Mercedes-AMG has consistently been among the best engines in Formula One since it re-joined way back in 1994. Partnered with McLaren the engine powered drivers’ championships in 1998, 1999, 2008, and again in 2009 when it fortuitously supplied engines to champions Brawn GP. In 2010 the famed Silver Arrows were back on the grid when the three pointed star purchased Brawn and began building an empire. Since the dawn of the turbo hybrid era, Mercedes has built the best car and employed the best drivers on the grid by a wide margin, winning eight constructors championships and seven drivers championships in eight seasons.
Through the tumultuous course of the 2020 season — the only black F1 champion in history, and recipient of over a decade of racist vitriol within the sport — Lewis Hamilton made an anti-racism campaign his purpose. With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hamilton became a vocal push toward change within the F1 paddock. Thankfully his Mercedes team backed him every step of the way and a small but very visible part of that was the change from the team’s traditional silver livery to an inverted black-over-silver look.
In November of last year team boss Toto Wolff confirmed that the black livery would stick around for the 2021 season after a successful 2020 campaign.
“Yes, we will also be driving in black in 2021. The black looks great. There will be a lot of new rules in 2022, but we want to remember our heritage with the silver arrows. But the subject of anti-racism remains very important to us,” Wolff said then.
This seemed at the time to at least imply that the team would be swapping back to its typical silver livery for the new ruleset in 2022. The return to livery form for Mercedes-AMG was first “confirmed” by Bild.de, but without so much as a quote to back up its assumptions. Maybe they’re right and they’ve seen the silver arrow in question themselves, or maybe they’re just trying to stir up shit in an off season where the driver hires and team changes have already been sorted.
Maybe it’s just my brain working overtime in the absence of any real on-track action during this off-season, but in the above video when the Merc team is firing up the new 2022 chassis for the first time, I swear I’ve convinced myself that there is some silver to be seen. There seem to be some hints of silver on the car’s rear end when the starter button is pushed, and perhaps a bit of a livery on the cell phone when the team facetimes with Wolff for the event. Maybe I’m looking too much into this.
I know that having a black livery does about as much for raising awareness of anti-racist efforts as wearing a ribbon does for curing cancer, but it’s all symbolic, and while I don’t know him personally, it all seemed incredibly important to Hamilton. The 7-time world champion has launched a program called The Hamilton Commission aiming to improve diversity in motorsport, and particularly in Formula One, with half of the funding for the project coming from Mercedes-AMG itself. Across 2020 and 2021 it seemed that Formula One itself was doing very little with its “We Race As One” initiative beyond empty platitudes, so we’ll see in the coming years whether that actually goes anywhere or if it is pushed into the graveyard.
With this return to silver livery, some — including myself — wonder if perhaps it is a sign that Lewis Hamilton has indeed decided to walk away from F1 after the frankly bullshit way his 2021 season ended. I certainly would not blame him. The recently knighted Sir Hamilton has been on something of a social media hiatus since the end of the season earlier this month. Perhaps he’s looking for ways to shift his focus away from motorsport and on to more humanitarian purposes more befitting his new Knight of the British Empire title.
Or maybe this is nothing and the world of F1 reporting is boring right now, so everyone, myself included, is just trying to stir up some shit to talk about.