Renault’s little black dress

Renault Sport unveiled their new-look works team today with the shiny new RS16. The livery demonstrated on their show car is an interim design to be used during pre-season testing before a final colour scheme is decided on. If they decide to stay with black, they wouldn’t be the first team to do so…

JPS Team Lotus


The black and gold JPS sponsored Loti of the 1970’s have become iconic. The first year of the new colour-scheme in 1972 brought instant success as the team won the championship with Emerson Fittipaldi. He became the youngest winner at the time at 25 years old, which seems ancient by the standards of modern F1. The cars over the following years were driven by many different F1 legends including Peterson, Ickx, Andretti, Mansell and Senna. Of course the livery returned recently in the newest guise of the Lotus F1 team based in Enstone, but the team never reached the heights of the 70’s.


Sauber, 1994


The 1994 Sauber was a pretty little thing and quite competitive, when it worked. The team went through a pretty torrid spell of double retirements which lasted for five races in a row. Out of thirty six starts the car only made it to the finish eleven times. Karl Wendlinger started the season but was involved in a horrific accident just one race weekend after the death of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, sidelining him for the rest of the year and was replaced by Andrea de Cesaris (who only finished one of the eight races he started for the team). The spate of severe accidents rejuvenated a push for safety that revolutionised the sport.


Arrows, 1998


The A19 was a car that promised much but delivered little. The chassis was actually quite good as it was designed by John Barnard (previously incredibly successful at Mclaren, Ferrari and Benetton), but the engine was another story. The team decided to produce their own engines (with the help of the famous Brian Hart), but budget constraints did not allow enough development to become competitive, or reliable.


Minardi, 2001


People older than Max Verstappen may remember a wonderful team called Minardi, renowned for their immense passion to succeed despite a tiny budget. They ran a number of mostly black cars in the early naughties, but the PS01 brought a new rookie to the attention of the world’s media – a certain Fernando Alonso. Despite scoring no points his talent was clear to see and was quickly snapped up by Renault. Ironically Fernando had significantly better results in his black Minardi than in his black Mclaren Honda.


Honda, 2007


Renault will not be the first team to use a black livery just for pre-season testing. Honda did the same in 2007 before the PR nightmare that was the “earth dreams” concept. With lofty ambitions of showing off the green credentials of their new road going engines, the cars ran with a picture of the earth alone. What’s more this monstrosity was unveiled to the world in an agonising 80 minute long presentation from the Natural History Museum. The car ended up being very green – the first roll-out by Jenson Button ended in smoke after just three corners. If that sounds familiar, it did to us too.


Red Bull, 2014

Motor Racing - Formula One Testing - Day 1 - Jerez, Spain

One of the most inventive (and stunning) liveries of all time surely has to be the “camo-bull” from winter testing last year. The livery was an extension of one (of the many) of Sebastian Vettel’s helmet designs from the previous year, with the added bonus of making it harder to take photographs and stealing the secrets of the last of Adrian Newey’s designs. The idea was first used by the British and United States Navy in World War 1, who camouflaged their ships in black and white stripes to bamboozle the enemy.


Challenge for the Jury

I’ve chosen my favourites, but there are a few other teams that have run mostly black cars… I wonder if you can remember them?


10 responses to “Renault’s little black dress

    • That’s a good one! The shadow team won a race with Alan Jones, but only once the team switched to a white colour scheme.

  1. My favourite would be the Minardis.
    This should be a full list:
    AGS; Andrea Moda; Arrows (98/99); Ensign; Fondmetal; Force India; JPS Lotus; New Lotus (!); March (81); Marussia (? Black/Red); McLaren (97-05, 15); Merzario; Minardi; Osella; Sauber; Shadow; Tyrrell; Wolf.

    • Excellent, the Andrea Moda is a particularly good spot… Any idea who drove that car? He went on to be a huge TV personality, but you wouldn’t notice him if you walked past him in the street…

      • Ha – you saying you wouldn’t notice the Stig if you passed him in the street??
        What universe do you live in??

      • It was Perry McCarthy, I’m sure Mansell won the title that season before poor Perry managed to complete a lap.
        When he showed up at the French grand prix in 92 there wasn’t even a car for him to drive as it was stuck in a blockade of striking lorry drivers.

  2. I’ve always thought that Andretti/ Petersen Lotus 79s to be the best looking F1 cars I’ve ever seen – a stunning combination of outwardly simply lines and understated paint work. Sigh…..

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