The death of colour in Formula One

In a few hours time we will know if the Formula One grid for 2016 finally has an injection of colour! The Mercedes, Honda and Renault are all Fifty Shades of Grey (but far less titillating), even the Scuderia have diluted their iconic Rosso Corsa with a white air box. I might as well do away with the cone cells in my eyes and see in black and white forever more.


But there is hope… with the expected release of a yellow Haas F1 car later today. They take on North America’s first serious assault on the World Championship since the failed US F1 bid back in 2010. They will become the first American team to start a Grand Prix since the similarly named but totally unrelated Haas-Lola team who competed in 1985 and 1986. Carl Haas’s team best result was with Alan Jones taking fourth position in the 1986 Austrian Grand Prix. This time round Gene Haas, along with significant technical backing from Ferrari, are looking to bring home even better results for the USA.


There have been many iconic yellow Formula One cars, including Senna’s Camel Lotus and the most of the works Renault cars, but there is one team above all others that will forever be adored for it’s yellow liveries. Whether you enjoy Eddie Jordan’s style of punditry or not, he ran one of the most liked teams on the F1 grid back in the nineties and noughties. Jordan ran in yellow from 1997 through to 2005, with some pretty memorable themes.

1997 – Bitten Hisses


To replace the Benson and Hedges cigarette advertising at the European races, Jordan invented B&H characters to provide a subtle reminder to the watching public. The first of these was the Bitten Hisses snake adorning the nose of the car, with it’s tongue flicking down the side towards the driver. The cars looked exciting and mean, something that is missing in today’s car design. They were driven by two young hotshots Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella. When they weren’t crashing into each other they were able to pick up good points and a couple of podium positions.

1998-2000 – Buzzin’ Hornets


The next character invented by Jordan was the Buzzin Hornet wasp, with the black and yellow stripes extending the theme all over the car. Attracting Mugen-Honda engines and world champion Damon Hill to the team was very promising, but initial poor reliability and a competitive midfield meant points positions were fleeting.

The second half of the season was different, despite quite a modest budget developments brought on track results, with points at nearly every race. The chaotic Belgian Grand Prix was a dream for Jordan, bringing the team’s first win and a 1-2 finish headed by Damon Hill.

The team carried the Hornet for another two seasons, taking a further two wins with Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 1999. This was the peak for the Jordan team with Frentzen and the team finishing third in the championship.

2001 – Bitten Heroes


The wasp was retired in favour of an aggressive looking shark nose, with a huge mouth and sharp white teeth. Unfortunately the shark was not as competitive as the wasp and the team was unable to reach the lofty heights of the previous year. New recruit Jarno Trulli was running well in Monaco and was looking good for the victory until his Honda engine failed (sounds familiar?)

haas pre launch

I really hope that Haas pull out a great livery from the bag, they need to capture the imagination of the American public and that won’t be done with yet another dull colour scheme. Unfortunately all of their pre-launch publicity has been grey, red and black (like their current nascar team). For the sake of my cones, please make it yellow.

22 responses to “The death of colour in Formula One

  1. Sadly, even Haas has jumped the monochrome ship and gone with a black/white scheme with some read.

    Ho hum

  2. Nice one, Catman. I love yellow, which my go-quick toys invariably are. I was also a Jordan fan, particularly in 1999 after Schumaher was out; I found myself supporting Frentzen.

    A little off-topic, but related to the launches. Mercedes launched their new car, and combined with Ferrari’s launch, I had a few thoughts as to what their two significantly different approaches might mean for F1 in 2016.

    Thoughts from a man with hope…

    Mercedes’ “mini-revolution” car, possibly as a result of Paddy and co’s understandable risk aversion being at the top of the F1 food chain, combined with Ferrari’s significant Allison-Seb led overhaul gives me, for the first time, a positive feeling going into 2016. There might, just might, be a fight this season.

    If the Ferrari is a little closer than 0.6-1.0sec/lap avg. gap to the Mercedes, then I think Mercedes as a team might need to rethink their approach to racing. Ferrari, as we all know, have evolved into a WDC biased, No1/2 type team.

