Paintwork - livery - in Formula 1


From the beginning of organised motor sport events, in the early 1900s, until the late 1960s, before commercial sponsorship liveries came into common use, vehicles competing in Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and other international auto racing competitions customarily painted their cars in standardized racing colours that indicated the nation of origin of the car or driver. These were often quite different from the national colours used in other sports or in politics.
The advent of sponsorship led to some realy crazy stuff and then gradually the teams were convinced to slow down and present the same basic livery at each race in a season. Ferrari stayed with Italian racing red, Ligier went with French blue, Lotus claimed black and gold, Jordan grabbed green and then went yellow because it paid more money. TV viewers and fans at the track are all able to instantly recognise the cars.

When we see a new car we see the livery, and quickly get used to it as an identifier of the team, we never think how it was designed and what it aims to achieve. And it is crucial to the identity of the team as this is the main showcase for the team and sponsors, so teams put a lot of thought into the look and feel of their car.
A livery is a statement of intent and a statement of who the teams are.
It depends how much money they have, teams do extensive screen tests in front of TV cameras when developing a livery, if not on video then they do it photographically because it’s all digital so it’s understanding how colors work digitally. All that to get the best visual identity in different angles and different lighting.
Teams use 3D visualizing software, software that allows the teams not just to visualize the car, but to create a whole world for it, racing backgrounds and so on and it all looks super-real. They use real CAD data, with the real shape of the car and then they put different skins on it. That’s helping a lot in quickly understanding what might work and what won’t work.
Type of color is very important. Paints are specially developed for carbon fiber, and specially developed for Formula 1. Paint must be light and have good covering properties to save the weight. One of the advantages of having a black car for example is that you need less layers of paint to cover black carbon fiber than a white car, so you save weight, probably worth up to half a tenth of a second per lap. Painting an F1 car white, requires three or four layers and one top coat, and uses around 4 kilos of paint. A black car needs only one base layer and one top coat, so saves around 30% of paint. At a race like Barcelona in pure performance terms that equates to four seconds over a 66 lap race, although the cars have to hit a minimum weight, it still confers a saving.

Ferrari F2003 livery
Ferrari F2003 livery before tobacco sponsorship ban when Vodafone was Ferrati title sponsor with Shell as oil an fuel supplier and sponsor

Sponsors pay good money to place their logos on the car, so they want good visibility too. Size and position of the sponsor’s logo depend on money they are ready to pay. Big buck sponsors, like Vodafone in McLaren case (after 2005) or AT&T in Williams’s case (after 2005) want their names in big letters on sidepods or rear wings to be visible. Only in case of Ferrari things are different. Title sponsor Marlboro (sorry, Phillip Morris) pay to Ferrari big money for whole car surface. After that Marlboro can sell pieces of car skin to other Ferrari sponsors or not, and Ferrari get only some percentage of earnings. There has been some suggestion that the team may face some legal difficulty because the livery is based on a tobacco sponsorship, which is now banned in most countries and illegal in others. But Ferrari is not worried because there is no any Marlboro symbol there, only red color. And red color (a little bit different red) is historical Ferrari color.

In comparison, most of the big NASCAR teams have nothing in their liveries which links them together in same team. They change liveries all the time and have a bunch of little stickers on each car that make them look rather messy. However, the advantage of doing business the NASCAR way is that major sponsors can change from one race to the next. There is no consistency, except the car number. The NASCAR fans don’t seem to complain much at all the livery changes that happen and so one must assume that they either have not thought about the systems and just accept what they are given, or are better informed than F1 fans.

Both Formula 1 cars belonging to a team must retain their paintwork throughout the racing season for which they are entering. The F1 Sporting Regulations actually dictate that a team must have the two cars in the same colours and they must even get permission from the Formula 1 Commission if they want a change the livery during a season. This may seem odd but it means that the fans know what they are looking for.

Every car must bear the start number of the respective driver; the number must be clearly visible from the side and the front on a 25 cm TV screen.

The manufacturer's logo must be visible on the front of the vehicle's nose. The name of the driver must also be printed and clearly legible either on the bodywork, the outside of the cockpit or the helmet.

List of international auto racing colors




21.1 The provisions of the Code relating to national colors shall not apply to the Championship.
Both cars entered by a competitor must be presented in substantially the same livery at each Event, any change to this livery during a Championship season may only be made with the agreement of the Formula One Commission.
In order that the cars of each team may be easily distinguished from one another whilst they are on the track, the on board cameras located above the principle roll structure of the first car must be predominantly fluorescent red and the second car fluorescent yellow.
21.2 Each car will carry the race number of its driver (or his replacement) as published by the FIA at the beginning of the season. This number must be clearly visible from the front of the car.
21.3 The name or the emblem of the make of the car must appear on the front of the nose of the car and in either case be at least 25mm in its largest dimension. The name of the driver must appear on the external bodywork and be clearly legible.


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Books to read


Some useful links:

- f1technical.net, a great site with a lot of technical information’s and explanations. Site is updated daily with news from F1 word.

 - autosport.com, This site is a legend. A bible for racing lovers. News from all around the word. Unfortunately, to get access to all news, interviews and to open the site completely you should be subscribed to Autosport magazine. Anyway, great read.

James Allen on F1
- JA.F1 site (or blog) ovned by ITV Sport’s lead commentator on Formula 1 James Allen

Joe Saward blog
- joesaward is the Joe Saward official blog about Formula 1 world. Joe is an journalist, who write primarily about politics in and around motorsport, specifically on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship

Vital F1
 - vitalf1.com/ is another great site for Motor Sports fan’s like me. Site is relatively new, but great fun, with great discussion forum, Formula 1 news and forum.

 GP update
- f1.gpupdate.net, Site with fresh news from Formula 1

Planet F1
 - planetf1, another site with many different articles, news and statistics. Biased toward British teams, but anyway good read.

Gurney flap
 - gurneyflap.com, Great history site. You can learn a lot from this site. Pictures, cars and many many more. Great.

4ormula1 is a database of Formula 1 history and statistics of drivers, teams, grand prix, and all results since 1950.

Missed Apex Podcast
Enjoy range of Podcasts and Articles on Motorsport. Every week a Formula one chat on Missed Apex F1 Podcast with F1 journalist Joe Saward and tech Analyst Matthew Somerfield as guests. Also the exciting all electric racing series formula E on eRadio Show and Bike Show Lean Angle Podcast.

Racecar engineering
-Racecar Engineering, an online magazine with a lot to learn from, a lot of technical information’s and explanations

 - fia.com, La Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, representing the interests of motoring organisations and motor car users. Head organisation and ruler in auto sport.

 - wikipedia.org, I don’t believe that I have to tell you anything about this site. It’s not about Formula 1 technology, but you can learn a lot about that too.

Sutton Images

grandprix photo

 - carbibles.com, a great site for normal car users. Here you can find explanations of almost everything about your car and how it works. Technical reviews and explanations of some in-car gadgets.

Dare To Be Different
- Daretobedifferent.org Susie Wolff and UK governing body of UK motorsport have joined forces to launch Dare To Be Different, a high-profile new initiative which is about increasing female participation, not just on the track but in all aspects of the sport.

Giorgio Piola web site