The era of cigarette sponsorship provided some of the best and most recognisable liveries of all time. One of the longest running sponsorships, and one of the most memorable, was that of British American Tobacco brand Lucky Strike, to the BAR and Honda teams.
Having the same sponsor year after year carries the threat of having a static livery, which even after just a couple of seasons will get extremely tiresome. While the livery may be beautiful in its first season, every year in which it is kept the same after that creates a boredom in the viewing the car and sours the view of its original beauty (see Panasonic Toyota 2002 vs 2007, Vodafone McLaren 2007 vs 2013. Nice liveries initially, but 5 years in the same livery? Have you not made new additions to your wardrobe in the last 5 years? SOMETHING has to change). This has happened on a number of occasions in Formula 1, but thankfully, BAR/Honda didn’t get sucked into this trap.
BAR/Honda succeeded in not only updating, but improving the livery throughout the years, keeping up with the times and producing cars that always looked good. From one year to the next, a new element was added to the livery, which not only made it more interesting, but improved the overall design, and made sure it didn’t look “so last season”. Due to the ongoing improvements made to the livery design, the obvious choice for this review is the final link in the chain, the 2006 Lucky Strike Honda RA106.
After an impressive 2004, 2005 was a step down for BAR Honda. Performances were poor early on and controversy surrounded their illegal fuel system, which lead to a two race exclusion. While Jenson Button improved later in the season, Takuma Sato managed to score just a single point all season. For 2006, the team changed hands and was to be solely Honda, and after leaving Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello was brought in to replace Sato. Enough about that though, let’s talk livery.
The 2006 livery was unmistakably a Lucky Strike livery. The full lucky strike logo was shown on very few occasions. Despite the tobacco advertising ban in most countries, the clever non-tobacco liveries managed to get the sponsor’s message across. Honda used either a blank Lucky Strike target, or a modern, stylised version of the logo. Both worked well, although the stylised version was more interesting and seemed to fit the shape of the car better. The biggest change though, was the main colour.
For years, BAR had used plain white as their main colour. For 2006, instead of white, Honda opted for
an off white or ivory colour Championship White (seemingly an homage to the Honda Grand Prix cars of the 1960s). It is subtle, and not completely obvious in all videos or pictures, but when you can see the difference, it looks superb. In fact, I didn’t really notice the change until the dark and gloomy Hungarian Grand Prix. This wasn’t the first use of a colour like this (similar versions were used by Arrows, Williams and Jordan, thanks to Barclay), but the first time in a number of years. It is a colour rarely used, but one that when used correctly, with the right secondary colours, can be absolutely beautiful. It absolutely is here and has me hoping we’ll see a cream, ivory or in fact, Championship White used again in F1 in the near future.
The design of the livery is the evolution of a number of years of work. Red, black and olive scream Lucky Strike. These colours, now put on a Championship White backdrop, are brilliantly complimentary. The combination is very easy on the eye. The designs on the engine cover and side of the nose are basically cross sections of the Lucky Strike target, cleverly placed as to best fit the car’s shape. All the logos on the car fit seamlessly into the livery, giving it another big tick in the aesthetic department, perhaps with the exception of Eneos and 555 on the nose.
The livery was altered slightly between most races, but a few race weekends saw some drastic one off changes. The first came in Turkey, where Petrol Ofisi was honoured with its own special livery. It replaced the black and olive sections with plain red and despite losing some complexity, managed to look very nice. However, this was only promotional and wasn’t raced.
The second and biggest change was in China, where British American Tobacco used the opportunity to advertise to the Chinese market, replacing Lucky Strike with the local equivalent in 555. The design was more or less the same, but with the colours changed to blue and yellow, instead of the usual black, red and olive. This livery didn’t look like it had as much thought put into it. It lacked charm and didn’t quite work overall, but it is cool to look back on and remember.
The final variation was used in Brazil. As this was the last race before a tobacco sponsorship ban in Formula 1, Lucky Strike ran a tribute livery as it had been sponsoring BAR/Honda for the past 8 seasons. They used the slogans “Racing Forever” and “Last Blast” on the livery as a salute to the end of an era.
What an era it was. Whilst smoking is awful and F1 had every right to ban tobacco sponsorships, we are left with a giant void left by the iconic liveries these companies had helped produce.
If you have any requests, any motorsport liveries you’d like me to write about, let me know in the comments!