Formula 1 should turn the Monaco Grand Prix into a retro weekend
It works for Nascar at Darlington. Why can't it work for Formula 1 at Monaco?
McLaren is going retro for the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend. It unveiled its gorgeous one-off livery, based on the instantly-recognisable Gulf Oil colours seen on many different racing cars of the past including McLaren's own F1 and the legendary Ford GT, yesterday and the world has gone absolutely mad for it. It's not surprising at all why people love it. It looks gorgeous! The classic light blue and orange colour scheme combined with the retro-styled black on white numbers looks just as fresh today in 2021 as it did back in the 1990s or even the 1960s. I'd even argue that it looks better than the usual papaya orange and black livery that McLaren has been using for the last few years!
How well-received the unashamedly retro one-off livery has been though has got me thinking a lot, in particular about it being used at Monaco. Monaco is a circuit that's been around Formula 1 pretty much since the beginning of the series. Almost every single year the travelling circus has stopped by in the principality that's become a playground of billionaires, racing drivers and basically anyone else who doesn't like paying tax. It's a huge part of Formula 1's history. Winning the Monaco Grand Prix is considered as one of the biggest achievements in motorsport, along with winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. Many Formula 1 drivers dream of winning on the difficult twists and turns of the city streets of Monte Carlo. With the incredible amount of history and nostalgia the odd little principality presents us with, why not embrace it? The best way to embrace that yearning and nostalgia for a connection to Monaco Grand Prixes of old is to take McLaren's idea of re-using a retro livery and applying it to every team on the grid.
This isn't a new concept to motorsports. Nascar already does it! Whenever Nascar races at Darligton Raceway in South Carolina, a track that is absolutely steeped in history when it comes to the series, the cars use retro or heritage-inspired liveries. It's something that's gone down very well in the time it's been done. Not only is it really cool to see retro liveries make a return just for the one weekend, but it's awesome to see the designers get as creative as possible in blending those retro-influenced elements with the current branding and sponsors of the current teams and drivers. If Formula 1 teams were allowed to do this, I can only imagine how brilliant and creative some of the retro liveries could be!
What kind of liveries could we see if Monaco became a "retro weekend" like Darlington? Well, I can think of a few that I'd love to see. Having already used the Gulf Oil livery for 2021, McLaren could bring back the silver and black West livery (complete with the drivers' names in the West-branded font on the sides of the cars like Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard had!) one year or the silver and red Vodafone livery that was used during the Hamilton and Button era could make a return. Ferrari could bring back a variation of the livery it used at Mugello in 2020 to celebrate Ferrari's 1000th Formula 1 race. Mercedes could either bring back the silver livery it used that ill-fated year at Hockenheim or even dip further into the Brackley team's heritage and use a blue Tyrrell livery, a version of Honda's lucky strike or earth liveries or even the beloved Brawn GP one! Alpine could bring back the Mild Seven colours of its back to back championship-winning years with Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin could take us back to the Silverstone-based team's days of Jordan with a tribute to the green and blue livery of the early 1990s or the black and yellow Benson & Hedges one that was Jordan's trademark from the mid-late 90s until Eddie Jordan sold the team in the mid-00s. Red Bull could even dip into their past too and bring back the gorgeous Jaguar livery (one of my personal favourites!) of the early 00s.
Before Red Bull Racing was Red Bull Racing... (Image: Rick Dikeman, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)
"What about Haas?" Well, that is the elephant in the room. I can think of a way around that though. In many ways, Haas is the direct continuation of one of Formula 1's most well-loved underdogs; Virgin. The Virgin team was never going to win any trophies (or, to be honest, really any points) but it was a team that was well-loved. Some of the staff who are still at Haas to this day are people who worked for that team and the team even initially had one of F1's most beloved drivers in Timo "is that Glock?" Glock. It also had Jerome D'Ambrosio (now the Team Principal of the Monegasque RokiT Venturi Racing Formula E team) as another driver during that time, as well as Formula E megastar Lucas DiGrassi. It was a team that took being (quite frankly) pretty rubbish in its strive and always had a good time. If you were to ask me, the best option Haas could do for a retro livery would be to remind us of the wonderfully weird underdog that was the Virgin team.
Could we see the Haas cars look like this at a retro Monaco? (Image: Virgin_Bahrain_2010.jpg: Andrew Griffith from United Kingdomderivative work: Chubbennaitor, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
The retro theme could even extend to the TV coverage too. Instead of the current graphics on our TV screens, why not bring back the old-school ITV graphics from the late 90s and early 00s? Why not bring back the BBC titles with the iconic outro of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" over the top? Why not bring Formula 1 pundits and personalities of the past such as Eddie Jordan (let's face it, Eddie Jordan was one of the best parts of the Formula 1 coverage when the sport returned to the BBC) and James Allen back to our screens? I'm sure a lot of people would especially love to see old personalities back on our screens or in the commentary box alongside current presenters such as Karun Chandhok, Nico Rosberg, Natalie Pinkham and Anthony Davidson.
In addition to all of this, Monaco being a retro weekend would offset one of the biggest complaints this part of the Grand Prix calendar has had for quite a few years now. There are still people who make a lot of noise that the principality's streets aren't suitable for modern Formula 1 cars. This is something that's only elevated in recent years now that more modern street circuits such as the Baku circuit and the upcoming Miami circuit, both of which being better suited to current F1 cars, are either already part of the Formula 1 calendar or will become a part of it soon. Whilst there may be merits in those arguments, I personally love the fact that Formula 1 still chooses to come back to Monaco year after year (2020 excluded obviously due to the horrors of COVID-19) and Formula 1 without Monaco would just be too weird. It wouldn't quite feel like Formula 1, regardless of whether the track is actually fully suitable for modern F1 cars or not.
Turning the Monaco Grand Prix into a retro weekend would turn the event into a properly unique spectacle. People wouldn't care as much about the quality of the racing as they currently do, because there would be something completely unique to the rest of the calendar at Monaco. People wouldn't tune in just for the racing. People would also tune in to see what incredible and creative nostalgic liveries the teams had come up with just for that one weekend of the season. If the retro theme extended to the TV coverage too, people would tune in to see old F1 personalities such as Eddie Jordan and James Allen come back for one weekend only. For the people actually attending in person, it would feel more like going to an event at Goodwood than just another Formula 1 race. It would be a wonderful experience full of heritage, nostalgia and all-around good vibes. Of course, a good few people would end up in a pool or in the harbour somewhere!
Formula 1 is now a racing series with a rich and storied history behind it. Whilst drivers and teams will come and go, there will be certain things that people will talk about and indulge their nostalgia in forever. Why not fully embrace that and make Monaco, the most historically charged and nostalgic of all F1 races, the place where that heritage is celebrated? Let the teams get creative with retro liveries. Bring back some old personalities. Make that one weekend F1 spends in the world's most famous principality be the most special weekend of all. It just makes sense.