As we enter 2020, and before we start to think about the exciting launch period and winter testing, it’s time to reflect on the decade that was. There was plenty of disappointment in the livery world over the last 10 years, but also a lot of happy memories. As we jump into our top 20, let’s start with one that could well fit into both camps.
#20 – 2015 McLaren MP4-30
The 2010s were a tumultuous decade for McLaren fans and livery geeks alike. The decade began with success in the familiar Vodafone livery, before speed, sponsors and inspiration seemingly disappeared as the years went on. Devoid of a main backer, McLaren tried unsuccessfully to put together a coherent livery, and from 2014-2017 raced in some forgettable designs. It might be surprising then to see the 2015 livery in this list. It was widely canned by pundits (and myself initially) for being a West ripoff from years past, but it did have some redeeming features.
Well, at least one redeeming feature. McLaren was known for having spent a ludicrous amount of money developing the famous chrome used on the Vodafone livery. I’m not sure how much was spent on this one, but the sparkly black on the bottom half of this livery was just gorgeous. It’s a shame it only lasted a few rounds, because the replacement wasn’t any better, and missed a chance to have this colour across the whole car. Shame really! It wasn’t a bad livery overall, just wasn’t original.
#19 – 2014 Marussia MR03B
The Marussia and Virgin teams had some pretty distinctive liveries over the years and the MR03B was no exception. It’s a car that despite having one of the most common colour schemes in Motorsport, had its own personality, looked great yet slightly different from every angle, and all despite the lack of sponsorship on the car.
The front of the car featured smooth circular curves, the sides showed off long sweeping lines all the way to the rear, and on top, the red spiked design. Each slightly different, but all brought together well to create a uniform livery.
#18 – 2019 Mercedes F1 W10
Their on track success this decade will probably never be matched, however, Mercedes’ livery game has not quite hit the same heights. Their efforts at the start of the 2010s were quite poor, but they did steadily make progress, their last livery of the decade being their best.
They nailed the right shade of silver, a great amount of well placed turquoise, and some complementary black blended in nicely with a trendy pattern. It may be difficult to make an incredibly pretty silver livery, but if used with some creativity and nouse, and not dictated by Ron Dennis, it can work out really, really well.
#17 – 2018 Williams FW41
The Martini livery featured in various levels of Motorsport across the decades and Williams was universally hailed for bringing the iconic livery back to Formula 1. It brought with it some terrific success with the Mercedes engine being so strong in 2014, but whilst the livery held strong, the results could not. Of this stint of sponsorship with Williams, the 2018 and final version of livery was the best variation.
This year’s design refined the placement of the Martini lines from the exhaust to the nose, removed the border from the Martini logo and included the large swooping black section across the bottom of the car to break up all the white. Whilst I did get a little tired of it by the time it reached its 5th year (as is the case with most liveries that last this long) and wish it had undergone a more drastic evolution in this time, it’s attractiveness and popularity right to the end could not be denied.
#16 – 2016 Ferrari SF16-H
The 2010s may be Ferrari’s most experimental years on the livery front of all time. There were plenty of variations from barcodes to matte liveries, but the 2016 effort is the one that makes #16 on our list. It was a design that harked back to the late 70s, with the engine cover being largely white, as it was then. There was also a fair bit of black, which hadn’t really been on a Ferrari since the early 90s.
What these new white and black sections helped do was split up the livery, and distract the viewer from seeing what is essentially a moving billboard. Ferrari have never been subtle, often having 2 or more large sponsors on their sidepods, but it is far more obvious on a plain livery. Shame they had not yet removed the ‘Scuderia’ logo.
#15 – 2012 HRT F112
Anyone remember this livery? In their short life, HRT had some stinkers, but their final livery was their saving grace. It showed that you can make a pretty livery without a large array of sponsors. They went with a sadly underutilised burgundy colour and paired it with gold (a shade that I do wish was a little brighter) to make a really pleasant colour combination alongside the main colour of white.
It really shone in sunny conditions when the gold could sparkle, and the design did a good job of both following and protruding outside the natural lines of the car. KH-7 almost killed the vibe with their neon orange, but it was mostly kept hidden on the inside of the rear wing end plates. A livery that deserves to be remembered.
#14 – 2011 Virgin MVR-02
Here’s another car that didn’t get much fanfare back in the day, due to just how slow it was. Pace aside, Virgin’s first livery was great, with bold lines sweeping along along the car, being smooth but also sharp where they needed to. It made for a perfectly uniform livery and gave the Virgin team and its successor a solid identity.
