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Gearing up for new car launches: How a Livery is decided
Gearing up for new car launches: How a Livery is decided
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jan 2011   |  4:45 pm GMT  |  131 comments

As we are counting down to the launches of the new cars, with Ferrari at the end of this week and most of the other teams at the start of next week, I thought it would be good to investigate an area that is central to the “look” of a new car, but is often overlooked – the livery.

When we see a new car we see the livery – and quickly get used to it as an identifier on TV – but don’t necessarily take in how it was designed, what it aims to achieve and so on. And yet it is crucial to the identity of the team as this is the main showcase for the team on television, so teams put a lot of thought into the look and feel of their car.

I went behind the scenes to find out more from a team whose livery is likely to cause the most conversation this launch season; the Renault team with its new black and gold colour scheme, echoing the famous JPS Lotus colours of the 1970s and 80s. This is an iconic colour scheme which most fans over 35 will have grown up with and which will be the favourite of many.

I spoke to Renault’s head of graphics Jon Woods, who has been around since the Benetton days in the 1990s, designing liveries for the team. He is the man who designed the Lotus-style livery you will see on this year’s Renault car.

“A livery is a statement of intent and a statement of who you are, ” he says. “Last year we were purely Renault and we had the black and yellow livery to reflect that. In previous years we had a title partner and the livery reflected the brand of the title partner (ING) in conjunction with the Renault brand.

‘This time around it’s more pure, it’s not sharing the space with anyone. It’s the first time in my career I’ve had the luxury of using the colours of one famous racing brand.”

The colours used on the new Renault livery are not exactly the same as on the old JPS Lotus, “I’ve used real gold, ” says Woods, “You wouldn’t believe how many golds there are and how many blacks as well, there are thousands! The black isn’t a true black, it’s got gold in it, so in the sunlight it will really show. I hope that will work well on the TV cameras”

I’ve always imagined that teams do extensive screen tests in front of TV cameras when developing a livery, but this isn’t always the case, “It depends how much money you have,” says Woods. “We normally do colour testing on camera, if not on video then we’ll do it photographically because it’s all digital so it’s understanding how colours work digitally.

“Black doesn’t give you the exposure of yellow or orange, but it does give you a pretty car. We may lose visibility and sheer impact of colour on TV, but we will have a beautiful car.”

Teams do however use 3D visualising software, a Mac application called Cinema 4D. “It’s a software that allows us not just to visualise the car, but to create a whole world for it, racing backgrounds and so on and it all looks super-real. We use real CAD data, with the real shape of the and we put skins on it. That’s helped us a lot in quickly understanding what might work and what certainly won’t work.”

Renault will not have a different livery for the night races at Singapore and Abu Dhabi, “Under artificial lights our car will jump out of the screen,” he adds. “Certainly the gold elements will. That’s another reason why we chose a black that has some gold elements in it, because it will pick up some colour and lustre.”

Jon reveals that he began working on the colour scheme in August last year, as the Lotus deal came together,

“We thought, ‘Let’s reflect a moment of glory in Lotus’ history and use those colours. What I’ve tried to do is give a nod to that part of the history, deference to a famous livery, but taking it a but further. I’ve got a contemporary race car to work with and it’s quite a different shape from the old cars.

When designing a livery what are the key areas of the car to get focus on?

“Inevitably around the cockpit area, the nose and the forward part of the sidepod, ” says Woods, “The shoulders of the sidepod are where we have our gold lines at their thickest. If you have thin lines at the centre of the car the livery looks weak. They should be thick in the middle of the car and taper out towards the front and the back. They are not straight thin lines like they were on the original livery, I’ve adapted it to give maximum impact.”

One of the advantages of having a black car is that you need less layers of paint to cover it than a white car, so you save weight, probably worth up to half a tenth of a second per lap. Painting an F1 car white, requires three or four layers and uses around 4 kilos of paint. A black car needs only one base layer and one top coat, so saves around 30% of paint. At a race like Barcelona in pure performance terms that equates to four seconds over a 66 lap race, although the cars have to hit a minimum weight, it still confers a saving.

The team has followed McLaren in getting sponsors to place their logos not in their own corporate colours, but in a team colour scheme, in this case gold lettering on a black background. I’ve always thought this must be a tough sell as it makes the logos harder to identify. “You have to get them to understand that it’s a culture change for us and get them on board and most of them have been great, ” says Woods.

