Toto Wolff explains why Mercedes have switched from black livery back to silver

Mercedes revealed their W15 car for the 2024 F1 season


Toto Wolff said it was always Mercedes‘ plan to re-incorporate silver into their livery despite going back to black in 2023 to save weight, before launching the 2024 W15 E Performance with a silver nose.

The Silver Arrows have raced with a black livery in three out of four seasons since 2020, first to promote diversity, equality and inclusion in Formula 1, then to save weight in 2023.

However, their 2024 car sees silver and black incorporated more equally, with INEOS red and Petronas teal also included on the livery that Mercedes hope will carry them back to the top step of the podium on a regular basis.

“Performance was always at the forefront of our minds with the black livery last year,” Wolff told the press. “Weight is a crucial factor in this current generation of cars.

“We knew that, once we were in position to do so, we would bring back the Mercedes silver to accompany the black that has become a pillar of our team identity.

“The livery truly reflects who we are as a team with the distinctive colours of INEOS and Petronas providing important highlights.”

Why did Mercedes drop silver from their liveries?

Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix | Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes F1 team

Mercedes competed in F1 in 1954 and 1955 and helped Juan Manuel Fangio to the drivers championship in both years – firstly sharing him with Maserati before being his sole world championship team for his third title.

The colour of the bare aluminium on their cars – unpainted to save weight – earned them the ‘Silver Arrows’ nickname, and they adopted that branding once more in 2010 when Mercedes took over Brawn GP with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.

McLaren also used a gorgeous silver chrome livery between 2006 and 2013 when they raced as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and enjoyed a much closer relationship with the engine manufacturer before Mercedes rejoined the grid as a competitor.

Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, 10 June 2007. Formula 1 newcomer Lewis Hamilton clinches his first Formula 1 victory in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-22. After three more victories, he ends the season as runner-up – but only one point behind.

Mercedes kept the silver look through 12 championship titles from 2014 to 2019 as they replaced Red Bull as the dominant force and then saw off the (perhaps too) high-powered charge of Ferrari.

However, when the start of the 2020 season was delayed until July by the Covid-19 pandemic, that tradition came to an end spearheaded by Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes had announced a similar livery for the W11 but that all changed when 46-year-old black American George Floyd was murdered by white police officer Derek Chauvin in an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a shop.

A wave of Black Lives Matter protests spread across the world – with Hamilton even attending a march in London as he renewed his commitment to champion equality in motorsport.

For a visual representation of that promise, Mercedes changed to an all-black livery for 2020, with Wolff writing in their press release:

“Racism and discrimination have no place in our society, our sport or our team: this is a core belief at Mercedes. But having the right beliefs and the right mindset isn’t enough if we remain silent.

“We wish to use our voice and our global platform to speak up for respect and equality, and the Silver Arrow will race in black for the entire 2020 season to show our commitment to greater diversity within our team and our sport.

“We will not shy away from our weaknesses in this area, nor from the progress we must still make; our livery is our public pledge to take positive action.”

Even after the RB19 redefined dominance in F1, Mercedes still reigned supreme in 2020 as Hamilton drew level with Schumacher‘s record seven world championships and surpassed the German’s win tally too, and the Black Arrows were only beaten on pace twice all year.

Mercedes kept the black in 2021 but did include a nod to their past with a silver engine cover, before fully reverting to that brand identity in 2022 for F1‘s new regulations while continuing their commitment to inclusivity and diversity in racing.

“The black livery was a clear intent and a clear demonstration of our mission to become a more diverse and inclusive team,” Wolff told the press when the W13 was launched. “It has become part of our DNA, but the silver colour of the Silver Arrows is as much our DNA, it’s our history.

“As a team we have grown from the Silver Arrows to slowly becoming a more diverse and inclusive team and therefore our colours going forward will be silver and black.”

However, after that ultimately ill-fated machinery, Mercedes once again u-turned for 2023, this time for practical reasons. Looking to save weight, they invoked the original 1950s spirit of the Silver Arrows by going for a black car with plenty of bare carbon fibre after struggling with keeping the kilograms down the previous year.

Formula One F1 – British Grand Prix – Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain – July 17, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during sprint qualifying REUTERS/Andrew Couldridge
Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for and in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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