“The sentiment from the fans was overwhelming: They loved papaya,” Lou McEwen, McLaren Racing’s director of brand, told RACER after Arrow McLaren SP’s IndyCar liveries were unveiled.
For McEwen, and her colleague Simon Dibley, McLaren’s brand designer who devised the colors and layout on the entries driven by Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew, the history of McLaren and the branding needs of primary sponsor Arrow Electronics drove the final product revealed on the Nos. 5 and 7 Chevys.
“McLaren papaya and blue, which are two of the three colors that are dominant in the livery, they were the original colors chosen by our founder Bruce McLaren, and represent McLaren’s 57-year legacy in the sport. So for that, they were really important colors for us,” she said.
“And we have a third and a very important party in our color scheme, and that’s Arrow Electronics, so that coloration then leans towards the black that you see on the side pods of the car and the nose. We worked very, very closely with Arrow all the way along the livery development to make sure that it represents both McLaren and Arrow, as it should. And they’ve been very much co-creators of the livery as well.”
With two open-wheel programs to dress and present across Formula 1 and the NTT IndyCar Series, McEwen and Dibley worked to create livery commonalities between the DW12-Chevrolets and the soon-to-be-uncovered MCL35-Renaults.
“What we wanted to make sure is that we’ve got some really nice consistency from McLaren across our racing series,” McEwen added. “And we think that the papaya works really well, and ultimately it gives fantastic standout on the grid. When we looked at the Indy grid back last year, we looked at our competitors and what people were doing, we wanted to make sure we did something that really stood out. And I think the papaya and the blue just give us that edge.”
Beyond their stylized car numbers, the visual cues differentiating O’Ward’s No. 5 entry from Askew’s No. 7 machine can be found in the use of black front and rear wing endplates on the Mexican’s car, and blue on the Floridian’s mount.
“Some of the accents we’ve chosen are for technical reasons to differentiate the two cars, and we felt and that color really adds to the aesthetic as well,” she said. “So for us it was win-win by having to do that. You can also see some of those small line details just above the sidepod. If you look up above the Arrow logo, you can see a little bit of the livery design and pattern, which is going to be played out in our Formula 1 livery which we are launching next week.”
“There’s consistency between our two series with that linear line pattern and that flow pattern that is Simon’s handiwork. He’s put that together and really tied the two series together in a really nice way. There was a lot of thought and consideration around the use of the blue and where those accents were.”
For Dibley, the opportunity to create a livery that served McLaren’s sponsors and those carried into the partnership by team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson was received as a welcome challenge.
“It is quite different because, for me at least, it’s just another completely different shape,” he explained. “IndyCars stay the same every year but to me, it’s a new shape again and it’s quite a bit different from the Formula 1 shape. So, to adapt all the designs to that with keeping different partner spaces and different colors, the linework in there, it’s quite an interesting challenge to get through while still making it look good.”
Incorporating IndyCar’s new-for-2020 aeroscreen, which is open for teams to color and adorn with logos across the top of the structure, into the livery was another unique design consideration. While the safety device is a critical component on every car in the field, its aesthetic qualities vary by a wide margin from front to side view.
Drawing the matte black from the nose up and over the aeroscreen, with the bright papaya orange being used to outline the top of the cockpit has, to a fair degree, helped to minimize its presence.
“The shape, at least, can carry on from the nose,” Dibley said. “So since we’ve got that split color, it works with what was done with the aeroscreen that just continues the nose shape and then it didn’t have to be too jarring of a transition. We didn’t want to color the aeroscreen with papaya orange or anything to over accentuate it.”
With Arrow McLaren SP’s cars ready to begin testing with their new liveries next week at Circuit of The Americas, the team’s fans will get to see the rest of Dibley’s work as the crew members and support equipment comes into view.
“We’re also really excited because, and all credit to Simon here, that integrated look is something he’s pulled across with all of the right touchpoints from the race team kit to the hospitality to the garage,” McEwen said.
“The car is the star obviously, but then processing the design over the other areas, it’s been fun.”