F1's master of liveries names his greatest designs


Peter Stevens has created some of F1's best-known liveries for teams such as Brabham, Williams and Tyrrell – he picks his favourite designs

3 1983 Brazilian GP Brabham Nelson Piquet

Simplistic approach proved frutiful with Brabham BT52

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Until teams recently started scraping paint from their car chassis, livery design didn’t make an F1 car go any faster – but it certainly made it look quicker.

Ferrari and scarlet are synonymous, a long line of McLarens represented fast-moving Marlboro cartons and Jordan cut through the field with its yellow ‘Buzzin’ Hornets’ livery in the late ’90s to promote Benson and Hedges.

Peter Stevens, who has penned many of the world championship’s iconic liveries – as well as having styled cars such as the McLaren F1 and Lotus Elan – understands the importance of a design which is easy on the eye.

In this month’s magazine, he explains what makes a great livery – and picked a favourite seven of his own designs, from Brabhams to the Braun Tyrrell and beyond. Se the rundown below.


1. Parmalat Brabhams

4 1983 British GP Brabham Nelson Piquet

Blue and white design was chosen to show on black and white television

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“In the order of a balanced fun/strong appearance, I’d have to go for the Brabhams first,” says Stevens, who recalled how he first began with the famous team to Simon Taylor in 2015.

“When I read that Brabham had a new sponsor, Parmalat, I phoned the factory and asked to speak to Mr Ecclestone,” he said. “They put me through: he didn’t know me from Adam, but I said I’d like to propose some livery for his car. He just said, ‘Be here in two hours.’

From the archive

“When I got there he took me into the workshop and there was the BT46, painted in a scheme proposed by Parmalat. It looked like a fairground ride, yellow, dark green, light green, gold, light blue, dark blue. Niki [Lauda] came in and said, ‘Bernie, what the f**k is this? This car looks like shit, and I’m not driving a car that looks like shit.’ Bernie said, ‘It’s all right, Niki, this is Peter, he’ll have some drawings for us by the morning.’ Then he looked at me and said, ‘They’d better be good.’

“I spent all night on it, and Bernie liked it. They still had the Alfa engine, so the car had to be red, but when Alfa quit we went to white and dark blue.”

Stevens elaborated on why he used said colours in our April 2023 issue.

“When I started in design, the world was in black and white in terms of television,” he said. “I bought myself a little black and white television to see how things looked. I did a scheme for [businessman and privateer team owner] John Macdonald in red and white for Wella hair products and it didn’t show up on black and white TV at all. It was a complete disaster. Whereas black and yellow or dark blue and white did, which was one of the reasons that we did the Brabhams in those colours.

“Remember, you just get a fleeting image. Even now, it’s a very quick look at an image that goes past that needs to fix in your mind. The straightforward thing which I remember saying to Bernie is that the people who are giving you millions of pounds are doing so because it’s a high-profile, high-visibility sport that they want to be involved with, and also they want to have that kind of quality. That’s what they bought into.”


2. 1985 – Skoal Bandit RAM

Skoal Bandit RAM F1

Skoal livery was a winner, if not the car

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RAM’s 1985 03 model – if only it went as fast as it looked. The Hart-powered green machine, driven by Kenneth Acheson, Philippe Alliot and Manfred Winkelhock at various points of the season, managed just three finishes in 14 races – none of them in the points.

In the looks department though, the car scores highly. Skoal Bandit chewing tobacco sponsored this back-of-the-grid effort, making for a rather handsome green livery penned by Stevens.


3. 1991 Braun Tyrrell

Braun Tyrrell F1

Braun Tyrrell was raced to success by Satoru Nakajima and Stefano Modena

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A fair bit more successful was the Braun Tyrrell 020 – a car which seems to have given some inspiration to Haas‘s 2023 design.

On its debut at the 1991 US GP at Phoenix, the team’s pairing of Stefano Modena and Satoru Nakajima would score fourth and fifth.

The former then snared a brilliant second place at Canada later in the year, the neat car designed on from Harvey Postlethwaite and George Ryton showing clear potential – with a livery to match.

Just one of many cars which allowed the privateer team, formerly run from a timber shed, to punch above its weight.


4. 1998 Benetton B198

Benetton B198 F1

Stevens was brought in to sort out ’98 Benetton design


By 1998, the Enstone team was reverting back to type, with just one win to its name in the two years which had passed since star driver Michael Schumacher departed.

From the archive

Stevens was brought in by new boss David Richards in to clear up Benetton’s bevvy of sponsors into a more aesthetically pleasing arrangement. He seemed to succeed in giving the ’98 Benetton a neater blue design in comparison to 1997’s potpourri.

“When David took over the car looked like a fairground ride,” Stevens says. “It was awful and cheapened what they were doing. We were able to make the whole thing look more co-ordinated.

“Then again, we found there were stickers everywhere at Benetton, even in the lavatory. Messages from Flav: ‘Do not spend more than two minutes in the toilet’; ‘Wash your hands’; ‘Only use the amount of paper you need’.”


5. 1980 Penthouse Ram

Penthouse RAM F1

Williams FW07, daubed in Penthouse RAM colours

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The Penthouse RAM wasn’t much more successful, but in the eyes of Stevens it’s a winning livery. Drivers Kevin Cogan, Rupert Keegan and Geoff Lees could only manage a handle of non-points finishes – when they qualified – in the ageing Williams FW07, at a time when F1 car design was evolving at a rapid pace.


6. 1980 – Desire Wilson’s FW07

Williams-FW07 F1 Car on track

Quick turnaround on Wilson Williams colours

Same car – different livery. “The Murjani Jeans Williams FW07 that Desiré Wilson raced was a quick Wednesday evening job for John Macdonald for a race at Brands Hatch the next weekend,” he remembers. “Despite the haste, it worked well as a simple message.”

In spite of its elegance, Aurora British F1-race winner Wilson would sadly not qualify the car for her only world championship entry at Brands Hatch in 1980.


7. 1986 – Williams FW11

Williams FW11

ICI touch on FW11

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“I’d also like to include my work on the Williams FW11,” notes Stevens for his small contribution to a design which many feel looks workmanlike, but which had huge success in the work championship: “I was responsible for the yellow when Guy Edwards landed the team the ICI sponsorship.”

The car won nine of 1986’s 16 GPs with Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell, but the warring team-mates ended up both losing out to McLaren’s Alain Prost.

Piquet would fight back the next season in an updated version of the FW11, sealing his third crown.