I could take or leave the tribal markings, but they definitely aren’t offensive, and helped form said identity, especially early on when arriving alongside two other brand new teams. Livery aside, the aggressive shape of the nose near the suspension was awesome.
#13 – 2018 Haas VF-18
Haas have flipped and flopped liveries in their first few years of existence, but made it onto the list with their 2018 design. It was always going to be a little corporate in terms of colours, but the way they are laid out is what works so well.
The straight horizontal black and white split on the sidepod is a great look, and the way the Haas logo is placed on top of it, lining up with the H, works very well. I’ve never been a huge fan of the nose design on the Haas liveries, but it’s a small price to pay for a lovely all round effort.
#12 – 2018 Red Bull RB14
Red Bull made some strong choices toward the end of the decade, one being the inspired move to a near black, matte livery in 2016. It was a much needed change to what was a design theme that hadn’t really varied significantly in 10 years, and set a trend that was followed by none other than Ferrari in 2019.
The 2018 design set just the right levels of class and aggression, and fixed the bull’s tail that was cut off in previous versions. It’s just a super clean and sharp livery that we’ve been impressed with for a number of years now. Let’s see how it evolves in the 2020s.
#11 – 2012 Marussia MR01
Marussia again? You bet. The 2012 livery took the Marussia colour palette and turned it into something completely different to the year before. Sometimes largely ignoring the shape of the car can be beneficial, in this instance, taking straight lines and placing them diagonally across the car, creating large stripes of red and black.
The lines separating the red and black are white and grey, and on each section, only grey touches the red sections, and only white touches the black. It’s subtle intricacy that pulls together the uniformity of the design. It looked really nice from every angle, and again, Marussia pulled off a great livery with next to no sponsorship.
#10 – Racing Point RP19
Force India stunned us in 2017 with a pink livery, brought to us via BWT sponsorship. It was initially a bit of a novelty with things like bubbly water graphics, but it has been refined over the last couple of years, to what has been the best version yet in 2019. Not only is the shade of pink much nicer, but the complementary silver and bright pink are placed more thoughtfully.
SportPesa also jumped on board in 2019, and added a large chunk of royal blue, which looks incredible alongside the pink. It’s a terrific, dark contrast; not sure I’ve seen such drastically different coloured sponsors work so well together. It’s a livery that has a lot going on, but coherently and not overboard or too loud.
#9 – 2010 Williams FW32
Williams’ second livery on our list goes to this understated number from 2010. A car perhaps most famous for being driven to pole by then rookie Nico Hulkenberg is a beauty to look at in its own right. At this point, Williams had been dabbling in a few variations of blue and white liveries, but this was probably the best since HP left the party.
What pushes this over the line is the shade of blue used. It sits between two much darker liveries and in hindsight, is much more appealing to the eye than the PDVSA liveries of the next few years. It’s also a fantastic two tone livery, with all sponsors (apart from Bridgestone) in either white or blue, which is very aesthetically pleasing, as are the fast flowing lines across the car’s body.
#8 – 2017 Sauber C36
Sauber was in a midst of a crisis with next to no backing and being on the edge of dropping out of the sport, when they rocked up to Melbourne in this beauty. As with Williams above, they found a lovely shade of blue, paired it with their other staple colour of white, and finished it off with some gold trimming, celebrating their 25th year of racing.
Together it formed an incredible colour combination which quite frankly, no one expected after the lacklustre efforts the team had brought to the table earlier in the decade. Aside from the black shark fin, it was difficult to find a fault in the design which worked well in just about every way.
#7 – Alfa Romeo C38
2018 was a transition year for Sauber. Alfa Romeo came on board as a major sponsor and with it, the livery changed dramatically. It kept some of its 2017 characteristics, but the colours changed to red and white with a flash of blue. What really stood out was the shade of the deep, metallic red. It was a lovely colour and most of us wondered why they hadn’t used more of it on the car! In 2019 Alfa Romeo bought the team and changed the name, and the livery evolved again, making some subtle improvements across the car.
The red was brought forward and wisely took up more space on the car. The Alfa Romeo logo on the side was changed and looked much nicer in its new format. However, somewhat surprisingly the blue and white was kept, as was the naming of the car (C38), perhaps as a nod to the team’s history as Sauber. The white and blue I’m not too fussed about, but I hope the naming stays that way. Needless to say, the car looked fantastic, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t like it.
#6 – Renault R.S.19
The decade really did finish off strong. Renault would have popped up earlier in the list if they had kept that all black livery from 2016 winter testing, but here we are. The traditional Renault colours were used as well as ever this year – a strong, cooler yellow paired with black in a livery that looked majority yellow from the front, but black from other angles.
