McLaren To Run One-Off Gulf Livery During Monaco GP

The iconic light blue and orange Gulf Oil colour scheme will make its F1 debut this weekend. 

There are perhaps only a few racing liveries out there that are as iconic as the Gulf Oil colour scheme. Having been a familiar sight in various forms of motorsports throughout the prior decades, this light blue and orange livery however has actually not made it onto the Formula 1 grid yet. 

This is all about to change this weekend however, as McLaren has recently announced that it will be running a one-off Gulf liveried car for the upcoming 2021 Monaco Grand Prix. A special arrangement that has been made possible in the wake of a renewed tie-up between Gulf Oil and McLaren last year, the MCL35M of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris will be carrying the famous matte blue with neon orange stripe throughout the coming race weekend. 

That is not all that this one-off rebranding would entail too, as the iconic Gulf colours will carry through to the driver’s race suits and team kit. The drivers will also be sporting one-off retro-inspired helmet designs, which will then be raffled off for the team’s mental health charity partner, Mind.

An initiative that was apparently kick-started by the fans when the McLaren-Gulf Oil partnership was revived late last year, this will interestingly only be the second time this iconic colour scheme will be appearing on a McLaren race car. That is because while the American oil company was a sponsor of team founder Bruce McLaren’s motorsport efforts for both F1 and Can-Am dating back to the early 60s, the racing blue and fluorescent orange colour scheme was only to be officially seen on the Gulf McLaren F1 GTR that came second at the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

The Gulf Oil connection is probably more typically associated with Porsches, considering that it was after all the livery featured on the Porsche 917K driven by Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans. Continuing on the topic of Le Mans, the Gulf liveried GT40s had also picked up an additional two consecutive endurance titles to the two Ford already had in 1968 and 1969.

Nevertheless, getting back to the story of McLaren racing this Gulf livery in Formula 1 this weekend, the team had to get approval from both the FIA and F1 in order to run this one-off colour scheme. This looks to only have been a formality however, as CEO Zak Brown said that that there had been no problem getting the green light. “They all loved it and approved it,” he added. 

To those who are hoping that this Gulf race livery sticks around after this race weekend though, don’t get your hopes up to fast as Zak Brown has made it clear that it is only a one-off and will not be a regular feature. “At this point, we only intend to run it at Monaco,” he said. “I think if you’re going to have a special livery, you keep it special. It’s something, as you all know, that isn’t done that often in Formula 1,” explained the CEO. 

Taking place this weekend on the 20th to 23rd of May, it will not just be McLaren debuting a special livery for the Monaco Grand Prix. Williams too should be debuting a slightly reworked version of their FW43B in conjunction with their 750th GP, though further details on that have yet to be revealed to date. 

PRESS RELEASE: McLaren Racing and strategic partner, Gulf Oil International, today unveiled an innovative special livery celebrating their historic partnership with a one-off iconic design for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix on 20-23 May. The evocative livery marks the return of the sport to one of Formula 1’s most emblematic grand prix and brings fans one of the most recognisable and admired motorsport liveries of all time.

McLaren has a deep-rooted and successful racing history with Gulf, and the two brands revived their relationship in July 2020 when the team announced the brand’s return as an official strategic partner. The retro livery will mark McLaren’s tribute to Gulf’s timeless design while reflecting a racing connection that began in the days of team founder Bruce McLaren.

The team will carry Gulf’s racing blue colourway alongside an orange stripe, based closely on Gulf’s classic design, for the entire race weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix. The theme will feature on both MCL35M race cars, the race suits of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, the race team kit and across all team social media platforms.

Additionally, Lando and Daniel will wear race helmets with bespoke retro designs, especially created for the event, to be raffled for the team’s mental health charity partner, Mind.

The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix will not be the first time a McLaren race car has carried the iconic Gulf livery. The #41 McLaren F1 GTR Longtail finished second at the 1997 24 Hours of Le Mans while sporting Gulf’s racing blue and fluro orange colour scheme.

A key feature of this campaign is a bespoke range of merchandise that allows fans to own their part of the special weekend. The merchandise line, inspired by the design of the Gulf liveried MCL35M, features a range of team wear and lifestyle clothing. The limited-edition merchandise can be purchased from the McLaren Store.

Zak Brown, Chief Executive Officer, McLaren Racing said:

“This will be McLaren’s homage to Gulf’s celebrated race car design. We’re enormous fans of brave and bold design, and the striking Gulf blue is among the most loved liveries in racing, a celebrated piece of culture which transcends the world of motorsport.

“Design has always been important to McLaren – you see this in everything we do from our return to papaya to our stunning headquarters, the McLaren Technology Centre. We’re excited to exhibit this as a team and celebrate our proud association with Gulf in Monaco.”

Mike Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf Oil said:

“Gulf and McLaren have a relationship that dates back to 1968 and is one of the most successful partnerships in motorsport. We are incredibly excited to pay tribute to this heritage with our classic livery design at the Monaco Grand Prix, the most spectacular and stylish event on the Formula 1 calendar.

“To see the reaction of both Lando and Daniel as well as the whole McLaren team to this livery has been really special and we are thrilled to unveil it to motorsport fans around the world. The distinguished racing blue and fluro orange Gulf colourways are iconic, so to mark our return to Formula 1 and showcase the livery in Monaco with McLaren is a great celebration of our bold and colourful place within the sport.”

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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