Ask anyone what is different about this year’s McLaren launch and they'll probably tell you that there's the potential for a papaya orange car. In reality though this is not something new or unexpected. Every year there's always the few out there who always hope on a whim and a prayer that McLaren will have an orange car for the upcoming season. This begs the question: why orange? It's not because it's patriotic to their home country of the UK or their true home of New Zealand, nor is it because they're missing the Arrows livery of the early 2000s. To find the true reason we need to go way back to Bruce McLaren and the 1960s.
In the mid 1960s McLaren and his team were in the animosity of the midfield. It wasn't until 1968 with the McLaren M7A that they hit the front of the grid. Until it was replaced at the end of the 1971 season it racked up four victories from 22 race starts. This may not seem impressive, but considering the nature of F1 in the 60s it showed McLaren in the light of a top team.
Now you may be wondering why this is significant? Well the reason is the car’s paint job, which was orange. Now this car has inherited a cult following down the years. The various specifications of car McLaren produced all harboured an orange paint job and all were incredibly successful.
The change came in 1974 when Marlboro came into the sport and as such came a red and white livery, something which ran on the car until 1997. 23 years and 16 machines all passed under red and white liveries. These were the most successful of McLaren's years in F1, such is the reason there's a vast number who would want to see a red and white McLaren in 2017.
Now the livery of McLaren is not going to gain it four seconds in lap time. This is in fact part of the reason why some fans are resistant to having a historic-themed livery. The joy of these memories to all McLaren and F1 fans is that it was a time we had more success and title fights. These memories could well be tainted should the new McLaren end up being something of a damp squid and lacks the pace of the top teams.
What people want to see from the McLaren livery is something symbolic that relates to the team and their history. Jaguar had British Racing Green, Stewart had the Scottish Tartan theme, Jordan have their famous Black and Yellow B&H livery and Lotus are famous for the JPS Black and Gold.
McLaren have what though? A bland grey livery which has as much personality as a wooden spoon. This may sound harsh on them, however the history held by the McLaren name deserves a livery which shows their native history.
Now we do know McLaren are changing livery this season, as they did in both 1997 and 2006. This may seem insignificant but on both these occasions they ran orange liveries in pre-Season. With a new livery on the horizon again the pre-Season could well bring back orange, even if merely for marketing purposes.
No matter whether we see McLaren run orange or not, it's clear they aren't going to have a scheme such as Ferrari red or Williams blue. All we know is many years of hoping have provided nothing but disappointment. So while we may see the orange coming out for pre-season, it certainly won't guarantee it's presence for all of the season. But if not then we can safely say there won't be an outrage like 1998 and the infamous red Williams, as after all it's been a good 20 years of dreaming and as far as we're aware, we are still no closer to the end goal.
by Matthew Gannon