This is maybe one the longest collaborations in Formula One history between a racing team and a sponsor. Team Lotus and John Player Special.
After the branding of Gold Leaf with the red and white livery in the early 1970’s the partnership between the famous and successful Formula One racing team Lotus and John Player Special started for the 1972 season. Finally it lasted until the end of the 1986 Formula One World-Championship season. Most of the best drivers of their time took a seat in the black golden painted Lotus, Emerson Fittipaldi, Reine Wisell, Dave Walker, Ronnie Peterson, Jacky Ickx, Gunnar Nilsson, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Elio de Angelis, Ayrton Senna and Johnny Dumfries.
The drivers and the engines changed, but the colors remained the same – fine golden lines and letters on a deep black painted bodywork. For me this livery is one of or almost the most elegant bodywork designs which ever appeared in Formula One motor racing history.
But not even beautiful but also very effective and successful is the story of the John Player Special racing team. In 1972 and 1978 both the Drivers World Title and the Constructors Championship was won by Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti.
The 1978 JPS-Lotus Ford was the first example of the wing car era and won the Championship very easily with the large technical advantage of using the massive ground effect of the new Formula One car design. All other F1 team followed this genius idea from 1979 on and in the end were beating the Lotus team with their own weapons.
Some people said with a little point of sarcasm that black is the right color for the often fragile and risky constructions of genius Colin Chapman. Jochen Rindt said while the 1970 season: There are two possibilities with a Lotus, winning the World Championship or to die in a Lotus, sadly his destiny was both.
In 1985 Ayrton Senna won his first of 41 Grand Prix races in the rainy Portugal at Estoril by lapping nearly anybody.
Today at the historic motor racing events round Europe the black and gold painted Lotus F1 cars of different years are a well known and very welcomed guests at different tracks. Although I follow them for a very long time on the race tracks with my camera I still love to take pictures of the John Player Special Lotus because even today the design is so fabulous and wonderful. The livery is pretty well rated between the fine golden lines which create some kind of frame, the golden typography, and the high glossy deep black.
And all the other smaller sponsors of the time who wants to see their names on a Lotus F1 race car at this time has to use the golden color for their company logo – today this is unthinkable, in times of Corporate Identity and Corporate Design.
But at this time of the long partnership between the Lotus F1 team and the John Player company the whole visual appearance was more important than everything else. After all they were a forerunner of the best Corporate Design and – Identity.
I love this livery and my camera does it too, you should take the next opportunity to have a close look at the black – golden beauty at the race track nearby. Find out more about our photographer Ralph Lüker.