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F1’s race to the Dark Side

Legendary car and livery designer Peter Stevens exclusively provides RacingNews365 on his take about Formula 1’s latest liveries as he senses a worrying trend and wonders how fans will tell the difference between the 2023 cars.

When your CV includes icons such as McLaren’s F1 supercar, the Lotus Esprit, various Subarus and some of F1’s more striking liveries - such as white-on-blue Brabhams and multi-hued Benettons - you’re certainly entitled to express your opinions about F1’s launch season. Thus, last season we asked Professor Peter Stevens, designer of aforementioned icons, to cast a critical and practiced eye across the sport’s ‘new era’ grid. He rated Alfa Romeo’s metallic red particularly striking - giving it 9/10 – while Mercedes’ return to “Silver shows the best and the worst in a form. The team should have mixed it with black flashes,” he opined. As for W13’s sidepods, he suggested they contain “three puppies fighting in a sack,” but at that early stage was not to know that rather fidgety porpoises would take their place…yet rated Mercedes at 3/10. Ahead of this season Peter, a long-time F1 superfan (and historic racer in his own right), again provides our readers with some rather pithy observations after reviewing F1’s recent launches on his smartphone - crucially, the device of choice amongst F1’s emerging audiences. How, the good Prof wonders, will the 2023 cars appear (and appeal) to spectators. “In many ways Formula 1 cars are no different from production road cars,” he says, “being the result of many compromises. Usually, compromises for road cars are based around parts costs and manufacturing time, ease of operation and costs of build,” he explains. “2023 F1’s Financial Regulations mean that budget caps and how and when money is spent has increasingly become an issue – leading to compromises due to the need to balance the cost of every single component with its weight. Back in the 1980/90s paint on an F1 car weighed about 3.0 kg, but with the recent trend to use vinyl wraps (hence the profusion of matt finishes) the weigh should be considerably less. “However, here comes the compromise: the marketing team will say they have sold space on a car to a company with a specific house colour, yet the engineering team will argue they need to reduce weight by even a few grams, so colour is a no-no. Therefore, 2023’s grid presents a rather dull picture, one with a predominance of carbon black. Article continues below image.

“Then again, it is impossible to either wrap or carefully paint, with even the thinnest of coats, the dozens of tiny, complex aerodynamic additions the 2023 cars have – so collectively the weight [saving] could make the difference between a shark and a porpoise! Leaving all the subtle stuff in black carbon also minimises the potential for copying, and reduces the costs of parts. That budget cap again! “So, what we’ll see on TV is a ‘black car, with a touch of blue, and a block of pink' if it’s an Alpine, while a black car with a thin band of turquoise says ‘Mercedes.’ A black car with a bit of red/while on top is an Alfa Romeo. A black car with a bit more green on top and a yellow line is an Aston Martin, then we see a black car with white on top and a splash of red on the wings (Haas). “Another black car with a white top surface, but with dark wings – who could that be? Ahh an AlphaTauri. Black car with bits of red here and there and red down the sides should spell ‘Ferrari’, but only after you’ve taken a good look… “A black car with the familiar red and yellow bulls’ heads is actually a black car with blue upper surfaces to save the weight of all that blue! The all-black car towards the rear is a blue-over-black Williams, and that vibrant orange/turquoise mixed with black must be a McLaren! “Therefore, dear fellow F1 fans: be prepared to up the brightness and contrast on your TVs or struggle with brightness on your laptops or even ditch your mobile device! I can't imagine how night races will look, nor can I even speculate about whether the lightest car will win given they’re all equally dark!”

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