The psychology behind liveries

Is there a reason Red Bull Racing have a yellow nose when the colour yellow has nothing much to do with the Red Bull brand? Actually, there may just be. Can you think of a colour more distracting than a bright yellow? Because I’m struggling to type just thinking about yellow. 

If you can think back to that terrific camera angle we saw of Sebastian Vettel’s eyes while he set pole position in Abu Dhabi, you’ll remember just how concentrated he appeared and how often he was seen blinking — basically not at all. Sebastian was fully committed to that lap, and things as simple as his breathing and blinking would have been timed in perfectly in order to set the time he did.

That’s an F1 driver at their peak. But in a race, things start getting a little more difficult. There are other cars to worry about, for a start. And when you have a car coming up in your mirrors and they’re looking like overtaking you, it sucks up a huge amount of the concentration required simply to drive an F1 car alone.

Lap times fall off the proverbial cliff, even if the driver isn’t moving around to defend his position, and that simply comes down to the fact their energy is being used in a different way, and they’re no longer able to fully commit to putting in laps close to perfection.

Now imagine you’re being chased by a Red Bull Racing driver. It’s easily the quickest car out there anyway, so you’re going to be a little bit intimidated by its presence. But the yellow nose cone only makes matters worse for the defending driver.

It may seem mad, but something as simple as the colour of the Red Bull Racing car’s nose cone may be no accident at all. They have the smartest people in their respective fields working on each and every aspect of the car, so who’s to say they don’t have someone advising the team where to position certain colours of the car?

Many would think you’re reading too much into it if you suggested it was deliberately done, but I’m certainly not going to ignore the possibility.

The same can be said of McLaren. Their chrome livery is a love-or-hate design that some liken to a teaspoon. But out in the sun, it’s like a giant mirror. It must be incredibly distracting to have light being reflected in every direction behind you when trying to defend, so is it something McLaren have done very deliberately?

As they enter the final lap of the race, Jenson's "giant teaspoon" turns into a rather distracting disco ball...

F1 is about tenths of a second. The car can only do so much in certain situations, and having the most distracting colour known to man filling your mirrors in the heat of what is already an incredibly tense situation doesn’t help the defending driver perform at their peak.

Considering the closest legal thing F1 teams can do short of strapping a strobe light to the nosecone is to create a bright and distracting livery, is it out of the question to assume there is some method to the madness?

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