How Alpine designed its striking new F1 livery


Sci-fi film influences, billion-dollar brand images and design briefs turned around in minutes: what it took to design the Alpine F1 car livery

Alpine lead

Sean Bull and the rest of the Alpine team spent six months refining the new Alpine livery


Whether it be the emerald green of a Jordan 191, the black and gold of Senna’s 1986 Lotus 98T or the none-more-scarlet Ferrari F2004 Michael Schumacher broke so many records with, some cars — and their successes — are indelibly linked to their colour schemes.

How the sparkling blue scheme of the Alpine A521 goes down in history, nobody yet knows. But the livery has already made its mark, lauded as one of the most eye-catching to emerge in recent years.

Coming up with an all-new design can take almost as long as developing the car itself, and involve several designers: the process of transforming last year’s Renault into an Alpine began in the middle of last year and one of its team of livery designers, Sean Bull, told Motor Sport what went into making F1’s go-faster colours.

“The performance impacts of the livery in F1 is a NASA-level of attention to detail”

“Probably the biggest shock I felt when I joined Renault in 2018 is just how far and away the level is for F1 compared to every other motor sport category,” says Bull, who also works with Nico Rosberg’s Extreme E squad, the Dragon Formula E team and had a hand in Alex Albon’s 2021 DTM livery.

“Finding out the level needed and restrictions/performance impacts of the livery in F1 is honestly like a NASA-like of attention to detail.

Alpine concept

Alpine A110-50 concept car was an early inspiration for F1 livery drafts


“It’s this pursuit of performance with marginal gain in F1 that makes the biggest difference. There are certain limitations on areas that can and can’t be painted, you have to take into consideration the paint thickness for weight and how long it takes to turn around an entire chassis design before a race: if a design is too complex and the paint shop can’t get it resprayed or applied between races, then it just can’t be done and an alternative method has to be found.”

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The speed of development in the mechanical and aerodynamic areas of the cars is mirrored in their design, says Bull.

“Timing turnarounds and speed are key elements I found I needed to do design work in F1,” he says. “New configurations or livery options need to be produced and turned around in a matter of minutes on occasions when the sponsor or management team is reviewing how certain logos fit on the car and need another option. They need to see their ideas brought to life almost immediately.”

Shifting logos and tweaking an existing format fill the days of many livery designers. Having joined Renault in 2019, Bull had only ever made slight adjustments to a scheme the French manufacturer was very happy with, and had never designed one from scratch until last year.

“New configurations or livery options need to be turned around in a matter of minutes”

“The first two seasons I was at the team the brief was essentially: ‘We love what we have, so no need to change it,’” he says. “This year was a completely different animal.

“Finding out about the Alpine rebrand from mid-2020, we had a long time of development before the on-track debut at the Silverstone shakedown. The brief was a huge opportunity for us. The end result is a testament of the hard work and development gone into it.”

What resulted was the head-turning livery, but how did they manage to hit upon just the ‘right’ shade of blue?

“There was a lot of experimentation as we took a look at a number of colour options and finishes, but I think it was pretty clear early on that a metallic blue similar to the classic A110 and current road car would be the most obviously identifiable link to the Alpine Brand,” he says.

“Another part of the new branding for Alpine was a move away from its traditional orange and to utilise the French Tricolor instead,” he says. “We had to create a more patriotic look and play around with the material finishes to make the French red really stand out and work with the classic Alpine blue.”

Alpine rear

It was decided that the Alpine ‘A’ would be included at rear so as to fit with potential sponsors


It wasn’t just the colour that came as a pre-requisite…

“Something also clear from the start was the inclusion of the A graphic on the car,” Bull explains. “We explored a range of options on how to implement this, but went for the same treatment as the [Alpine concept car] A110-50.

“Therefore, the side panel was the most logical place at the rear of the car, and eventually this stayed a constant throughout all the development designs. It allowed us a great area to keep clean for sponsors and potential partner branding.

