Simple liveries can often be criticised for being lazy or boring (or both). Two tone liveries are even more susceptible to this criticism. Yet there have been a few over the years that have impressed, the Lotus 99T being one of them.
Lots of liveries feature two main colours, but very few have strictly two colours on the car. The Lotus 99T, driven by Ayrton Senna and Satoru Nakajima in 1987, is one of the few . It achieved two victories and eight podiums overall in the capable hands of Senna and stood out of the crowd in doing so, thanks to the vibrant, warm Camel yellow.
As mentioned above, very few teams have attempted to create a livery with only two colours (including the silver outlines on the Camel logos would be nitpicking!). This means that with the yellow base layer, every single logo on the car is navy blue. It makes for a great effect and helps the logos to stand out brilliantly and be easily recognisable, whilst creating as uniform a livery as is possible, without having the sponsors blend in as one.
So the logos are all the same colour, something we can’t say about other “two-tone” liveries, which is what you may think a red and white Ferrari may be. In actual fact, there are usually a number of clashing colours on their liveries all at once, ranging in this example from the usual scarlet red, white and black for Marlboro, yellow for Shell, green for Tic Tac, purple and orange for FedEx and blue for TIM and FIAT. That helps to put into context how well Lotus had done to make sure every logo on the car was uniform in colour.
Another thing that stands out to me is the completely yellow wings. Most liveries will split the monotony up with black wings or endplates (Renault this season for example), but Lotus went for solid yellow all the way, which helps make this design so unique.
So is this livery boring? It’s a valid argument. It’s entirely yellow with no real design elements to consider. However, I would argue the design is in the placement of the logos. From every angle, each logo looks perfectly thought out . From the front, the Camel logo arches beautifully in front of the cockpit, bordering the camel silhouette nicely. The arch works well too on the straight rear wing. Looking from the side profile, the Camel logo has been straightened out to fit snuggly within the lines of the of the car and the same can be said about the DeLonghi, Honda and Elf logos. Not a single logo looks out of place. The benefit of these sharp edged, rigid cars was that logos could fit so perfectly within the lines of the chasis, something livery designers don’t have the same luxury of doing these days.
My one issue with this is that Senna’s helmet is so close to perfectly matching the car! Something I can’t really complain about, but my OCD kicks in when it’s close yet so far.
We now know that cigarettes are toxic killlers, but once upon a time, whether through ignorance or oblivion, their promotion lead to beautiful Formula 1 liveries such as this.
And just for fun, I made a quick mockup of what this could look like today.
Had to shuffle Camel to the sidepod due its shape and size and updated some logos to their new designs. Is it better? Ceratinly not. Ugly? Don’t think so. Should it stay in our memories and not be re-made in the future? Absolutely.