    Ironically, history shows a No1/2 approach makes it easier to win a WCC if you’ve got a driver at the top of the points ladder, evidenced throughout the Schumacher/Ferrari years and recently the Vettel/RBR years. A No1/2 type team doesn’t necessarily need their second driver to place 2nd or even 3rd. Barrichello rarely placed 2nd and Webber never did, yet WDC/WCC doubles were had aplenty.

    In contrast, Mercedes, as we know, have a Toto-written ‘Rules of Engagement’ bible rooted in driver equality with a WCC focus; one that perhaps has caused more harm than good. One whose effect on Mercedes has been hidden by a car performance advantage not seen in the history of the sport during ’14/’15. Over these past two seasons, we’ve seen properly applied pressure yielding significant dividends when either Red Bull (’14) or Ferrari (’15) have had the rare opportunity to apply it to Lewis and Nico. In short, if Ferrari get close on a consistent basis, the operational differences will become apparent.

    The counter to this is that F1 is a PU dominated formula nowadays. The PU (still find it hard to not say ‘engine’) plays a larger role in the overall chassis/PU/driver performance package than it used to. Based on that, there are potentially proportionally meaningful advancements that we can’t see for both the Ferrari and the Mercedes.

    Andy Cowell, Mercedes’ PU point-man, is talking a good game on PU improvement so far, and there’s no reason to doubt him given he and his team have been delivering. Also, I don’t subscribe to the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’ kicking in just yet given the immaturity of the PU formula .

    As a side note: I don’t think Ross Brawn would’ve allowed such a small/safe approach, as Paddy has done. I don’t think Ross would be suffering vertigo on the top of the precipice.

    Overall, there’s hope for F1 and F1 fans. Relative performance gap erosion has become more likely now, I feel, than it once was given the two different approaches to the launched cars; PU magic not withstanding. And if that gap does erode, a WCC bias may shoot Mercedes in the WDC chase; where as the WDC bias Ferrari have won’t unduly affect WCC chances if their car deserves it. Just ask McLaren…

    • So this is where Twitter’s proposed 10000 character increase has gone….hmmm

      What if that minimal/safe approach by Paddy resulted in a few more points of downforce being bolted onto the car? I think the issue here is what Ferrari has done and as such many may have expected Mercedes to make more drastic and sweeping changes.

      But Mercedes does not need to do that, they’ve got more to lose than Ferrari does. Evolution over revolution as per the dominant Newey Red bull cars. Mercedes can’t afford to do a McLaren 2012/13, they’d be laughed out the sport if such a scenario were to happen.

      You mentioned on Twitter that Newey did push the boundaries despite evolving the each car with flexi wings, blown diffuser, clever engine mapping et al. But none of those changes were visible to the naked eye. So to go back to my first point, though it does not seem like Mercedes has made drastic changes and thus have perceived to have taken a safer approach, we won’t know until Q3 in Melbourne how effective those changes were.

      • Fair and well reasoned final point. You’re correct. Those big/risky changes I mentioned to counter your point on Twitter – the ones Newey took year-on-year during the RBR years – were all indistinguishable at launch save for tighter body work. Check and mate on that point. You’re correct.

        My original comment does also touch on the fact that F1 is, more or less, a PU formula now and that we don’t know what’s under the hood of either car. Subsequently, chassis analysis at launch time has become less relevant now than it once was.

        That aside, if (and it’s a big IF) Ferrari do get closer, even to a 0.3-0.4sec gap that RBR enjoyed most years in their era, then I think it’d be prudent for Toto and co to think about properly backing Lewis. Something I feel they won’t do. Sebastian and Ferrari, with “just” a gap of 0.3-0.4sec, will not be messing around.

        That’s really the theme to my original post. That if my interpretation of the launches is correct, and it’s just guesstimation for all of us – even in testing – until Q3 Melbourne (something I also said on Twitter) than the operational differences and racing policies will finally become apparent.

        Put another way…

        If we are here talking at the end of the season and Ferrari/Vettel became drivers’ champions, defeating Mercedes/Lewis based on marginally getting closer performance wise, utilising sheer consistency and exploiting a No1 driver policy, than that would probably be precipitated by a huge overhaul for Ferrari combined with a safe, conservative approach by Mercedes during launch season. That’s probably the only combo that’d catalyse that scenario.

