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Opinion: F1 teams should have minimum livery coverage

Teams are shedding colour in the name of saving weight. Where’s the fun in that?

Published: 17 Feb 2023

F1 launch season has been a bit… disappointing. But then it always is. Every year we’re fed a batch of cleverly disguised, computer-generated renders, but very few (real) cars. Because why spend the whole winter studying just to have your hard work copied in the exam hall?

We’ve seen all 10 cars now ahead of pre-season testing later this week, and a new theme has emerged: weight-saving. You’ll have noticed that several teams - among them Haas, Alfa Romeo, McLaren and Ferrari - are bearing a lot of exposed carbon fibre.

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Heck, save for a few decals Mercedes’ entire car is black, having ditched silver once again, this time in the name of saving “every single gramme” according to boss Toto Wolff.

And that’s the crux of the problem. Most of the grid failed to get down to the minimum weight limit last season, as the teams tried to figure out how to make the new generation of ground-effect cars work without breaking the scales.

The restrictions of the cost cap also made getting lighter harder. The one team that did successfully shed the pounds was Red Bull, and it romped to both titles. It also, er, broke the cost cap. We’ll leave you to keep debating that one…

Anyway, there’s an argument that these darker liveries are bad for F1. Bad for the fans - both in person and watching on TV - because it’s more difficult to tell the cars apart. Bad for the teams, because the cars don’t look as inspiring. Bad for sponsors, because their logos don’t stand out. Bad for, um, those employed in paint shops? Maybe not that last one.

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Put it this way, having fewer vibrant colours isn’t fun. And racing should be. There’s a reason rainbows wouldn’t look better in greyscale; why Joseph had a technicolour dreamcoat, not an anorak from Next.

And just think how many of the sport’s followers believe the cars look too much alike already: make the palette more boring and more people will lose interest.

So, what can be done about it? You’d think the FIA could mandate a few extra kilos for paint or vinyl and that’d be job done, but as we’ve seen the teams will take any opportunity to strip out weight from their machines. And how would you enforce it? It’d be no different from weighing the paint on your walls: impossible.

Plus the cars are already vastly bigger and heavier than they were a generation ago, and F1 really needs to stop bulking up to solve its problems. This is the pinnacle of motorsport, not a gym.

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What might do the trick is a rule for minimum livery coverage, so that - let’s pick a number - 90 per cent of the surface area of the car must feature material that hides bodywork. Then teams can let their designers go nuts again, and everyone’s happy. Rejoice!

An utterly faultless plan. That is, until the spending war on ultra-lightweight, next-generation sticker technology begins. Groan.

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