However contractually Total have insisted on their logo being on a red background, which features on the front and rear wings. Jon describes the red as an “accent” colour, “Three colours is always stronger than two and the accent colour is something that catches the eye, you don’t need a lot of it, but it just works that way.”

There has been some suggestion that the team may face some legal difficulty because the livery is based on a historical tobacco sponsorship, which is now banned in most countries and illegal in certain ones, even though the team is not receiving money from JPS. But Woods rejects any connection with JPS cigarettes in this context,
” When I designed it, I didn’t have a fag packet in my hand,” he says. “It’s not something that has crossed my mind. No, (we’re not concerned about it) it’s the furthest thing from our minds.”

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At Renault’s launch Kubica was asked whether it was a dream to drive for ‘Lotus’, his reply was:

“Well, they’re a sponsor.”

It didn’t go down well with the team, and if their No1 driver doesn’t believe Bahar’s guff, will a judge 😉


The whole weight issue I do not find to be “rubbish”. This is not the only team that has thought of controlling the weight by changing paint.


While they are required to run a minimum weight, being able to control weight is an advantage. And yes there is a F/R weight distribution agreement, but the “rear” is an arbitrary part of the car.


Quick question for anyone with some info.

I’m a qualified graphic designer and of course its the dream to do something like this. How exactly would one go about trying to get into a team in the creative department?


How will this be effected if Team Lotus wins the court case? Will they have to change the colour scheme as he says it was from Team Lotus of the 80’s.

So if Team Lotus wins, will they put it to court that its a copy of brand identity, basically the roles reversed of the current court case?


“The colours used on the new Renault livery are not exactly the same as on the old JPS Lotus, “I’ve used real gold, ” says Woods”

I was under the impression that the original JPS Lotus cars used real gold leaf (as in thin sheets of gold, not the cigarette brand), but found that it looked green on television.

They soon after switched to a colour of yellow called “imitation gold”, which actually appears to the eye to look more like the gold you’d see on a ring.


That picture of Jon finishing off the Lotus logo sticker on the Renault rings a bell 😀 Where else have we seen someone finishing off Lotus stickers? (Lotus) Renault is behaving as childishly as Team Lotus here …

On a different note: is the black colour not going to attract extra heat to a hot car in hot (sunny) conditions?


It’d be like a driving solar panel?!


I like the history of Formula One as much as anyone. But given the technologies available to design a livery, and the types of applications that can be made, how about some originality? Not “my earth dream” originality, but Mclaren pewter with Vodofone red originality.

I must say though, despite the controversy the new Renault livery is much better than what they’ve had in several years.


Last year my fingers were itching to paint that Sauber car in a pale whiteblue colour.

“Sauber” means “pure” or “clean” in English. The car would’ve been like a breath of frosted fresh air.


The way how big that Lotus logo is, is very telling. The Lotus logo on the Team Lotus teaser picture is way more subtle.

I don’t like to be patronised. And that is exactly the feeling I have with (Lotus) Renault. We are made to believe in something that clearly is a fake.

People notice. They are not stupid. Just compare the Team Lotus fanpage on facebook with the (Lotus) Renault fanpage.


Agree – Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I like it too. I once had a black/gold Motorbike where the previous owner painted all the bolt heads red and I still liked it 😉

As for weight saving paint, any weight you save anywhere allows you to get to the minimum weight easier. You can use the saving on paint for say a little bit more strengthening on a suspension arm or similar. Its much easier and much much cheaper to add ballast than to save weight else where in the car!


Reading today that Schumi was and is behind Rosberg because of sea-sickness, whow.

The old and current F1-simulator of Mercedes made Schumi seasick so he can’t do simulator training?

Read that this was the reason that Rosberg had a quite good setup already when arriving at a circuit and Schumi hadn’t.

Seems simulators are as important as cars nowadays. So Mercedes tries to produce a Schumi-combatible simulator as fast as possible.

So i bet in a few years simulators will be on show too to make sponsors(computer industry) happy.

All this saying about money saving: what are the costs for a simulator and can small teams afford high end simulators?


Given they can’t claim the heritage of Team Lotus and any of its past F1 activities, why is no one kicking up a fuss about them blatantly exploiting that heritage?? Now, it could be argued that Tony’s Team Lotus doesn’t have a moral right to do so, but they do have the legal right. This team though definitely has no moral nor legal claim over that heritage and so I find this whole thing to be completely pathetic.


In the mid-Fifties, Inginiere Carcano of Moto-Guzzi, anodized the alloy dustbin fairings on the Factory racers to save the weight of the paint. Bikes didn’t have a minimum weight limit then.

