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5 most memorable one-off liveries in F1

White Red Bull livery for Turkish Grand Prix 2021 Credits: Red Bull
White Red Bull livery for Turkish Grand Prix 2021 Credits: Red Bull
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Shashank Raj

Ahead of this weekend's F1 Turkish Grand Prix, Red Bull and Alpha Tauri have been teasing a special livery that they will sport as a tribute to their partnership with Honda.

The Japanese engine supplier will be leaving after the 2021 season, marking an end to their fourth era in the sport, which began in 2015 alongside McLaren.

The ๐—™๐—จ๐—Ÿ๐—Ÿ reveal ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Unveiling our very special livery for the #TurkishGP ๐Ÿค https://t.co/mcgQldasiH

F1 liveries went from representing countries to companies

In the early days of Grand Prix racing, cars would usually be painted in the colors representing the country they were based. Italian cars were red, British entries were green, and so on.

As the cost of racing ramped up, so did the importance of sponsors. As a result, F1 cars began to be adorned with sponsorship designs instead. The Gold Leaf Tobacco liveries adorning the Lotus 49s during the 1968 season was one of the first such examples of this.

That said, sponsorship livery designs would seldom change during the course of the year or even over multiple seasons. However, the 21st century has seen a new trend where F1 teams began to feature unique liveries on their cars to celebrate special occasions.

Flashy Austrian F1 team Red Bull Racing has led this practice since it joined the sport and has done so on many occasions. The Milton Keynes-based squad has sported several special liveries in the past as part of marketing and promotional efforts, which include the Superman livery, Wings for Life charity livery, Star Wars livery, fan tribute livery, and more.

With the news that a special livery will be featuring this race weekend, let's take a look back at five of the most memorable liveries in F1.

#5 Redbull - 2019 British Grand Prix

James Bond's car number plate on the rear wing.
James Bond's car number plate on the rear wing.

The 2019 British Grand Prix was F1's 1007th race and Red Bull, sponsored by Aston Martin, hit upon a clever idea to celebrate the occasion. Aston Martin has been a long-time partner of the James Bond movie series. The 1007th race of F1 was the perfect opportunity for the British automaker to celebrate its association with the iconic 007.

Red Bull drivers with James Bond actor Daniel Craig. Credit: Red Bull
Red Bull drivers with James Bond actor Daniel Craig. Credit: Red Bull

Aston Martin's then-F1 partner Red Bull ran a special livery to both celebrate and promote Aston Martin and James Bond's 007. Although the car did not sport any dramatic changes in the livery, the design of the driver overalls was inspired by the characters from the James Bond movies.

The livery included the iconic 007 logo and Bond car number plates on its rear wings. The Red Bull pit garage was also redesigned and featured wall graphics inspired by Qโ€™s MI6 Lab.

#4 Mercedes - 2019 Hockenheim Grand Prix

The white Mercedes livery at Hockenheim in 2019 Credits: F1
The white Mercedes livery at Hockenheim in 2019 Credits: F1

The 2019 German Grand Prix is etched into the memories of fans as one of the most dramatic and memorable F1 races. Mercedes were celebrating their 200th F1 Grand Prix as a constructor with a special livery and team overalls for the weekend. Netflix's Formula 1: Drive to Survive documentary team was also invited to film the team over the weekend. It was a home race for the German team and was building up to be a perfect weekend, until the race got underway.

๐Ÿค special livery? We tried that once. ๐Ÿ™ƒ https://t.co/YwQ2B3rk1Y

The rain gods blessed the Hockenheimring midway through the race, resulting in utter chaos. Valtteri Bottas crashed out while Lewis Hamilton made an unannounced pitstop which caught the crew off-guard, humiliating the team to no end. What was supposed to be a weekend to celebrate for Mercedes had turned into their most disastrous race of the 2019 season.

#3 Ferrari - 2020 Tuscan Grand Prix

Ferrari burgundy livery for its 1000th GP Credits: F1
Ferrari burgundy livery for its 1000th GP Credits: F1

Ferrari is the oldest and the most successful team in F1 and they had achieved a huge milestone in 2020 when the team participated in its 1000th Grand Prix.

To celebrate the occasion, the team named its 2020 car 'SF1000' and requested the FIA to hold Ferrari's 1000th race in the Scuderia's own backyard in Mugello. The 2020 calendar was altered and the Tuscan Grand Prix was introduced at the Mugello track to pay tribute to Ferrari's historic milestone.

Not the result we wanted, but we will remember our 1000th GP weekend for the milestone achieved โค๏ธ Here are some of our #TuscanGP highlights ๐Ÿ“น#essereFerrari ๐Ÿ”ด #SF1000GP ๐Ÿ https://t.co/8zkEiO4gPC

To mark the occasion of Ferrari's 1000th GP, the team ran a burgundy livery at the Tuscan Grand Prix. It was inspired by Ferrari's very first racecar, the 125S. The team members also dressed up in overalls of the same color during the race weekend.

#2 McLaren - 2021 Monaco Grand Prix

McLaren Gulf livery for Monaco Grand Prix 2021 Credits: F1
McLaren Gulf livery for Monaco Grand Prix 2021 Credits: F1

When it comes to motorsports, McLaren and Gulf's relationship dates back to the days of founder Bruce McLaren. The American oil company was a major contributor to the squad's racing endeavors in not just F1 but also Can-Am and IndyCar before eventually parting ways. In 2020, McLaren and Gulf Oil announced the renewal of their partnership in F1.

Mclaren really changed their livery for one race only to get a podium with it. Big brain energy ๐Ÿ‘ #MonacoGP https://t.co/LUz06apvI4

In 2021, the British team decided to celebrate the historic relationship between McLaren and Gulf by running a special one-off livery during the Monaco Grand Prix. The special paintscheme was inspired by the McLaren F1 GTR which contested the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours. The blue and neon orange livery has been regarded as an iconic paint job in the world of motorsports.

#1 Red Bull - 2005 Monaco Grand Prix

Red Bull Star Wars livery at Monaco GP 2005 Credits: F1
Red Bull Star Wars livery at Monaco GP 2005 Credits: F1

Popular sci-fi film series Star Wars was about to launch its third segment of the series and looking for promoters in F1. The newly-formed Red Bull Racing team obliged to the request and donned one of the most memorable liveries in F1 in order to promote the then-upcoming movie Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

Happy Star Wars day! #MayThe4thBeWithYou http://t.co/Z34QTggu60

The Red Bull cars ran with a huge Star Wars logo on their sides and even featured the tagline "Powered by the Dark Side". However, it was the team kit that attracted the most attention. The crew overalls and helmets were inspired by the famous Star Wars stormtroopers. There was even a mascot dressed as Chewbacca who was present in the Red Bull garage that weekend in Monaco.

Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
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