McLaren will run a one-off livery at Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix. The key players in the deal discussed the idea during a media event held earlier this week, as MotorsportWeek.com explains.
How did the deal come about?
McLaren and Gulf Oil reunited last July for a multi-year partnership and both Zak Brown and Mike Jones recognised their respective companies had room for further collaboration.
“It became pretty obvious that we should do something like this,” said McLaren CEO Brown. “All of you know how iconic the Gulf livery is. We tasked our teams with coming up with something that captured something really special, and I think they’ve delivered on that.
“It is something that isn’t done that often in Formula 1, sometimes there are variations of livery with a little bit of a tweak here or there.”
Gulf Oil CEO Jones realised McLaren provided the perfect platform to bring the recognisable colours into Formula 1, even as a one-off.
“We have a clear colour palette for Gulf and it’s iconic,” he said. “Iconic sometimes means old, but I think the Gulf colours were way ahead of their time. If you think that someone designed these colours in 1967, but they are still relevant now.
“As a company we get many, many requests for racing teams to use it, but actually it’s a really special iconic colour so we only want to use it for special teams, and I think that is very much where we went. It is absolutely stunning and you can imagine with the nice weather in Monaco and the car going round, it is really going to be a stand-out piece.”
Did it require extra approval?
Everything in Formula 1 is covered by regulations, clauses and appendixes – and car livery is no different. Article 9.1 of the Sporting Regulations states that “both cars entered by a competitor must be presented in substantially the same livery at every event. Any significant change to this livery during a championship may only be made with the agreement of the FIA and the Commercial Rights Holder.” While Gulf’s corporate colours are similar to McLaren’s scheme the one-off livery is a significant change, given the MCL35M’s papaya and cerulean blue has made way for orange and light blue. Fortunately, both the FIA and Liberty Media were receptive.
“You submit to them your design and your rationale, and they all loved it and approved it,” explained Brown. “It used to be something that the teams had to vote on and that governance has changed, along with governance that still needs to change, that is a bit a silly that some teams should have a say over what other teams look like. Fortunately, it was an easy approval with the FIA and F1.”
What do the drivers make of it?
Unsurprisingly, they love it. After all, both Lando Norris – who has an artistic streak – and Daniel Ricciardo have been known for their bold designs in terms of helmet liveries and fashion.
“I mean… look at it, it’s beautiful,” said Norris during a media event, the first such gathering held in the pandemic, at which the livery was presented. “I think everyone can agree it will be the best-looking car on the grid by a very long way. And I said to Zak it’s even better than our current livery… but he didn’t sound so convinced by that! It’s awesome, it’s a cool opportunity for both of us, and especially at Monaco, so I think it brings it all together, it’s pretty unique.”
“Of course I love it,” added Ricciardo. “It’s cool. I didn’t need another reason to get excited for Monaco so I’ve got to control myself and save some energy for next week! Awesome. As long as you look good, that’s the first box you’ve got to tick and we’re certainly doing that, so I’m really excited.”
Will the design be limited to the car?
No. McLaren is going all in at the venue where Bruce McLaren’s eponymous team first appeared in Formula 1 circles 55 years previously.
“[We are] going for the whole thing,” affirmed Brown. “If you are going to do it, do it right. It’s going to be a complete Gulf McLaren Formula One team, from garage, to race cars, to hospitality, to uniforms, which I think are going to look quite spectacular.”
Ricciardo, who won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018 with Red Bull, and Norris will also be sporting special retro helmets.
Those helmets will be raffled off to raise money for McLaren’s mental health charity partner, Mind, while a merchandise range has also been launched.
Could it happen again in the future?
Potentially – though it has been stressed that this specific livery is very much a one-off. However, Brown is a marketing man through and through, adding to McLaren’s sponsor portfolio, having already returned McLaren to its papaya-based heritage upon his arrival for 2017. He knows there may be chances in the future to experiment.
“I think we want to keep it limited and special,” he said. “So I think for the right reasons, the right brand alignment, the right venue… you know we have our 60th anniversary coming up in a couple of years [in 2023]. I hope other teams follow our lead, because I think it’s going to be exciting. I’m excited to see fan reaction and then in Monaco I think it’s going to be the star of the show.”
Jones coyly added: “I think Zak and I will keep talking and we’ll see how we expand it together.”