Are Mercedes really planning to switch back from a black to silver livery?

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When Mercedes ditched its traditional silver colour scheme for a black paint job in 2020, the team made a powerful, visual statement about its commitment to promoting diversity and tackling racism.

However Austrian and German media reports have claimed the team will revert to its heritage silver paintwork for the 2022 F1 season.

Making a sudden change in livery one season only to drop it again two years later might seem an unusual move. But the first reports indicating this was Mercedes’ plan emerged back October 2020, when team principal Toto Wolff was quoted by Austrian motoring magazine Auto Revue as saying they would keep their new look for one more season, then change the year after.

The team batted away questions about its livery plans last year, pointing out – not unreasonably – that the championship fight against Red Bull was their priority. Shortly before the new year German newspaper Bild restated the claims a change was coming, telling its readers “the silver arrows will be silver again”.

After the new year Mercedes put out a teaser image of a 2022 show car in a black livery with Mercedes logos superimposed onto its nose and Halo. The show car was obtained last year for livery testing purposes.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020
The black Mercedes livery appeared in 2020
This in itself does not mean Mercedes are changing their colour scheme again: Teams regularly conduct such tests to evaluate how well their paint jobs will appear in photographs and on television. The car was photographed in black prior to being painted for the tests.

Although Mercedes has yet to reveal its livery plans for the upcoming season, RaceFans understands it has decided how its car will look.

In 2020 the team launched its car in one colour and then raced it in another. The W11, like its 10 predecessors, was originally seen in a silver livery.

Mercedes had dabbled with an alternative look the year before at the 2019 German Grand Prix where it ran a part-white colour scheme in a nod towards a famous (though untrue) tale about an early race contested by the team. But the black livery was no one-off.

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The change from silver to black in 2020 came about at the instigation of Lewis Hamilton, after he reflected on the lack of diversity he saw in F1 teams’ staff photographs and was spurred into action by the Black Lives Matter protests which arose in response to the killing of George Floyd on May 25th. The start of the F1 season had been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and during the hiatus Hamilton discussed with Wolff what the team could do to encourage greater participation in motorsport by black people and others from under-represented backgrounds.

The following month Hamilton launched The Hamilton Commission to promote diversity in motorsport. A few days later Mercedes revealed its change in livery, accompanied by a commitment to launch a programme to improve the diversity of its workforce.

“In our organisation, just 3% of our workforce identify as belonging to minority ethnic groups and only 12% of our employees are women,” the team noted at the time. “This lack of diversity shows that we need to find new approaches to attract talent from many areas of society we do not currently reach.”

The black livery has remained while Mercedes has begun taking steps towards its goal of bringing 25% of its new recruits from under-represented groups in every year until the end of 2025. This target was defined in its Accelerate 25 programme, launched in December 2020.

Mercedes ran a black livery in Formula E’s 2020 finale
By this time the team had already launched its Mulberry STEM Academy to offer extra-curricular programmes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects for students aged seven to 18. This targets students from schools which “achieve well and currently have progress well above the national average in many areas [but whose] students do not routinely enter degree courses and apprenticeships in STEM subjects”, said the team.

Two further steps towards its Accelerate 25 goal followed early last year. In March Mercedes began a partnership with the Stemettes to attract women from under-represented backgrounds into engineering, pairing them with Mercedes F1 engineers on four-month mentoring programmes. A month later it announced a similar arrangement with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers UK, placing students on work experience programmes and reaching out to them through a series of events.

In July Hamilton’s commission announced the findings of its investigation into the representation of black people in British motorsport and made a series of recommended improvements. Following that, Mercedes and Hamilton launched Ignite, a charitable initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in motorsport, backed by a “multi-million dollar fund” which both contributed to.

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These were steps of the kind Hamilton was eager to see at the beginning of 2021. “Last year there was a lot of discussion about equality and inclusion,” he said. “I think there was a lot of talk, this year it’s all about pushing for the diversity and really making sure that action is taken.”

Its Formula E team went back to silver last year
Now that tangible steps are being taken, does Mercedes still need the aesthetic gesture of a special livery? Or does the team intend to keep it in place longer – say, for the duration of the Accelerate 25 initiative?

There have been indications Mercedes only intended the black colour scheme to be temporary. Its Formula E team followed the F1 squad in adopting a black livery for the season finale in Berlin in 2020, but this was only ever to be for one event only and it returned to a silver livery the following season. Mercedes also reintroduced some silver on the fin above the engine cover on last year’s F1 car, in a nod towards its closer co-operation with performance brand AMG.

