Why F1 cars are darker than ever in 2024 – colourful liveries now a thing of the past

Black carbon liveries were a consistent theme during the 2024 F1 car launches

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The new regulations introduced by Formula 1 in 2022 were supposed to level the field and make the sport more competitive. But perhaps unintentionally, it has stripped away some of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport – with colourful liveries now consigned to the past, according to the latest car launches.

From the 2024 car launches, it gave a depressing outlook as to what F1 cars will look like on the track this season. Black would be the dominant colour, followed by some minor splashes of luminous green, blue and papaya.

In fact, it wasn’t until the newly-named Visa CashApp RB – formerly AlphaTauriunveiled their new VCARB 01 model that fans felt they could get excited again. With commitment to a bold, royal blue look and flashes of red and white on the sidepods, it gave a refreshing alternative to the other dull designs.

But, as ever, there is a school of thought behind the process. With teams now focusing increasingly on trying to make their cars as light as possible, stripping away the paint is one of the most effective ways of removing weight without compromising performance.

In the paddock, it is claimed that painting a car completely currently costs them up to 5kg, compared to 6kg a few years ago when metallic paints were the trend. This is because it generally requires a second coat to give the car a glossy look on the track.

Teams forced to go dark

But teams are no longer willing to give up such an amount to their rivals, replacing colour with dark carbon parts makes sense as the material is strong but also lightweight.

The reason for it is obvious when it is estimated that every 10kg can cost a car three tenths a lap – a huge amount in F1 when hundredths and even thousands of a second can decide points.

The clearest example is how Alpine have gone from painting almost every corner of their car with blue in 2023 to assembling their new A522 with 80 per cent of the bodywork either black or carbon. In addition, Haas, Sauber and Williams, have also followed the same path.

“Cars have less and less paint year after year. And I think it is important that we pay attention to all these details, because you don’t want to have extra weight,” said Alpine technical director Matt Harman.

“Every gram of the car has to be put at the service of performance. There are around 35 thousandths per kilo, so you have to use them intelligently.”

Gone are the days of the loud yellow Jordan or all green and blue Benetton that Michael Schumacher once drove. F1’s new era means that, as a contrast to the popular Netflix series, black is the new orange.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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