Jordan 2002 testing livery

Looking back at the lost art of special testing liveries

Formula 1

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Over recent years, pre-season testing in Formula 1 has been limited to just a single multi-day event held a week before the opening round of the championship.

Only in 2022 were teams and drivers gifted a second three-day test before the first race of the year – only due to the major technical regulation changes for that season.

As teams have lost track time over the pre-season, they also appear to have lost their appetite to run in special testing-only liveries too. Whether it’s a ploy to help advertise that they have plenty of space for sponsors on their new cars or a clever way of doubling their exposure by launching their new car and then unveil their livery at a later date for a second bite of the cherry, special testing liveries were a welcome novelty to brighten up the part of the year where there was no racing action to enjoy.

So ahead of the upcoming period of car reveals before the sole pre-season test in Bahrain, it seems a good time too look back at the seemingly lost art of pre-season liveries from the 21st Century.

Jordan 2002 – Full fluoro

Jordan became famous for their bright yellow liveries after moving to the distinctive colour for the 1997 season in honour of their title sponsor. When their partnership with that particular tobacco company expired at the end of 2001, Jordan signed a sponsorship deal with DHL – another famously bright yellow brand. But before that was officially announced, they prepared for the 2002 season with this simple, all-yellow livery.

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BAR 2004 – Black attack

The 2004 season would end up being BAR’s most successful before the team evolved into Honda, Brawn and then later Mercedes, taking second place in the constructors’ championship thanks to 11 podiums. Their all-black testing livery at the end of the season reflected an aggressive change in identity for the team after their successful season.

Red Bull 2004 – Can opener

Red Bull became one of the stories of the 2004 season when the energy drinks giant announced it would purchase the then-Jaguar team from Ford and transform it into their own team. At the end of 2004 and early 2005, the team tested with a livery that, fittingly enough, looked a lot like one of their cans of drink.

McLaren 2006 – Pre-season papaya

Younger or relatively new fans of Formula 1 may naturally associate McLaren with their trademark orange, but for almost two decades between 1997 and 2017, the team raced in silver or chrome designs. The historic papaya colour that alluded back to the team’s Kiwi origins was only run during testing in the 2000s, as seen here in 2006.

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Renault 2007 – Dark mode

Renault took back-to-back world championships in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso in the eye-catching blue and yellow colours of their title sponsors – another tobacco company. They would sign European banking company ING as main sponsors for 2007, but before that deal was confirmed, they tested in this very dark blue and yellow scheme instead.

Force India 2008 – Regal red and white

Indian businessman Vijay Mallya purchased the former Jordan team from Spyker, renaming them Force India for the 2008 season. Although the team ended up running in a white, orange and gold livery for their debut season, this pre-season red and white look was perhaps superior.

Williams 2009 – Deep blue

Following their partnership with BMW at the turn of the millennium, blue and white became the colours synonymous with Williams. Currently, dark blue is what the team still race in today, but before the 2009 season they ran a similar scheme to today before adding white for the start of the season.

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Red Bull 2015 – Camo bulls

Red Bull love to try and stand out as a major aspect of their branding and marketing, and their Formula 1 team is no different. Ahead of the 2015, after they had lost their world champions crowns the season before, the team ran in a striking camouflage black-and-white livery in testing – as much to try and hide their aerodynamic concept as much as to attract attention.

Renault 2020 – Blackout

When Renault returned to the grid as a factory team in 2016, they did so in the bright yellow colours they did back in the eighties. But when it came to testing, like here in 2020, the team stripped away all colour and ran purely in black. Not the most original design, but certainly one that contrasted with their typical racing look.

Alfa Romeo 2022 – Camouflage copy

The most recent example of a special pre-season livery that was not later raced came two years ago in the first of two tests that season in Barcelona. Borrowing heavily from Red Bull’s camouflage livery from years before, this was very much a similar concept. The team would revert to a more typical red and white look for the second test in Bahrain.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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14 comments on “Looking back at the lost art of special testing liveries”

  1. It’s a shame BAR never ran their testing livery on track, though the 555 livery was pretty cool (and I still think teams should be allowed to run two distinct livery’s for each of their cars), the Lucky Strike livery which was mainly just a white car was dull af.

  2. That Force India’s nice, don’t remember it at all, but it reminds me of the Sauber the year they had Charles Leclerc.

  3. The most beautiful testing livery I’ve ever seen was the 1996 post-season Bridgestone test Ligier driven by Damon Hill and operated by the Arrows team.
    The car looked so great that to this day you can quite easily find diecast models of it!

  4. The Jaguar might not have been at the forefront of technology, but that still looks like a pretty big leap from their 2004 car to the subsequently mentioned McLaren from 2006. Much more than two years!

    Ferrari tested at Fiorano with an all black F300 in 1998; looked pretty classy.

  5. Williams testing livery in 2014

  6. The orange MP4-21 testing livery is my outright favorite.

  7. I love these.

    A slow reveal adds to the mystery and anticipation. Here is how I would build anticipation:

    1. Helmet reveal from the drivers with their new overalls.
    2. Testing car reveal with testing livery.
    3. Actual first race car reveal with 2024 livery.
    4. Team Kit reveal for the fans.

    Key is not to reveal all at once, but always leave something for the imagination.

    1. Helmet reveal? Sounds like you’ve been watching Naked Attraction

  8. They need a yellow car back on the grid. Buzzin Hornets/Bitten and Hisses

    1. That Jordan does look great doesn’t it?

      1. It was a great team. They brought a bit of rockn’roll to the scene….

  9. That Force India looks lovely. Remember that one well, when Ralf Schumacher tested for them iirc.

  10. Today every livery is a “special livery”. I think that the thrill is kinda gone, no?

  11. @willwood

    Re: DHL. They were a red/white brand before they sponsored Jordan. They demanded that the team change colours to red and white. Eddie Jordan brilliantly proposed to them that they actually re-brand to yellow (the same Jordan yellow they used in 2002) as a means of standing out in crowded logistics field (and to fulfil his contractual obligation to B&H of having a yellow car). DHL agreed

    The only reason DHL have a famously bright yellow brand is because of that 2002 Jordan F1 car.

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