F1's best one-off liveries: colour, camouflage and calamity


Renault has unveiled its new RS20 in an all-black livery; we have a look at a few more short-term colour schemes

Keke Rosberg 1986 Portuguese GP

Yellow the colour for Rosberg in Portugal, 1986

Renault's RS20 in an all black livery.

Renault has run an all-black livery for the first test of 2020

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After its mysterious ‘non-launch’ in Paris, the Renault F1 team has upped the clandestine-ante by testing with an all-black livery, presumably looking to keep the secret to midfield mediocrity safe from Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

It follows in a long line of short-term designs that have been brought in for sponsors, promotion, or simply to make a point. Here are some of the best testing and one-off liveries from years gone by.


1986: Keke Rosberg’s Yellow McLaren MP4-2C TAG

Keke Rosberg, McLaren MP4-2C TAG, leads Stefan Johansson, Ferrari F1/86.

Keke Rosberg’s in McLaren’s yellow effort

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From the archive

World Champion chain-smoker Keke Rosberg ran a special yellow edition McLaren at the 1986 Portuguese Grand Prix to promote Phillip Morris’ ‘Marlboro Lights’ brand.

He used a red-liveried spare in qualifying then switched to the yellow car for the race.

The original Flying Finn found the going tough in 1986 and the Estoril round proved to be no different, his race ending in retirement.

Team-mate Alain Prost finished 2nd in the full-blooded ‘Marlboro Red’ car. Coincidence?


1999: BAR 01

Jacques Villeneuve testing the BAR 01.

The BAR 01 promised much and delivered…a few laughs

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The notoriously unforthcoming Jacques Villeneuve left Williams to form his own team with Craig Pollock in 1999, funded by British American Tobacco.

BAR provided much entertainment by claiming they would win races from the off, running two separate liveries which got banned and then impressively failing to score a single point all season. Smooth.

Before their alternate fag packet design was outlawed the team ran a prototype livery which was admittedly quite pleasing on the eye.


1964: NART Ferrari

John Surtees driving for Ferrari at the 1964 United States Grand Prix.

One of Enzo Ferrari’s many political fallouts resulted in a rather handsome white and blue livery

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From the archive

In 1964 an on-running feud with FIA bigwigs resulted in Enzo Ferrari declaring his cars would never again run his country’s national colours (this was red in case you weren’t aware).

For the last two races of the 1964 season the Scuderia cars turned up under the banner of the North American Racing Team in a rather fetching blue and white livery.

With matte liveries now all the rage for the apparent performance gains on offer, this new alternate paint job perhaps provided an advantage to Maranello team, with a pair of second places securing John Surtees the 1964 driver’s crown.


1977: Gunnar Nilsson’s Red Lotus 78

Gunnar Nilsson driving for Lotus at the 1978 Japanese Grand Prix.

Gunnar Nilsson’s eye-catching red Lotus 78

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After years of running their famous black and gold John Player colours, Lotus ran Gunnar Nilsson in an eye-catching red livery to promote Imperial tobacco at the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix.

The new look didn’t seem to encourage a change in form for the Swede, who ended up retiring from his seventh race in a row.


2004: Red Bull

Neel Jani testing for Red Bull during 2004.

Red Bull’s first livery looked something like a 200mph energy drink vessel

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Red Bull are renowned for running one-off testing liveries then reverting to a more uniform brand-promoting livery for the season proper.

Whilst tobacco-sponsored teams had been previously noted for creating ‘200mph cigarette packets’, the energy drink firm provided a new twist in 2004 by making their Jaguar test car look like a fast moving Red Bull can. The team moved to the now more well-known Red Bull F1 colours for 2005 onwards.


2018-2019: Red Bull

Red Bull's 2018 'DisruptoBull

Red Bull’s ‘DisruptoBull’ livery came and then went before the 2018 season even started

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The Milton Keynes squad got F1 fans excited by releasing an appropriately named ‘DisruptoBull’ livery in 2018, before letting everyone down by returning to their usual brand appearance for the season opener.

The team had form for such antics by decking out their 2015 challenger in black and white and did the same again with an Aston Martin Valkyrie colour scheme in 2019.