Changing liveries was an eye-catching move which drew attention to changes within Mercedes which, though important, would not have attracted as much interest otherwise. Two years on, having put in place the processes by which it intends to create its more diverse workforce, Mercedes may feel the black livery has served its purpose.

Even so a binary switch-flip from black to silver may risk inviting false assumptions that Mercedes’ drive for diversity is over, or the team believes its mission has been accomplished. Perhaps when the W13 is uncovered the reports of a return to silver will turn out to be largely true, with one area of the car reserved to continue carry the black branding.

But whether or how much of the black livery stays ultimately matters less than the change in philosophy it signified, which Mercedes appears to have wholeheartedly embraced.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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41 comments on “Are Mercedes really planning to switch back from a black to silver livery?”

  1. That’s your opinion.

  2. “Making a sudden change in livery one season only to drop it again two years later might seem an unusual move.”

    Does it? They made a sudden change in livery because their star driver wanted them to. Stuck with it for two years, and now they’re ready to move on from it. Doesn’t sound that unusual to me at all.

  3. Did using black paint on the car rather than silver make the world a better place?
    If not, it seems rather inconsequential what colour the car is.

    What it does on the racetrack matters – not what it looks like.

    1. The colour of the car doesn’t necessarily make a difference itself, but prompts further questioning.

      In the same way, men all growing moustaches every November doesn’t magically erase prostate cancer, but gives an opening for men (and women) to talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we normalise it.

    2. What it does on the racetrack matters – not what it looks like.

      I think that colour schemes and diversity is very important.
      The more diverse the colour schemes of the cars, the easier to separate them on track and better to identify with your preferred team :P

      1. Oh yeah, I agree with that. Had plenty of occasions last season where it took a moment to visually separate a Merc from an Aston Martin. Especially seeing as how the cars actually look uncannily similar…
        Just pointing out that paint colour won’t make any other difference than visual.

        It’s been a long time since I had a preferred team or driver.

    3. That’s not how raising awareness works.

  4. I even thought the 2022 tease was also silver in those dark pictures but it’s NOT a sudden change as they were already said they would reverse back to Silver.

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      10th January 2022, 15:29

      Yeah I thought this had already been confirmed. Makes sense to start a new era in your brand colours.

  5. I’m perfectly okay with the (seemingly) likely silver return, although I don’t care an awful lot either way.
    Track performance ultimately matters more than aesthetics.

  6. The whole world knew that they were returning to silver after a year or two

  7. In a world were people think in such a binary way (particularly in the minefield that is social media) a change back to Silver from Black will definitely be perceived by keyboard warriors as being a sign that the team either (a) no longer cares about diversity or (b) it thinks it has now dealt with all its diversity problems (for the record I’m sure they feel neither of those things and the initiatives mentioned in the article are admirable and praiseworthy).

    1. Yes that is subject to interpretation. I doubt Mercedes originally planned to keep it for more than a few races but probably had to commit to it because of F1 rules ragarding livery. They did contribute towards raising awareness, but as long as people continue to live in denial and bad people will never cease to exist, it is almost futile. Other avenues need to be explored if they want to continue with this project, but painting a car black has not lost its significance.

    2. Do you see the irony in this statement?
      “…a [b]change[/b] being a sign the team [b]no longer[/b] cares about [b]diversity[/b]…”

      Change negating diversity? Hmm. If they wanna wave the diversity flag, they should paint the car yellow ;) And they should either change the colour every year or just paint it in a rainbow to begin with.

      1. In a world were people think in such a binary way (particularly in the minefield that is social media

        The key in which the melody is played.

  8. Even so a binary switch-flip from black to silver

    Maybe it’s time to go for a non-binary livery.

    PS – next time maybe choose a title which better reflects the content.

  9. This discussion has run its course. Kneeling and black liveries are good statements that work for a while, but beyond a point only serve to allow corporate performative wokeness like F1 has done, and keeps them off the hook while they continue to drink Saudi blood money (among other things). The discourse needs to shift to the grassroots level, like more affirmative action for ensuring greater participation across all ethnicities, scholarships for underrepresented groups etc. Would like to see more info on how the findings and recommendations of the Hamilton Commission will be implemented.

    1. Well said. They went to Saudi. Not showing up would have been a statement. A black car is meaningless after drinking Saudi blood money.

  10. Mercedes paint job publicity has made a huge difference to ordinary people all around the world. What more is there to accomplish now? /s

  11. Speaking personally, I prefer the black. But silver has obvious historic connotations for Mercedes, so it is unsurprising they would wish to return to it.

