Formula One, or F1, is the most popular auto-racing event in the world. It is the highest class of international racing for single-seater formula racing cars. Like many other popular and enduring sporting events, the F1 thrives from a vast audience and high-profile sponsorships.
F1 has thrilled millions of audiences from around the world since its inauguration in 1950. But have you ever wondered about its logo? Like many successful establishments and organizations, F1 has redesigned its logo a few times, which shows that it is evolving and changing to keep up with the modern world.
F1’s visual identity has been pretty much stable throughout its existence. The third logo stayed the longest in F1 until it was replaced only recently.
First logo (1985 – 1986)
The first official F1 logo appeared only 35 years after its inauguration due to the lack of unified regulation for Grand Prix races. Until 1980, local sports federations announced their rules for each race. Then, the organizers established a championship with a single set of rules, the FIA Formula One World Championship.
The first F1 logo consisted of a long horizontal rectangle with a wordmark and a circular emblem on its left. The color palette of the original logo is blue for the wordmark and gray for the emblem. Compared to the subsequent logos, the first logo had a fairly simple design. It lasted for only two years, to be replaced by a more distinct new logo in 1987.
Second logo (1987 – 1993)
The next F1 logo was introduced in 1987. Compared to the original logo, the second logo had a bolder and more attractive design. The wordmark was all black, and the inscriptions were arranged in four lines. The middle two lines were underlined with a thick yellow line. The “FIA” was crossed by a white silhouette of a racing car, giving an element of decoration and a continuation of the letters “F” and “A.”
Each lettering had the same bold type and the sans-serif lines, but of different sizes.
Third logo (1994 – 2017)
F1 redesigned its logo in 1993. The organizers decided to follow the path of simplification, and it turned out to be an excellent decision. The logo, designed by Carter Wong, was a stroke of genius. It became – and still is – the most enduring logo in F1’s history, as it lasted for almost 25 years.
The ingenious design was the main reason why the third logo became famous. Until now, it is ranked among the most creative logos ever designed. Ironically, though, most F1 fans have never actually paid enough attention to look at what’s involved in the design.
The color palette of this famous logo was black and red on a white background. The “F” was black and slightly tilted to the right to indicate determination and power. The red-colored element consisted of speed marks to symbolize speed, movement, and energy.
But what makes this logo incredibly iconic is the negative space between the black “F” and the red speed marks, forming the number “1” in the middle.
Fourth logo (2018 – present)
F1 retired its legendary third logo, which lasted for almost 25 years, in favor of the new design. The change was quite a surprise to the public, but there were perfectly logical reasons behind this. We have to go back to F1’s history – during the early 20th century and through the 1970s and 1980s, F1 wasn’t a global sport then, having been mainly restricted to Europe and South America.
But when Bernie Ecclestone took the helm of F1 in the 1990s, he wanted to make F1 a global sport and started doing so. By the end of the 20th century, F1 had become a worldwide business platform, and big-name companies from Coca-Cola to Mastercard started sponsoring the teams.
F1’s managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches maintained the organization’s decision for the logo change. “We are trying to re-position Formula One from a purely motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand with the heart and soul of a race car driver in the middle of it. I think your brand and your mark represents the spirit of where you’re going, it’s an identifier for consumers in terms of how they represent the company or the brand. The number of brands, particularly in this day and age, who are trying to simplify their mark to enter the digital space. If you look at Starbucks as an example, or Coca-Cola, which has taken the condensation off its logo to enter digital. We felt we had to go a little bit further to re-tool it to position us on a going forward basis.”
At the time, F1 needed a new logo that would represent the main ethics of this sport. In addition, the new logo would meet the requirements for easy circulation in the digital environment. The previous logo, while iconic, did not fit the stylized character “1,” which algorithms did not always identify as one.
The current logo consists of only three red lines. The straight line signifies the finish line. The two curved lines are cars that compete towards the finish line from around the corner. Together, these lines form “F1.” The design may be simple and minimalist, but powerful and modern. The curved lines are sleek, and the dynamics of the logo make it appear alive and energetic. The bright red is the right color because it evokes energy, speed, and passion. The most current F1 logo is stylish, up-to-date, and contemporary, looking great whatever it is placed on and celebrating the F1 race spirit.