Perhaps lost a bit in all the hubbub over Manor’s demise last Friday is that the grid not only got smaller, but a bit uglier too.
They may not have had the fastest car – hell, they didn’t even have the ninth-fastest car – but all the same it was an absolute head-turner, thanks to it possessing one of the truly great liveries in recent memory.
Simply by adding a metallic blue to the red of its predecessor, the MRT05 was an easy stand-out in 2016. It’s not often you get to describe an F1 car as “zesty”, but that’s exactly what it was – lively and joyful and so good you could almost forget Rio Haryanto was driving it.
Now with Manor’s death, only one truly great livery remains – that being of course the throwback Martini livery at Williams. Everywhere else you look, it’s become clear that F1 art styles have gotten more stale than Ferrari’s promises of a title challenge.
Whether it’s Red Bull and Toro Rosso (barely changed since their inception), McLaren (duller than a Ron Dennis pep talk), Sauber (whose 2016 challenger was probably designed in MS Paint), Renault (yellow and yet somehow, still bland) or Haas (who seemingly took their cues from HRT), F1 clearly has a creativity problem.
If only by default Force India is better, with its regular inclusion of the green and orange from the Indian flag adding a bit of flavour, while Ferrari and Mercedes are historically tied to a specific colour, but are hurt almost as much by accenting that does nothing to enhance their cars and epitomises F1’s general lack of artistic ambition.
What makes it worse is that we know just how bold and varied F1 liveries can be. We’ve seen so many great liveries in the past – the Ferrari 643, Williams FW14 and 16, Jordan EJ11, and Red Bull’s dazzle-camo in 2015 pre-season testing (which looks even better in colour) being some personal favourites – that it’s immensely frustrating when in an age where graphic design is easier than ever, teams still struggle to create something memorable.
They don’t all have to be as bright and colourful as Manor’s, but surely it’s not that hard for teams to look at the myriad fan designs online as well as their own history books to come up with something that offers legitimate variety.
There’s a reason why when the annual rumours pop-up of McLaren going back to orange, F1 fans collectively lose their minds, and it’s one most F1 teams haven’t seemed to figure out. A truly memorable livery has immense power, able to stoke our imaginations and give us a personal attachment to the car that goes far beyond what it did on track – and yet it’s something that by-and-large the current crop totally lack.
They can be the reason we fall in – or out of – love with a team, and keep that relationship going long after a car’s racing days are over. Is this the year teams across the grid finally remember that? So much is changing in F1 in 2017, maybe the art style will too.
Let’s hope that for once teams step up and stun us with their designs, giving us liveries that in their vibrancy and variety are once again, worthy of the sport we love.
What livery changes would you like to see on the 2017 grid? If you could bring back one livery from the past, which one would you choose? Let us know in the comments below.