One of the first things that a Formula One fan will notice when a new car is presented at the start of the season is the car’s livery. MERCEDES GP PETRONAS proudly carries the responsibility for making the first Silver Arrows cars raced in more than 50 years look as beautiful and elegant as possible. We talked exclusively to the team’s Head of Paint and Graphics, Andrew Moody to find out more about the fascinating challenges of being responsible of the painting process and his feelings about being a part of the next chapter of the Silver Arrows legend.
When your team is nicknamed the ‘Silver Arrows’ and representing the heritage of Mercedes-Benz motorsport history, being the person in charge of the painting process must be quite stressful. Every fan knows how the Silver Arrows were born… the legendary story of a white Mercedes-Benz W25 which proved to be too heavy by one kilo and was therefore scraped of its paint to reveal the shining silver aluminum underneath. The next day, the W25 won and the legend was born.
The first MERCEDES GP PETRONAS car, the MGP W01, was the first Silver Arrow to be raced since the 1950s. Andew recalls his feelings: “It was a bit surreal really. It all happened so quickly at the end of 2009 and the start of 2010 that we only started to realise the significance of what we were involved in quite late in the process.” Carrying the Silver Arrows legacy and being a part of the next chapter put a special weight on the Paint Shop’s shoulders but Andrew sees it as a good thing: “Everyone in the Paint Shop is very aware that we are representing the whole of the Mercedes-Benz group and our car is a visual representation of the brand. It does give us an added pressure, although this is a challenge that everyone in the Paint Shop relishes”.
And they are well used to dealing with challenges. Andrew says: “We work in an intensely challenging environment. Ever-decreasing time frames, partner requirements and engineering demands from the factory all put the pressure on.” The biggest challenge of all for Andrew’s team is probably what they called ‘repeatability’. Andrew explains: “The car can typically have around 25 different bodywork parts that all have to match each other. Applying a complicated airbrushed design is always a major challenge.”
Whilst the look of the car is critical, the Paint Shop has to monitor an essential parameter in the weight of the actual paint to meet exacting demands from the technical side. “Weight is our number one priority when it comes to painting the car with the look being a very close second. Weight is everything in Formula One and we put an enormous (but confidential!) effort into ensuring that the paint is as light as possible at all times.” Managing that consideration is quite a difficult process given that the Paint Shop will use approximately 30,000 litres of paint to brand the whole team in 2011.
With the new 2011 Silver Arrow, the MGP W02, due to make its debut on 1 February, Andrew and his team in the Paint Shop have been working on the livery for a few months now, both in Brackley and in Stuttgart. “At the concept stage, we receive a lot of input and assistance from our design colleagues at Mercedes-Benz in Germany but when it comes to the application, this is carried out solely by the eleven-strong Paint Shop crew in Brackley.”
“Creating a new livery can be quite a long and painful process”, admits Andrew. “It involves a lot of CGI work and practical tests to work through the various evolutions. These include paint trials, then filming and photographic shoots as there is always a trade-off between what looks best on film, and the naked eye.”
A long process indeed but we are now reaching the final straight with the MGP W02 and look forward to sharing our new design with our fans. “We have probably tested five different versions this year but we are now ready to apply the final livery to the first 2011 car.” The Silver Arrows legend lives on…