“The design was created by the road car division’s paint team, then passed onto our paint team to create an ‘F1 friendly’ version of that to create a similar effect, but painted as light and fast as possible to the chassis. As with the actual design of the livery itself, the paint process was again the result of collaboration between both sides of the channel – to great effect.”

As well as what the team wanted, Bull has his own parameters by which to measure the effectiveness of a design.

“The real showstopper will of course be the colour,” he says. “What I’ve learnt from my few years in this industry is that the average fan doesn’t really care much for design detailing, but is often swayed by two things: the base colour, and if it is new. We certainly tick and excel both of those boxes this season and I’m sure we will top most people’s livery ranking lists. The added nostalgia of seeing Fernando [Alonso] back in a blue Renault (at least Renault Group) car will hopefully only fuel this further.

“In terms of the actual design itself, one thing we have always focused on at Renault is the ‘TV shot’ of the car, with this clean blue from the front on or raised profile, then the evolution of a more detailed and intricate design as the car rotates around the camera. This should ensure that it’s eye-catching from every angle it is viewed from.”

Designs are 3D-modelled to ensure their visual impact before the lengthy process of working out how to get it onto the car.

“Once we have a base design sorted, we move this into CAD to see how the elements work on 3D objects. Too many times we see concepts or designs online that never take into account how a straight line will work on today’s F1 body curvature,” says Bull.

“From the CAD work we can analyse paint finishes, material choices, what elements can be left unpainted to save weight but still give the full effect of the design etc. This turns into a long refinement process with months of options and alternatives being reviewed and adapted before the final sign-off comes as it is handed over to the paint team to start ‘masking out’ the car.”

Bull has plenty of say in Formula E and Extreme E liveries, being able to put more original ideas into the design. With Renault and Alpine however, it’s a different story.


Two-time Monte Carlo Rally-winning A110 was an obvious inspiration and kept in mind throughout the design process


“With the real world F1 car, I’m essentially a cog in a much larger operation, especially at Renault, with so many impacts and inputs we have to address. It’s a case of identifying what we can do after we get the brief and finding areas where we can apply any creative freedom and new ideas or improvements on ‘locked in’ elements.

“This was most notable on the last Renault livery designs from 2017-2020, as they were each an evolution and refinement of the predecessor, creating something instantly recognisable on track, identifiable for the brand and ever improving. The brand needs to be respected and linked to its road cars.

“Independent teams like Haas or Racing Point [now Aston Martin] have the freedom to be incentive and refresh year after year.”

Bull and his Alpine design colleagues find themselves constantly juggling between their own artistic vision, the desires of the manufacturer and wants of sponsors who have bought space on the car.

“Another big part of the brief is the sponsor layouts and their area being reserved,” he tells us. “We really have to build our designs around that, and this is all laid out for use by the acquisitions team who we work very closely with, they will let us know the contracted size, positions and layout changes ahead of the new season, as well as making room for any prospective partners that we may have to adapt the livery for. The process is always changing so we have to be quick to adapt the entire design at a moment’s notice to potentially get the deal done.”

Although Bull is at pains throughout our interview to emphasise he is one part of a larger design team, he does reveal influences both on and off the track which he put into his designs for Alpine and others.

“Our new Dragon FE livery was inspired by the red and white Marlboro Mclaren,” he reveals. “The brief I set myself and pushed to the team was: ‘What if this livery was designed in 2050?’

Mercedes’ Black diversity livery last season was also a great example of it being more than just paint and stickers, showing how a story can be just as powerful as the design itself.”

“For actual designs themselves that inspire me the most, it’s actually related more around one designer and his output: Daniel Simon, the concept artist behind some of the great sci-fi Hollywood vehicles from Oblivion to Tron.”

“Further away from the world of motorsport, the biggest influence I have is the design and graphics of football shirts.

“Some of the patterns and colour schemes the likes of Nike and Adidas put out are just incredible. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to ‘reverse engineer’ some of the patterns and see just how they have created them: the world cup kits of 2018 are a peak example of this, especially that glorious Nigeria kit.”