The start of the 2014 Formula 1 season brought expectation and excitement. It also introduced a very cool new car design from Williams Formula 1 FW36, with a Martini inspired livery.

Practice Two - Valtteri Bottas - Car 77 - FW36 - Hard Tyres - Williams Martini Racing

It’s a tip of the hat to motor racing history and a time of classic design. Here’s the Brabham BT42 from 30 years ago.


It got me thinking about race car livery design and the way stripes have played a pivotal role in creative inspiration. There are so many great examples but it’s hard not to immediately consider Lotus.

Lotus, both historically and with the revamp in recent years has been a leader in iconic, timeless design. Check out this combo from history to recent F1 and even IndyCar.

Jim Clark Lotus

Lotus F1

Takuma Sato ahead of Will Power

Lotus own more than just the classic green and yellow combo. They also know a thing to two about black and gold – again utilizing a simple line or two. Check out Kimi Raikkonen in action during the 2012 season.

Kimi Raikkonen Lotus F1 2012 121

Now check out a young Ayrton Senna in action at Brands Hatch in 1986.

Ayrton Senna JPS Lotus Renault 98T F1. Brands Hatch 1986.(Explore)

Such an timeless look that shows the power of a simple line on a race car design.

A couple of years ago, Jalopnik published a piece called The Ten Coolest Racing Paint Schemes of All Time – great read if you haven’t seen it. It covers all areas racing, and although I’m keeping most of my examples to open wheel competition, I feel compelled to mention the beautiful Gulf Blue/Orange Ford GT40. How’s this for a double dose? A Porsche 917 and Ford GT40 in the blue and orange combination.

Porsche 917 vs Ford Gt40

Back to F1 (and I’m biased since my father worked for Brabham in 1983) but I am a huge fan of the Brabham BT52 driven by Nelson Piquet and Ricardo Patrese. A beautiful use of lines with blue and white, and of course, BMW turbo power.

Nelson Piquet in the Brabham-BMW BT52 at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Nelson Piquet Brabham BT52 / BMW 4 Turbo

This inspiration continued on in future seasons and I loved the Olivetti sponsored design from Brabham, even if the performance of the car let them down.

1985 Nelson Piquet - Brabham BT54/BMW

From Olivetti to Rothmans, it’s hard not to notice the enduring classiness of their cars from to Sports Cars to F1.

2014 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

Pure Design & Classic Livery - 1982 Rothmans March 821


Now to jump all over the place with some honorable mentions.

How about McLaren during the Marlboro years?

In pit lane with Patrick Tambay

Or the simplicity of Elf and Tyrell?


The Bennetton years? (excuse the tiny photo).

Benetton Ford

Or a Ferrari driven by Jacques Villeneuve featuring both Fiat and Agip?

Ferrari 312 T3 Built 1973 3.0litre Flat 12 Driven by Jacques Villeneuve

I’m amazed how good design can stand the test of time. That’s applicable to any industry, but some of the examples above are still relevant today. The new Williams is a testament to this.

This could be an endless list – so I am going to stop here and wait for your opinions and suggestions. I’ll continue to add to this post as feedback comes in. All images featured in the post are from Flickr from users that allow embeds. Thank you for reading, I’m looking forward to your responses.

END: April 12, 2014.