        That’s what appears to have happened, maybe, given the limited launch info in a PU based formula.

        Given that, I’ve some hope, keeping in mind it’s just launch time. Testing will be a little more relevant, but also not conclusive. Q3 is the answer. But I will be commenting a hell of a lot prior to Q3, and so will you. 😀

        My final thought is this. Even if you’re a Lewis/Mercedes fan, you should really be hoping for the gap to be reduced. Lewis states continually he wants a fight. The fans do too. F1 needs an inter-team fight as well as proper intra-team fights.

        Let’s hope this Allison-Seb overhaul steals a few tenths back. Despite the bastardisation of the word ‘dominate’ here over recent weeks, a ’14/’15-esque domination for a third consecutive year, the likes we won’t have seen before, is too much to bear. If Merc win under close circumstances, a la Red Bull ’10/’12 or Ferrari ’00/’03, then so be it. But third ’14/’15… please God no.

  3. Haas is black, grey (or silver), white, and red. McLaren is similar to last season, as is the new Mercedes. I suspect Renault may not remain black. Sauber remains blue and yellow.

  4. Oh dear… It’s red and white and black. My worst fears are realised. How will we tell them apart from the Manors? (Who they’ll be fighting with let’s face it)

    • Friend’s bet ? … We each receive a point for Qualy positions, I say Haas out-q’s Manor all year. No penalties … At the end of Q3, each race, P22 = 1 point, Pole = 22 points….. Pay-up at the end of the Abu Dhabi’s Q3. …. We, here in Canada, usually make a “Friendly Bet” worth a Coffee … worth about 2 Canadian Dollars. I have PayPal to accept my winnings. Or would you rather race finish positions.

    • Do not despair. There is still a bit of hope. Renault hasn’t shown its final race-livery yet. There might be more yellow to come…
      In fact, I predict there will be even more yellow in their livery, as Renault will become more successful over the coming years.

  5. Well … more grey and black and white ( just a splash of red). might as well donate those cones to the eye bank!
    At least they did launch it on yellow tires

  6. well, i think that racing cars should look sexy, bright, colorful and menacing rather than gloomy and boring corporate coffins

  7. Its their corporate branded colours, as specified in the article…. why would they then choose anything otherwise?

    I wish people would stop whinging unnecessarily… its just having a moan for the sake of it.
    Try and be positive for a change. This is a great news story. New team, from the most important global market, arrives in F1 with partnership from one of the old guard, with a imaginative business model and decent budget to be competitive, and all people can do is b*tch about the colours???!!!

  8. Fishing for comments? Haas Automation and Haas CNC company colors have always been Grey-Red-White, Grey-Red-Black. Since Gene Haas is the Owner of Haas F1 and Title Sponsor, you expected Pink-Green-Purple?

    • Just an anecdote: The Greek word for ‘cucumber’ is αγγούρι – pronounced ah goo ri with a rolled r. Don’t try it, Anglos can’t do it.

      Anyway, when spoken it sounds very similar to Aguri. My brother and I, when talking about F1 back in the day, would refer to the Super Aguris as the Super Cucumbers. “Hey, shame Davidson is in the Cucumber. He just cannot catch a break.”

  9. Renault colours are for testing only didn’t they say that?, I would expect to see a lot more yellow on the car come race day. I don’t mind the Haas car tbh, better than the Red Bull, which looks like someone has thrown a load of Cadbury’s creme egg’s at it!

  10. Also loved the Buzzin’ Hornets colour schemes – shame no-one now has imagination.
    Judge – can you send this link to all the F1 teams (except Ferrari of course)

    PS – a hornet is not a wasp – it is akin to a wasp on steroids and all aggression, as anyone who has met one will attest.

  11. It is not only F1 this year, also the key WEC / Le Mans teams have the same colour issue: Toyota ditched the blue and will run in White/Black/Red, Porsche has a white, a black and a red car, and Audi changed it colours to Black and Red.

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