    In terms of diversity and inclusion, Mercedes have evidently taken great steps forward since the livery was introduced, and it is encouraging that they clearly do not feel the job is done.

  12. An article with a will they?/won’t they? question that remains unanswered nor brings any new information. Maybe we should just wait till after the team launch with these things.

  13. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    10th January 2022, 9:01

    Yeah we just need Aston Martin to change to a shiny light green and we can still get confused which is which!

    1. This is what we need to be talking about, not the the Mercedes Silver / Black which has been beaten to death.

  14. This is why (intentional) satire is dead. How can you satirize politics that equates the color scheme of a car to skin color and considers it hugely significant?

    1. I still find it quite hilarious how multinational companies are trying to wash their dubious past and present.
      As is the bandwagon people jump on to defend those companies.

    2. It could be that Mercedes has made a breakthrough on self driving cars and is thinking Sentient Robots Matter might be a thing.

  15. They are known historically as the silver arrows, besides, it looks like Lewis is chickening out so it makes sense to revert back to their traditional colour scheme.

  16. I like the black better but silver is mercedes. There is nothing mercedes about the team, at least let them have the paint job.

  17. Personally, while I love the black paint job and think it one of the best looking liveries on the grid, I don’t really care what the cares look like. A fast car is a beautiful car.

    This is particularly true when it is looking less and less likely I will even watch the races this year. It really doesn’t matter to me what they look like if I’m only following the technical competition.

    1. I guess pragmatically as a fan, I would like to see them go to silver again, if only because it will make it easier to recognize whether it’s a mercedes or and Aston Martin. Those cars were far to hard to keep apart from some angles last year @drmouse!

  18. The black looks(ed?) great but in my opinion, this is a well-judged shift away from being Team-Lewis-Hamilton back to Team-Mercedes.

  19. The black livery was always intended to be symbolic of Mercedes’ intent to seek out ways to increase racial diversity in motorsport. If the actions they have taken to date are working at addressing the actual problem or are more effective at raising awareness about racial diversity in motorsport, then a switch back to silver is totally justified.

    A bit of semantics though. Now that Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of the murder of George Floyd, you should say he was murdered rather than killed. It’s a very subtle but important difference.

  20. As much as Mercedes are colloquially known as the ‘Silver Arrows’, you can argue that Black is equally appropriate, given the top-spec AMG Black line.

  21. Silver and Black
    Black and Silver

    all good…

  22. Once you give in to the pandering sjws there’s no going back.

    Yes racism is disgusting and unacceptable, but you can be sure that those that cheered on Merc for the black livery will be spitting venom the minute they revert back to Silver. Those constantly offended hypocrites will be out in force.

  23. Wow, this has made for an entire article? I’ll be damned, it sure is January :)

    Their silver designs have looked very bland, especially as half of the car remains black any way. The black livery has more character and also plays nicely into Mercedes’ villain role ;)
    A modern F1 car (maybe it changes this year) just doesn’t have enough large open surfaces for the silver to be properly exposed if you’re not gonna paint the car entirely silver. With so many detailed contours and complex edge elements, the shading patterns that it produces change the appearance of the car into a characterless greyish collage. You get 50 shades of grey per square metre [I just had to make that reference] ;)

    “This lack of diversity shows that we need to find new approaches to attract talent from many areas of society we do not currently reach.”
    Haha, definitely! They should not limit themselves to technology and hire more poets, dancers, painters, artists, most preferably over-weight to increase the carbon footprint giving an excuse for introducing some weird bio fuel.

    1. @amian

      Yes, what’s called a “slow news day”

      The way the headline is written – sheesh… The ‘really’ word should’ve been in italics. And underlined. Several times…

      Mercedes may be returning to their original livery, or maybe not. It could be the non-silver livery was destined for two seasons only. We’ll find out at the the 2022 car launch or if lucky, just before

  24. Racefans is my usual website for F1 stuff, but I struggle to see how this is so important that it warranted such a deeply

    1. *such a deeply written article..

      PS. We need an edit button

  25. It will be nice if the Silver Arrows make a return. I was always a fan of the black and gold JPS Lotus so seeing a car in a similar colour scheme was great but as a traditionalist if the Silver makes a return I think it would be nice to see. If I’m honest the mixinh of sport and politics makes me unhappy.

  26. I think the Merc looks better in black. If they revert to silver, no big deal….what is more important than car color is the work they are doing to improve diversity and opportunity for underrepresented groups in F1, engineering, motorsport, etc. etc.

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