After a lot of change for 1996 with the departure of Michael Schumacher and Johnny Herbert, and the arrival of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi, 1997 was a stable year in comparison for Benetton. The two former Ferrari team mates stayed on with Benetton and finished 5th and 4th in the championship respectively, whilst likely watching in agony as their former team finally found form and made a consistent race winning machine (in the hands of Schumacher at least).
It wasn’t all mediocrity however, with Berger winning the German Grand Prix in what would be his final Formula 1 season, whilst Alesi scored points more often than not, achieving five podiums in the process. Although the car wasn’t quite with Ferrari and Williams in terms of performance, it was right in the mix in terms of looks.
Whether biased by nostalgia or not, 1997 is my favourite year for F1 liveries and the B197 for that matter is probably my favourite Benetton livery of all their wonderful efforts. This was a three colour effort, with two shades of blue, white and a wee bit of red. The blues, brought to Benetton via Mild Seven sponsorship, would become a colour scheme synonymous with the team and would adorn the car for their last 8 years in Formula 1. The placement of the colours on this car is done very well.
The sidepods are white, with that section wrapping all the way from the rear, over the nose, to the other side of the car, in a design that has in one way or another been a Benetton feature since 1992. The two tone blue follows the white’s path all the way along the car, with the thin darker blue mainly lining the white, giving a great dark/light contrast. A further white section wraps around the cockpit beginning and ending at the exhaust.
Speaking of the exhaust, the B192 had a neat design on the very rear of the car that was oh so Benetton. Four torn stripes, one each in red, yellow, green and blue, featured on the rear, which brought a little more colour and Benetton flair to an otherwise sophisticated livery. This also made the Benetton a favourite choice of mine in F1 World Grand Prix, since it looked so good from the back when using swingman cam.
Apart from that somewhat hidden section, the colour pop is provided by the red trimming along the front wing, barge boards, cockpit, mirrors and tip of the nose on Alesi’s car. This little bit of colour is just enough to stop the livery looking monotonous and boring, making a world of difference when comparing to the 1996 car where green was the third colour.
Finally, this is yet another tribute to liveries where all the sponsors match. From Mild Seven to Korean Air, Akai and Gillette, everything matches the blue, white and red colour palate. The only sponsor not adhering to this is Agip in yellow (which matches just about any livery anyway), that doesn’t break up the synchrony of this livery at all.
What a lovely livery this was and a bunch of good looking cars overall that year. Perhaps too, with the rule changes for 2017, we may once again see cars so sleek and aggressive as they were in the picture above.