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Formula 1

Our take on McLaren's Monaco Senna tribute livery

3 min read

The McLaren Formula 1 team's latest one-off livery for the Monaco Grand Prix is a tribute to Ayrton Senna, 30 years after the death of the F1 icon who won all three of his world championships with McLaren.

In partnership with sponsor OKX, it will switch to a mostly yellow livery inspired by Senna's helmet colour scheme, which was itself largely a tribute to his native Brazil.

The reception was mixed when The Race team first got sight of the livery. While some of our team lauded this as one of the better special F1 liveries of recent years considering so many have turned to be overhyped with minimal changes, others squinted to see if it really was as yellow as it seemed and not just a "paler orange".

Some wondered if there might be a degree of fan disappointment, given McLaren's pre-Monaco merchandise range had leaned on the colours of its Marlboro era - the livery used for all Senna's McLaren feats - and the team used a modern adaptation of those colours on one of its Indianapolis 500 entries last year.

There was even a mention of the Team Brazil A1GP livery.

But for a proper expert take, we called on our creative lead Oliver Card:


Oliver Card

Another trip around the principality and another one-off livery awaits us in Monaco.

As part of its Senna30 campaign, McLaren is taking the opportunity this weekend to emblazon the MCL38 with a tribute to Ayrton Senna’s timeless race helmet design that remained largely unchanged throughout his F1 career.

Senna made icons of all the cars he drove, but the flash of yellow was the visual cue that united them all and inspired generations to come, including Lewis Hamilton’s own racing helmet designs right up until 2013.

It’s hard not to think of Senna’s success in Monaco without thinking of a certain cigarette livery. A one-off Marlboro design would have been a surefire hit with the fans, but I greatly respect McLaren for dispensing with its own identity to put Senna (and his name in its beautiful, hyper-stylised typeface) above it all.

From a design perspective, McLaren has been uncompromising in its approach, replacing black and papaya with yellow, green and blue.

The only papaya that survived the makeover is a single pinstripe on the wheel covers. An interesting bonus of this change is that the Google Chrome wheel covers now finally match the car in a way they haven’t before.

Also, if Oscar Piastri squints a little, he might feel even more at home as the yellow/green combo aligns with his country’s own sporting colours.

But to step back and take in the full picture, this livery screams Brazil. Senna was Brazil, so this is in turn a fine tribute.

There is, however, the potential for an oversaturation of Senna tributes to mean they lose their impact after a while. There is also a risk that the accompanying range of merchandise and models carries an awkward implication. Because they will sell a lot of model cars; this will be a huge hit with the fans, particularly those in Brazil, but also to F1 fans for whom Senna is still in their lifeblood.

If the profits from the sales went towards the Ayrton Senna Institute or a charity equally representative of his spirit, then some of this could be assuaged. Though McLaren's livery announcement includes a supportive quote from Ayrton's sister Bianca, representing Senna Global, and McLaren markets its Senna road car as "highlighting the incredible charitable work of the Instituto Ayrton Senna", this does ultimately come across as a marketing campaign for a sponsor, albeit a very respectful one.

Reassuringly, McLaren’s tribute is a bold and fitting salute to the driver who brought it so much success around the streets of Monaco, someone who remains a symbol of the sport and soul of F1 to this day.

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