, they have been largely driven by sponsors. Marlboro, West/Merc, and even the early Vodafone adaptions, have been striking, the Harrods, Gulf and Fina-stickered F1 GTRs too. All sponsor-led. With them gone from the world of sport, let alone motorsport, as you were prevails and has done for the past few seasons, not least with this season’s offerings. The Honda-McLaren deal looked the perfect opportunity to ditch the grey, but as pointed out to me recently, harking back to the Honda days with a red and white car is going to give Marlboro a dose of publicity. Ron doesn’t do free. Although that didn’t stop the artist-tenuously-formerly-known-as, and-then-known-as-again-albeit-even-more-tenuously, Lotus.
It isn’t just the title sponsors that teams are failing to tempt into the world of motorsport; you can count the sponsors on recent cars on a hand or two. And it isn’t just F1, either, the top sports cars have a lack of sponsors, though they have do the luxury of being stunning cars. Back to F1, the 2015 Sauber, while it jarred its way, nauseatingly, into garish life earlier this year, has few sponsor logos to dull the blinding blue of Banco do Brasilia. Maybe they’re hoping to channel the spirit of the sticker-less C9.
The best looking cars have been known by the way they look as much as by their performance on the track. Unfortunately, they also gave you cancer. The Jaguar XJR-9 is forever known as the Silk Cut Jag, the Williams FW16 a Rothmans, Lotus and JPS, and the aforementioned Marlboro Maccas. Arrows and Orange, even, although mobile phones and cancer seem to have lost its newsworthiness. When the cigarettes were cut, so were the liveries, leaving the better looking cars of F1 in the nineties and 2000s were almost invariably midfield (Sauber [again], Arrows, Jaguar et al).
There’s little on the F1 grid to fulfil the future generations’ need for evocative liveries. The Martini bedecked Williams will be mentioned, but that will always be shunned by virtue of the Alfa, Lancia and numerous other, better Martinid cars. Few would say the Martini Williams was as great as they had hoped it would be, however good it does look.
It seems Nissan could be set to save the day. The red P1 was, livery-wise, something of a let down for such an innovative car and launch. A plain red seemed to go against the grain. But, Darren Cox may have snuck in a tantalising tidbit, an olive branch, maybe thanks to those classic livery designs.
And while we’re on about the halcyon, good ol’ days, there’s that new ‘rule’ about helmet design. But that’s for another day.