Motoring: The world's most expensive graffiti

Today's F1 cars are rendered crass and cluttered by the tasteless ignorance of the colour-scheme clowns
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
AS ANYONE who watches modern F1 racing on television will know, modern Formula One cars are ugly, disfigured things. It's not the shape that's the problem, nor the technology, nor anything else that can be blamed on the highly paid designers and technical gurus who create them. Rather, it's the dimbulbs who design the colour schemes - and the advertising messages plastered all over them - who should be hanged, drawn and quartered. (Or, if that's too severe, at least be given a pair of spectacles and a quick lesson on mixing art and technology, as practised by many great designers since Peter Behrens helped invent the genre, working for AEG before the First World War.)

Of the 12 teams competing in this year's world championship, only three - McLaren, Stewart and Arrows - apparently take any care with the way their cars are presented. McLaren is miles ahead, as indeed its cars now are on the track. The silver and black paintwork (with a red slash) is handsome and uncluttered, and those firms advertising on its flanks all do so in black or silver script, further simplifying the car's appearance. "I am staggered at just how little F1 teams care about the appearance of their cars," Jackie Stewart, ex-F1 champ and head of the new Stewart- Ford team, told me last year. "The colour schemes are ugly and confused, and advertising signs are just stuck wherever there's a space. This is a multi-million pound sport funded mostly by sponsors. But looking at the cars, you'd never know it."

This year, things are worse. The 1998 Williams looks like the racing car of some well-meaning amateur, who can't believe how many sponsors he's managed to pull, and has therefore decided to give them all huge representation on his car - in whatever colour they want. Last year's cars were in tasteful blue, gold and white livery, reflecting the colours of Williams's sponsor, Rothmans. Now, for some reason, Rothmans has switched tack and decided to promote a brand called Winfield. My only knowledge of Winfield is that, years ago, Paul Hogan used to advertise them in Australia, before he became famous as Crocodile Dundee. It was targeted at semi-literate "ockers" with hairy legs and short shorts, a million miles from the sophisticated F1 image that Rothmans now apparently covets.

Williams cars are now painted a most unattractive red and white. Just as bad, signwriting and stickers are plastered all over. Instead of the paintwork being designed by some tasteful, talented design consultant, reflecting the corporate image of Williams and its sponsors, some oik has apparently plonked stickers wherever there's a spare inch of unoccupied bodywork. In a glamorous, multi-million dollar sport, this year's Williams look about as upmarket as a discarded Winfield fag end. Winfield, Castrol and various other large companies all pay millions to fill space on a multi-coloured, multi-message mess. Besides, not only does this year's car look awful, it isn't even very fast. There is some justice, after all.

Jordans, Benettons, Saubers and the rest, they're almost as bad - handsome basic shapes rendered crass and cluttered by the tasteless ignorance of the colour-scheme clowns. They are attractive sculptures made ugly by graffiti.

Even Ferrari, a marque revered for its beauty and classic proportions, has been corrupted. Its 1998 F1 car looks like four or five different advertising hoardings all patchworked together. Ferrari's colour is now Marlboro pillarbox-red, not the glorious blood-rich red of Ferrari tradition.

Today and tomorrow, hundreds of gorgeous racing cars will blast up the hill that snakes its way around Goodwood House in the sixth annual Festival of Speed (see below). Many thousands of people will turn up, mostly to ogle the machinery. This should come as no surprise, because there are few mechanical objects quite as beautiful as racing cars. Or, more correctly, older racing cars. There, as they thunder up the hill, looking wonderful, the real red of Ferrari will be in evidence this weekend, showing visitors at Goodwood how to deliver elegance as well as power. As it should be - and as today's F1 racing no longer appears to be.