Commemorating In Style: The Best Special Edition F1 Liveries In Recent Memory

Throughout the years, Formula 1 teams have run special edition liveries inspired by their history. Here’s some that stood out.

In motorsports, liveries (and matching race suits) are essentially what jerseys are to team sports. Those eye-catching designs we’ve seen over the years are effectively a team’s identity built on history, and even sponsorships in the distant past. 

In the context of F1, teams may also run special edition liveries, or “one-offs” for more knowledgeable fans. Based on what we’ve seen, designs are inspired by the past, and are produced to celebrate a part of the team’s very rich history. 

For instance, in the upcoming Miami Grand Prix, Ferrari has unveiled a special edition “blue” livery for their F1 car to celebrate the “70th anniversary of Ferrari’s presence in North America”. Alternatively, in 2019, Mercedes had their own special design which commemorated their 125th year in motosports, and 200th F1 start.  

Now, we present a short list of F1 special edition liveries that stood out from the rest of the pack. While teams are clear that these are for one race only, we hope that some would be brought back in one form or another. 

Red Bull’s Honda tribute
Red Bull’s Honda RA 272-inspired special edition livery. (Photo Credit: Red Bull Japan on X [formerly Twitter])

Starting our list is Red Bull’s livery for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, their farewell tribute to Honda, who was to leave F1 at the time. Inspired by the Honda RA 272, Max Verstappen and Checo Perez’s RB16Bs were painted white, while Red Bull branding came in the shade of red used in the RA 272. 

Other notable details include the kanji for arigato (thank you) by the engine cover, and driver numbers being in a red circle, similar to the Japanese flag. 

Verstappen and Perez proceeded to finish second and third place in Turkey, while Honda’s exit was also canceled. Since the 2021 season, they’ve continued to assemble power units for Red Bull and its sister team now known as Visa Cash App RB F1 Team which will last until 2025. 

McLaren brings iconic colors to F1
The McLaren-Gulf special edition livery in an F1 car. (Photo Credit: McLaren F1 on X [formerly Twitter])

In the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix, McLaren ran a special edition livery to commemorate their F1 partnership with Gulf Oils. That time, their MCL35Ms were painted in a reimagination of the blue-and-orange livery first used in 1997, when McLaren’s F1 GTR Longtail finished second in Le Mans.  

Lando Norris finished third with the special edition design while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was down in 12th. Unfortunately, McLaren and Gulf Oils’ partnership also ended a year later, with the company starting a new partnership with Williams.

Mercedes’ farewell to Niki Lauda 
f1 special edition livery: Mercedes
Mercedes’ Niki Lauda tribute. (Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team on X [formerly Twitter])

In 2019, Mercedes ran a one-off livery to honor F1 legend Niki Lauda at the Monaco Grand Prix. Lauda had passed a week before the Grand Prix, and had been a “non-executive” chairman for the F1 team since 2012. 

For Monaco, Mercedes decided to run a red halo on their W10 cars, which had a “Niki we miss you” message. Alongside was a lone red star in the engine cover, and a “Danke (thank you) Niki” with Lauda’s signature by the car’s nose. 

f1 special edition livery: Mercedes
(Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team on X [formerly Twitter])
f1 special edition livery: Mercedes
(Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team on X [formerly Twitter])

The color red was likely due to Lauda’s iconic red hats – his staple since his 1976 accident at the ​​Nürburgring. While Mercedes’ tribute isn’t as “flashy”, or “detailed”, as other one-off designs, it’s nonetheless a touching and well-thought homage to a legend who spent his last years with them.

Additionally, Hamilton won that race for Mercedes, while Bottas finished third. Safe to say that Lauda was smiling at the Mercedes pair throughout the weekend in Monaco.

Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix 
f1 special edition livery: Ferrari
Ferrari’s burgundy special edition livery for their 1000th GP. (Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari on X [formerly Twitter])

Ferrari ran a special edition burgundy livery for their 1000th F1 Grand Prix in 2020. According to Ferrari vice chairman Piero Ferrari, the color was lifted from the Ferrari 125S, which was the “first racing car to carry the Ferrari name”. 

Besides the burgundy base, the livery also featured a “1000GP [Grand Prix]” decal by the rear, while driver numbers were made to look hand-painted, another homage to the past, according to Ferrari. 

Unfortunately, Ferrari’s milestone coincided with their worst season in 40 years. Driving a problematic SF-1000 car, the pair of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel only managed to finish in eighth and 10th respectively in that Tuscan Grand Prix.  

Alfa Romeo’s Italian tricolor-inspired design
f1 special edition livery: Alfa Romeo
Italy’s tricolors take center stage in this one. (Photo Credit: Formula 1 on X [formerly Twitter])

Last is Alfa Romeo’s special edition livery for the 2023 Italian Grand Prix, which is an Italian flag-inspired design, accompanied by a black base and yellow accents for Alfa Romeo’s script logo and the driver numbers. 

Apparently, the special edition livery was meant to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s release of the 33 Stradale road car – a modern take on their own 1967 sports car of the same name.

Race results for this car were mixed for midfield standards. While Valteri Bottas finished in 10th, good for one point, his teammate Zhou Guanyu can only manage a 16th place finish.

Nonetheless, their take on the Italian flag is a memorable one, and could be one of the more underrated special edition F1 liveries to date. 

Banner Image from Red Bull Japan on X (formerly Twitter).

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