The Conservative Evolution of the F1 Logo: Four Changes in 68 Years

Paulius S.

Changes are usually met with resistance. Regardless of whether it's a change in corporate strategy, structural changes or a visual revamp. So the announcement during the last Formula One race of the 2017 season about a new logotype was also met with resistance, if the feedback in the media is any gauge.

Formula One's visual identity is very conservative. The first F1 championship took place in 1950, and the sport only had three logos over the next 67 years. The last logo has been around since 1994 – together with an entire generation of new F1 fans who do not remember or have never even see another logo.

The first F1 logo that accompanied the race series when it first emerged in 1950 was elementary: the words "Formula One" written in blue on a white background. For decades – when function was more important than appearance – this logo was sufficient, and it never occurred to anyone that "maybe it's worth updating". In its first year of operation, F1 was more of a contest for guys with good financial resources and did not become a sport with huge popularity until later. However, globalisation, commercialism and other trends didn't pass F1 by, so it was decided in 1986 to redesign the logo. Radically.

The first F1 logo
The first F1 logo
©Wikimedia Commons

The new version of the F1 logo debuted in 1987, but you could call it "we need a new design, but we're not paying the designer much". Not surprisingly, that version was only around for seven years – in 1994, the logo that everyone knew until 2017 was introduced.

The second F1 logo 1987-1993
The second F1 logo 1987-1993
©Wikimedia Commons

During that decade, F1 became a global sport. Before then, all of the Grands Prix were held in Europe or South America (plus just one in Japan), but globalisation began to move at full speed during the last decade of the 20th century. Huge international companies like Coca-Cola, Marlboro and Mastercard began to sponsor F1 teams, and the Grand Prix geography gradually spread to Australia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North America, with Europe's influence decreasing.

So the sport needed a logo that reflected its values and ethics. The logotype that came out in 1994 did this perfectly: to this day it is regarded as one of the most creative brand images of all time. It consisted of three colours: black, white and red. The black that was used for the letter "F" symbolised power, while the red represented speed and passion. Meanwhile, the white that was interspersed between these colours formed the logo's second symbol – 1.

F1 logo 1994-2017
F1 logo 1994-2017
©Wikimedia Commons
a newest F1 logo 2018
F1 logo 2018
©Wikimedia Commons

This logo is linked not only to 23 years of Formula One, but also to the globalization of this sport and the name that has become popular worldwide. But everything has a beginning and an end – even the Bernie Ecclestone era that lasted several decades.

When the Liberty Media Group took over control of F1 last year, it didn't take long for changes to come around. Announcements were soon made about plans for F1 development and new competition-enhancing rules, and at the end of 2017 – to everyone's surprise – a new logo was introduced.

At the end of 2017 a new F1 logo was introduced
At the end of 2017 a new F1 logo was introduced
©F1 archive

The new logo is more modern and simple, but it looks nothing like the previous one. And a lot of fans are not happy with that. After all, from today's perspective, it seems as if the race itself was more interesting 15 years ago. Yet it's enough to watch recordings of the races for those memories to go sour in the realization that the F1 of 2002 was more like the queen of boredom than of motor sport.

F1 has begun a new era. And fans have to come to terms with that. They either have to come to terms with the changes or find new hobbies – IndyCar, NASCAR, World RX, WRC, WTCC and the Dakar Rally (which is gradually becoming The Odyssey) would be happy to take on some new fans.