The colours are well distributed along the car, looking sharp and edgy, proving I don’t only love curvy, sweeping lines. I love the front view of the car, but for some reason my excitement from the side doesn’t quite peak as high, which is why it isn’t higher up the list. Perhaps we’ll see a livery in the next few years that is perfect all round.
#5 – 2018 Toro Rosso STR13
Toro Rosso spent years in a drab navy and gold livery, and I despised them for it. Not only was the theme and colour palette boring, but they added new, ugly elements to it every year. I had dreams of Red Bull can and Sugar Free liveries, but year after year my hopes were dashed and my spirit crushed. I gave up on all hope of a change in direction. Then, out of nowhere in 2017, the new era of Toro Rosso was unleashed upon us and boy was it beautiful.
Out with the drab and in with the new, vibrant and invigorating shades of blue, red and silver. The blue has a subtle iridescent quality that looks purple from the right angle and right lighting, whilst the red is incredibly strong and in your face. It was also so refreshing to see Red Bull logos and Bull itself in reflective silver. Whilst the 2017 livery was a huge relief for me, the 2018 improved on it, hence why it is on the list. The placement of the lines was improved and paired with the new aero regulations, it looked awesome.
#4 – 2010 Force India VJM03
Force India moved into the new decade carrying its familiar white, green and orange livery. It was tastefully patriotic (although Indian sporting teams usually wear blue) and looked bright and vibrant on track. They’d subsequently lose their way, going for visually jarring and sometimes asymmetric designs, but luckily we had the memory of this one to look back to.
This era of car was quite curvy, so the flowing sections of green and orange, which almost looked like fluttering in the wind as they drove along, were a terrific match. The specific shades of green and orange worked very well together and with the white and helped disguise what was really a mish-mash of sponsors with no uniformity on the car. Good memories.
#3 – 2014 Caterham CT05
Caterham was another short lived name in Formula 1, but one that left a lasting impact on livery lovers. It’s incredible to think that at the start of the year, Caterham had perhaps the most disgusting F1 car of all time, and by the end, one of the prettiest. It may mostly be down to the nose, but the livery was also improved through the year.
Green is a colour infrequently used in F1, but is almost always a winner. The Jaguars of the 2000s were universally loved, as was the 1991 Jordan, but I don’t think this car gets enough credit. The shade of metallic green is just about perfect and is wonderfully displayed with the clever, minimalist design. Black is used on the rear in a big black sweeping section, whilst cleverly hiding the dong nose on the font. There’s a little on the airbox too, matching the curvature of the rear section. All the sponsors are uniform in white, completing what is one of the cleanest and most pleasing liveries to look at of the decade.
#2 – 2010 Renault R30
After a few years of ING and Renault‘s colours not really getting along, Renault were rumoured to be looking to the past for inspiration for their 2010 livery. Absolutely no one was disappointed with the result. The black and yellow bumblebee design was almost as good as it got this decade. The gradually thinning black lines were a terrific design choice, looking fantastic on the nose and sidepods.
I can even forgive Total for their red sidepods and mirrors, because as hard as they tried to ruin the livery, they failed. It’s a superbly executed livery, and criminal that it was only used for one year. Sadder still that it was succeeded by the tri-hard, phoney Lotus livery in 2011. It will also be remembered for the exploits of Kubica, in what was really his last year at full strength, and boy did he wrangle that car, snagging 3 podiums and 5 times the points of his teammate Petrov.
#1 – 2019 McLaren MCL34
I’ve firmly pushed nostalgia to the side and I think that McLaren’s 2019 livery is the best of the decade. 2018 was very close to perfect, giving the people what they wanted with the beautiful papaya orange, but the few adjustments in 2019 took it to the next level. The design adding more blue to the rear of the car was inspired. I had always contemplated adding more black, but the blue really was the right way to go and am very happy they went in that direction. That same triangular design also gave the team a stronger identity, which it had missed since losing a main sponsor earlier in the decade.
Alongside the blue there is some more black. The horizontal line along the bottom of the car works so well, especially with the tech sponsors along it in a cool, retro fashion. The halo stayed black, but with a larger black presence on the car this time, it fit in just fine. What can I say, it’s a stunner. With rumours circling of McLaren finding a major sponsor for 2020, we may sadly have to say goodbye to this livery, and perhaps even the papaya. All good things must come to an end, and in the end it’s good for F1, but we would all be rightfully sad to see it go!
So that’s my top 20 liveries of the decade. What are your thoughts? Any great liveries that I missed? Any that you think shouldn’t be in the top 20? Let me know below!