The best motorsport liveries of all time
From Gulf to Alitalia, pick your favourite racing car livery from our gallery of many colours
The best race car liveries ever© McLaren Automotive
The 2020 British Grand Prix at Silverstone is here – and will see the McLaren F1 team sporting new Gulf branding. What better excuse, then, to remember the greatest motorsport liveries of all time? From JPS to Martini, and Rothmans to Alitalia, these colour schemes are as iconic as the cars themselves. Sit down, strap in and enjoy the ride.
Gulf Oil – Porsche© Porsche
Arguably the most famous racing livery of all time, with its iconic blue and orange contrast helping Gulf Oil become synonymous with motorsport. Long before the McLaren deals, a little assistance from a certain Steve McQueen didn’t do it any harm. McQueen’s character raced for the Gulf team in the 1971 film, Le Mans.
End racism – Mercedes-AMG F1© Mercedes-AMG
Mercedes-Benz has raced in silver since the 1930s, but the F1 team has introduced a new black livery for the 2020 season. The colour is a recognition of the fights against racism and what Mercedes calls a ‘lack of diversity’ within the team. Star driver Lewis Hamilton called the livery “an important statement we are willing to change and improve as a business”.
BWT – Racing Point F1© Racing Point F1
Racing Point is distinctive in another way… taking the lead from sponsor BWT (Best Water Technology), it sports a wonderful vivid pink livery, creating one of the most recognisable cars on the 2020 F1 grid. And because the team’s latest car has been ‘inspired’ by Lewis Hamilton’s title-winning 2019 Mercedes-AMG racer, it’s led to the machine being dubbed ‘the pink Mercedes’…
Martini Racing – Lancia© Lancia
Drinking and driving don’t mix, but Martini and racing certainly do. Whether you like the taste of Martini vermouth or not, there’s every chance you’ll approve of the famous Martini Racing dark blue, light blue and red stripes. Some will choose the Martini Lancia rally cars as their favourite flavour.
Martini Racing – Porsche© Porsche
Others will choose Martini Porsche. The 2014 Formula One World Championship saw the famous Martini Racing livery once again thrust into living rooms across the world, with Williams F1 proudly wearing the famous blue and red stripes.
555 – Subaru© Subaru
Cigarettes and alcohol dominate this list of iconic race car liveries, with State Express 555 – famously known simply as 555 – appearing next on our list. Back in 1993, the British American Tobacco brand sponsored the Subaru Rally Team, with 555 becoming synonymous with the Legacy and Impreza. Even without the sponsorship, the famous blue and yellow livery remains entrenched in WRC history.
Marlboro – Honda© McLaren Racing
For F1 fans of a certain generation, Marlboro and McLaren go together like strawberries and cream. To be honest, McLaren just doesn’t look the same without the famous red and white livery. The partnership lasted from 1974 to 1996, making it – at the time – the longest running F1 sponsorship in history.
Alitalia – Lancia© Lancia
Dressing a Lancia Stratos in the famous Alitalia livery is like you wearing your best bib and tucker. Quite frankly, the Stratos looks naked without it.
JPS – Team Lotus© Goodwood
The black and gold livery of the John Player Special-sponsored Team Lotus quite simply is the 1970s. That said, the JPS colours still graced Team Lotus cars well into the 1980s.
Williams F1© Goodwood
Maybe it’s the link to ‘Our Nige’, but there’s something special about the yellow, blue and white colours of the Canon-sponsored Williams F1 team of the 1980s. In its entirety, the livery just seems to work. A ‘Red Five’ helps, of course.
Rothmans – Porsche© Porsche
During the 1980s and 1990s, Rothmans was a prominent motorsport sponsor. From world rallying to Formula One, the famous blue, white, gold and red livery was seemingly everywhere. Is the Rothmans-Porsche livery the most iconic? We reckon so.
Ford Mondeo – BTCC© Ford
To be honest, we could have chosen any number of BTCC liveries for this gallery, but we’ve restricted ourselves to just two. Starting with this, the blue and white Ford Mondeo. Things weren’t the same when the yellow and blue Rapid Fit livery arrived.
Brawn GP© Goodwood
An unlikely suggestion, perhaps, but does the Brawn GP livery warrant a mention here? Maybe it’s just the memory of Jenson Button steering the car to the drivers’ title in 2009, but we can’t help but find the simplicity of the Brawn GP livery quite refreshing.
Silk Cut – Jaguar© Silverstone Classic
To race fans, Silk Cut and Jaguar means the World Sportscar Championship and in particular, the Le Mans 24 Hour race. To our eyes at least, it just edges the aforementioned Castrol-sponsored Jaguar XJR-9 in terms of effectiveness.
Alfa Romeo – BTCC© Alfa Romeo
Brilliant, just brilliant. The car is very much the star when it comes to the livery of the Alfa Romeo 155 BTCC car and it’s all the better for it.
Benson and Hedges – Jordan© Cars International
Benson & Hedges seemed to add something extra to the famous yellow and black colours of the Jordan F1 team. Maybe this had something to do with the ban on cigarette advertising, when the name was substituted for the likes of ‘Bitten & Hisses’ and ‘Buzzing Hornets’ at certain races.
Gold Leaf – Team Lotus© Group Lotus
It’s Lotus again, with the famous red, cream and gold colours of the Gold Leaf cigarette brand. Looks great on the Lotus 49 Formula One car, looks even better on the Lotus Elan road car.
Benetton F1© Newspress
The Benetton F1 team used a number of different liveries from 1986 to 2001, so choosing the best one comes down to a matter of personal opinion. We rather like the 1990 livery, which truly felt like the United Colours of Benetton.
Castrol – Toyota© Toyota
And finally, the familiar livery of Castrol oil – seen here on a 1993 Toyota Celica rally car, which is somehow looking remarkably clean. Decided on your favourite yet? No, neither have we.