Incidentally, if Renault wanted a black & gold car, why didn’t they just nip down to Halford’s, buy a roll of gold striping and stick it straight onto the carbon-fibre? C-F is black and looks pretty good au naturelle, doesn’t it? Throw a handful of gold dust into the resin and there’s your sparkle. Simples!

Big help to the budget, too.


How is this different from Ferrari having Skoda as title sponsor and painting their car green?


JPS colour scheme on the Lotus 72 was probably the best combination of car and colour scheme in F1 : A brilliant scheme on a beautiful car.

I bet if the Renault team had known that Total were going to insist on a red background, they would have chosen the Lotus 49 Gold Leaf colour scheme instead.

Ironically, of course, the team was then called Gold Leaf Team Lotus.

The discarded scheme originally chosen by Tony Fernandes shows just how good a modern F1 car could look in Black and Gold.

In my view the red elements totally destroy the new “Renault” colour scheme : and Jon Wood is simply putting a brave face on it.


The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. I like it.

This old Renault team looks to me like pretty much trying to figure out who they are. Last year yellow and black – Renault influenced livery, this year Group Lotus influence kicks in. I wonder how many years will take them to find the shape they want?


I think they ar trying to be an engine supplier rather than a team owner. A profitable business, and their name stays on the car.




I think the Gold Leaf Team Lotus livery debuted at the ’68 Tasman series.


This car should have been made all yellow with red accents. It would have suited the Renault and Lotus brands, looked good with the Total branding, stood out on TV, and most importantly avoided this whole messy claim to a previous unrelated heritage. If you want your livery to be iconic, start winning your own races!


“A livery is a statement of intent and a statement of who you are, ” Translation: ‘This livery is a statement of who we want people to think we are.’

“We thought, ‘Let’s reflect a moment of glory in Lotus’ history and use those colours. What I’ve tried to do is give a nod to that part of the history, deference to a famous livery…’

” When I designed it, I didn’t have a fag packet in my hand,” he says. “It’s not something that has crossed my mind. No, (we’re not concerned about it) it’s the furthest thing from our minds.”

You can’t claim the heritage but then say it’s nothing to do with cigarettes when everyone thinks of the cars of that era as JPS lotus’s.


It doesn’t escape my attention that the team which gave us arguably the most beautiful colour scheme of all time on an F1 car (perhaps rivalled by the mid 90’s Rothmans colour scheme of Williams) is also the team which scrapped that wonderful scheme and moved to arguably the ugliest of all time, namely, the all Camel sponsored scheme of the 1987 Lotus driven by Senna.

It went from most beautiful to most abhorrent in one season! (smile)


James, I have always been most interested in Mclaren’s chrome livery. If black is lightest and white is heaviest, where does McLaren’s silver weigh in?

On this same topic, I remember a few year ago debate about the color of Jaguar’s f1 car. Purists complained because the green was a far lighter shade than the traditional British racing green, but the team commented that they had video tested the more tradition green shade and it showed up too dark on camera, thus opting for a lighter shade that produced a better visual on TV.


The gold lines are *far* too thick. It’s supposed to be gold trim, not long gold fields. The proposed Team Lotus gold and black livery got it right and was much, much closer to the magnificent JPS liveries of old than this is. Quite apart from the clashing red and the silliness of stealing Team Lotus’s idea of using that color scheme in the first place.

Bahar and his people seem to have absolutely no idea how they’re coming across and I don’t see them being in F1 more than a year or two, once they start experiencing the backlash from fans on race weekends. I feel sorry for Kubica and Petrov who both deserve to be in more well-managed surroundings.


Good job on the painwork, but this would fit much better a Lotus than Renault.


its crazy that the colour of the paint can affect the weight of the car by that much. Surely the teams would invest in paint technology to be able to save yourself that vital time, its almost like free weight ballast


New Renault livery looks terrible, like a 10 year old made it on photoshop and I can’t respect the people taking over the team. I feel sorry for Kubica as he always seems to be overshadowed by team politics. Hopefully with all this Malaysian money coming in he can do something in 2011 and jump ship to a reasonable team like RBR.


The new Renault pretending to be JPS Lotus livery looks OK when compared to some of the previous liveries that Lotus and Benetton have used over the last 15 or so years. The Benetton’s of the last 80s and early 90s were always so pretty but since 1992 I don’t think they have ever had a nice looking paint scheme.

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