McLaren will race with a one-off livery in the colours of the Gulf Oil company at next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Gulf’s iconic blue and orange colour scheme has featured on a number of racing cars in the past — including the McLaren F1 GTR that finished second at the 1997 Le Mans 24 Hours — but has never before raced in Formula One.
McLaren was motivated to push ahead with the one-off colour scheme after a number of fans sent mock-up designs to the team following the announcement of Gulf’s partnership deal last year.
The two companies worked together in Can-Am and F1 in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and have been keen to play up their historic ties.
“It became pretty obvious that we should do something like this,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said at a launch event with select media last week.
“All of you know how iconic the Gulf livery is, so we tasked our teams with coming up with a design that captured something really special, and I think they’ve delivered on that.
“At this point we only intend to run it at Monaco. I think if you are going to have a special livery, you need to keep it special.
“It is something that isn’t done that often in Formula One — sometimes there are variations of livery with a little bit of a tweak here or there — so I’m quite proud of the opportunity Gulf has presented us as McLaren to try and continue to lead the way by innovating so that we can engage with fans in the sport.”
The Gulf rebranding will extend to McLaren’s garage, hospitality, teamwear and driver race suits, while Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris will both run retro helmet designs that will later be raffled to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind.
“Of course I love it — it’s cool,” Ricciardo said when asked for his thoughts on the design.
“I didn’t need another reason to get excited for Monaco, so I’ve got to control myself and save some energy for next week.
“As long as you look good, that’s the first box you’ve got to tick and we’re certainly doing that, so I’m really excited.”
Norris added: “Look at it, it’s beautiful. I think everyone can agree it will be the best-looking car on the grid by a very long way.
“And I said to Zak it’s even better than our current livery … but he didn’t sound so convinced by that!
“It’s awesome, it’s a cool opportunity for both of us, and especially at Monaco, so I think it brings it all together, it’s pretty unique.”
McLaren had to seek sign off from Formula One and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, to change its livery.
“It requires FIA and Formula One approval, so you submit your design and your rationale, and they all loved it and approved it,” Brown said.
“It used to be something that the teams had to vote on and that governance has changed.
“Fortunately, it was an easy approval with the FIA and F1.”
Gulf became the first oil company to trademark its racing colours in 2004, following several decades of success as a sponsor with various racing teams.
Arguably the oil company’s most iconic liveries raced at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with Gulf-sponsored Ford GT40s winning the race in 1968 and 1969 and Gulf-liveried Porsche 917s, which also raced at Le Mans, starring in the Steve McQueen film, Le Mans, from 1971.
“As a company we get many, many requests from racing teams to use the livery, but actually it’s a really special iconic colour so we only want to use it for special teams,” Gulf CEO Mike Jones said.
“In terms of work with McLaren, really the McLaren design team came up with some ideas and we left that to those guys because when those cars are travelling at that pace we still want to retain the Gulf racing blue and orange.
“Most importantly, it looks absolutely stunning and you can imagine with the nice weather in Monaco and the car going round, it is really going to be a stand-out piece.”
McLaren’s new livery will hit the track for the first time during Thursday practice on May 20 and remain on the car for qualifying day and race day over May 22-23.