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Car liveries // What goes in to choosing the colours of each Formula One car

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

Every single part of a Formula 1 car is regulated, right down to the very paintwork and stickers that are applied. The rules are quite strict, although of course, there is no mandating what colours are allowed. That decision is strictly down to the team, and their sponsors. It can sometimes make for very beautiful cars, and sometimes make even the sleekest bodywork look terrible.

However, the FIA mandate that both cars in a team must run the exact same livery. We have seen a few deviations from this recently - in 2008, Rubens Barrichello ran a special livery to celebrate his 257th race start, and in Brazil last year, Coulthard ran a livery dedicated to promoting a charity, albeit for only one lap. This can be approved, as long as everyone agrees to it beforehand.

There was a situation in 1999, where BAR had to change their liveries at the last minute. They wanted to run a different branding on each car for two different cigarettes, but this wasn't allowed. Instead, the team went for a livery that was one half blue, one half white, with a weird zip up the middle. It wasn't a popular livery at all.

All cars must carry the race number and name of the driver within. In recent years, the numbers have been made smaller and smaller, seemingly less important. It used to be that the number was a big part of the car, Nigel Mansell's Red 5 springs to mind, but that gradually died out. However, it does seem to be making a comeback, particularly with the drivers who get to run the number one on their car. The number must be visible from the front of the car, whilst the name just needs to be on the chassis somewhere. The team also have to display their own logo on the nose of the car.

The only other real stipulation comes from the need to be able to tell the two cars apart. Above the drivers head, the onboard cameras are situated, and for the number one driver in any team, it must be coloured a flourescent red, and the number two driver has flourescent yellow. I can tell you from experience, this is only useful if you can remember which way round the colours are assigned and which driver in each team is the number one.