McLaren will limit the amount of weekends it decides to run special one-off F1 liveries on, to maintain the newly-renewed tradition’s “specialness” as per Zak Brown.

In 2021, several teams chose to field one-off liveries to celebrate manufacturers, sponsors or the respective teams’ heritage. None more so than McLaren who opted for a striking Gulf livery on both cars for the entirety of the Monaco GP weekend and a revised design for Abu Dhabi in partnership with their sponsor Vuse.

Inspired by the initial fan reaction of McLaren’s deal with Gulf Oil, its Monaco recreation of the historic colour scheme had many unanimously in awe. The orange and blue Gulf livery propelled itself to icon status in the 1960s at Le Mans adorning Ford GT40s, and later Porsche 917s, McLaren F1s, Porsche 911 GT3s, Aston Martin Vantages, an LMP2 class Ligier and even the Team Aguri Formula E car.

The design served the team well too, with Lando Norris earning the team’s first podium in Monaco since 2011 by fending off a charging Sergio Perez late on in the race. In tribute to McLaren’s former engine supply partner Honda, who were to leave F1 at the end of 2021, Red Bull switched to a full white design for the Turkish Grand Prix – the weekend of what would have been Honda’s last home race in Japan.

Alfa Romeo also revised their livery for the Italian GP, paying homage to the tricolore colours by adding a smattering of green to the engine cover of their red and white livery. However, although, the Gulf livery in particular went down a treat with fans, Zak Brown insists there are limitations to how often special designs should be used.

“Fan reaction has been great,” said Brown to media including “I think doing it on a very limited basis as we have done is the kind of right balance. We want to keep our identity and make a special livery special, and if we do it all the time it loses its specialness.

“The Vuse one was sponsor driven, just like Gulf was. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will always be sponsor-driven. I think it gives some vibrancy, brings some great messaging. In Abu Dhabi’s case instance, it was a female artist from this area so a great way to draw attention to various topics.

“And then of course our fans like to support us so you see a lot of Gulf hats and shirts running around so it’s another way for great fan engagement. Everyone’s voted with thumbs up so to speak of their enthusiasm for it and it’s something that we want to do and will continue to do but not on high frequency basis because then I think again you lose your own identity and it loses its specialness,” summed up Brown.

The one-off or sponsor-driven liveries is common in America, especially in IndyCar (where also McLaren competes) and or NASCAR. On F1 side, it is not a norm since there are limited race-by-race sponsors and more season-based. And with different deals in place, other sponsors will have to be convinced for them to do it.

The story was written by Danny Herbert

Here’s Zak Brown on F1 2021 and how the future is for McLaren

Here’s Zak Brown on Formula E and WEC

Here’s Pato O’Ward on his McLaren F1 test

Here’s Zak Brown on Andreas Seidl

Here’s Andreas Seidl, Toto Wolff on FIA communication