Ferrari’s new blue F1 look for Miami calls back to a rebellious history

“Ask a child to draw a car, and certainly, he will draw it red.”

One of Enzo Ferrari’s most famous quotes cements the connotations forged between Ferrari, racing, and its hallmark color.

Ferrari’s rosso corsa (racing red) has become synonymous with the brand throughout its long, remarkable history, particularly in F1, where many drivers dream of someday putting on those famous red overalls and driving the red car.

But at the Miami Grand Prix this weekend, Ferrari is changing up its look by adding more than a bit of blue.

The Ferrari SF-24’s Miami livery, revealed Wednesday, includes blue on the wheels, side mirrors, front and rear wings, sidepods, and halo. It’s still a red car, overall, but it’s something different. Drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will also race in powder blue race suits as part of an overhaul of the team kit for the weekend.

One-off liveries are nothing new in F1, and Ferrari has occasionally tinkered with its look in recent years. But few have been as hyped as the blue changes for the weekend.

It’s a move that has multiple influences. The arrival of Ferrari’s new title sponsor, HP (whose corporate colors are blue and white) played a part. Yet the links between Ferrari and the color blue are rooted in history, especially in the United States.

And it all dates back to Enzo himself.

Ferrari’s new, old look

In the earliest days of grand prix racing, cars wore their driver’s national colors: the British raced in green, the French in blue, the Germans in white. The color for Italy was red.

It meant most Ferraris raced in red, which quickly became the adopted color of the Scuderia through the earliest years of the F1 world championship in the 1950s. Juan Manuel Fangio, who hailed from Argentina, was permitted to race with a blue and yellow nose on his car, but otherwise, it was all red.

Ferrari F1 car in blue and red livery for Miami GP, overhead view

The SF-24’s blue-tinged livery nods to an old history and a new sponsor. (Ferrari)

Enzo Ferrari always desired success beyond F1. Ferrari first entered cars to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949 and regularly featured in great sportscar road racing events such as the Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia. Success in these races was a perfect way to show would-be customers the qualities of the grand tourers (GTs) coming out of the factory doors at Maranello and generally boost brand prestige.

In the early 1960s, Ferrari found himself embroiled in a bitter argument with the FIA over the new GT car, the Ferrari 250 GTO, that he wanted to enter its races and championships. Unlike F1 cars, GT racers are meant to be versions of widely produced, street-legal cars. Manufacturers were required to produce at least 100 road-going versions for their racer to be eligible for homologation (ie, approved for racing), with checks taking place at the factory to ensure compliance.

Legend has it that when the FIA came to conduct a check in 1962, Ferrari, lacking the necessary number of cars, tried hoodwinking the officials by whisking them away for a coffee midway through the count, then moved some of the cars around the factory so they would be tallied twice. This exact story has never been officially confirmed, and remains shrouded in myth. (It’s also worth noting Ferrari was not alone in trying these kinds of tricks.) What is definitely true is that Ferrari found itself at loggerheads with the FIA throughout this period.

WATKINS GLEN, NY - OCTOBER 4: John Surtees in his Ferrari entered by Luigi Chinetti's NART (North American Racing Team) as there was a dispute with Ferrari who would not allow the cars painted in the traditional Ferrari red. Surtees finished second at the United States Grand Prix on October 4, 1964 at Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Alvis Upitis/Getty Images)

John Surtees raced a blue and white Ferrari at the 1964 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. (Alvis Upitis/Getty Images)

That tension came to a head two years later when the FIA refused to homologate Ferrari’s updated model, the 250 LM, because it did not meet the 100-car criteria. Enzo Ferrari took the issue straight to Italy’s sanctioning body, the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), which refused back him in the argument.

Furious, Ferrari gave up his competition license in protest and declared that his cars would never race in the red of Italy again. With two races to go in the 1964 F1 season and Ferrari contending for both championships, there was serious doubt over what would happen next.

A champion in blue

When the entry list for the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen was issued ahead of the October race, it included the works Ferrari entries of title fighter John Surtees and teammate Lorenzo Bandini. But they weren’t racing for Scuderia Ferrari.

Both cars were entered for North American Racing Team (also known as NART), a successful American sportscar racing team established in 1958 by Luigi Chinetti, an ex-driver who became an importer of Ferraris to America. NART regularly raced in the 24-hour race at Daytona and other blue-riband sportscar events. By name at least, it was now racing in F1, too.

Abiding with the tradition of racing in national colors to push home the protest against the ACI, the NART Ferraris were painted blue with a big white stripe, following the scheme used by teams from the United States. Surtees finished second at Watkins Glen behind title rival Graham Hill, setting up a final race showdown three weeks later in Mexico City.

Enzo Ferrari celebrated his 85th birthday in blue with workers in Ferrari's Maranello factory in 1983. (Ferrari)

Enzo Ferrari (standing with sunglasses) celebrated his 85th birthday in blue with workers in Ferrari’s Maranello factory in 1983. (Ferrari)

With the dispute unresolved, Ferrari kept racing in blue under the NART name in Mexico. After falling from fourth to 13th at the start, Surtees worked his way back up the order to get back into title contention as Hill, who only needed a top-three finish, clashed with Bandini and picked up damage. Victory for runaway race leader Jim Clark would have handed Hill the title, only for Clark to slow and stop due to an oil leak. Bandini moved aside for Surtees to pass on the last lap, finish second behind Dan Gurney, and clinch the championship.

It wrote Surtees into the history books for winning a world title on both two and four wheels, a feat that has yet to be (and likely will never be) repeated. It also meant the image of a blue and white Ferrari would forever be part of its success story.

By the start of the 1965 season, Enzo Ferrari had settled his quarrels with the FIA and the ACI. Scuderia Ferrari returned to racing in its iconic red from that moment onward, but kept blue in its color palette. Its F1 drivers wore powder blue overalls through the 1970s, while the NART-run Ferraris retained blue streaks for their sportscar events.

While Ferrari has opted for occasional F1 color change-ups since 1964, such as adding lots of yellow to the car at Monza in 2022 to mark its 75th anniversary and running a deeper burgundy for its 1,000th grand prix at Mugello in 2020, it’s never strayed too far from red.

The corporate influence

Incorporating blue for Miami, the first North American race of the 2024 season, is a nice gesture toward Ferrari’s history in the region. Broader events are planned around the grand prix weekend to celebrate this history. But the corporate influence cannot be ignored.

Last week, Ferrari announced it had signed a multi-year agreement making HP its new title sponsor, effective from Miami, in a deal rumored to be one of the most lucrative on the F1 grid. HP’s company colors are blue and white, and the fact that HP’s CEO is scheduled to be at the public photo call of the car livery on Thursday morning is no coincidence.

Combining that history with something that appeals to a sponsor is now seen more often in F1. In recent years, McLaren and Williams have raced with a retro livery for partnerships with Gulf International, known in motorsport for its powder blue and orange colors. McLaren also tweaked its colors at Silverstone last year by reviving the chrome used between 2006 and 2013 as part of an activation with Google Chrome.

One-off liveries might lose their novelty as their frequency increases in F1. Seeing Ferrari with shades of blue among its traditional red will undoubtedly be novel — regardless of whether fans love or loathe the change.

(Lead photo of the SF-24: Courtesy of Ferrari)

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