A Colorful History of Racing Hues: An Introduction (1 of 4)
Before the modern age of noisy sponsorship and over-crowded company logos, race tracks were host to a much more subdued and monochromatic breed of racing vehicle. Cars were painted a solid color and the only decoration was an entry number, if that. Much like today’s F1 cars, when Grand Prix racing began most of the machines were quite similar looking and gave both spectators and officials a headache when attempting to distinguish them.
In order to aid in the identification of individual cars and teams it actually became required that team owners paint their vehicles assigned colors. The various sanctioning bodies that eventually became today’s FIA issued the following regulation, “The use of distinctive colors of nationality is compulsory when the supplementary regulations of the competition require it. These colors are determined by the nationality of the competitor.” In other words, cars must be painted the color of the owner’s country. Thus, an Aston Martin fielded by an Italian team would be painted red, even though it was a British-made car.
The original color codes dictated everything from body, numbering, even chassis color! Some countries such as Japan and Spain chose their racing colors based on the national flag. Other nations chose either historically significant colors or just one team owner’s personal preference. As car frames began to disappear underneath streamlined bodywork, the mandated chassis color often became a secondary or highlight color.