British warships inspire Red Bull's new F1 design

In an effort to stop rivals stealing its design, Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s 2015 challenger takes an idea from World War I.

Here's a question: what does Red Bull's latest F1 car and war ship camouflage from 1919 have in common? The answer – wait for it - is a zebra.

The new car, unveiled recently at the pre-season test session at Spain's Circuito de Jerez, looks, at first glance, rather messy and off-brand. Previously the team generally stuck to Red Bull's signature colours and hues.

The new machine is adorned with a monochromatic, and frankly chaotic, livery. And there may well be method in this apparent madness.

Dazzle design breaks up hard edges and makes seeing detail difficult

Dazzle and save dollars

F1, despite its high-tech pretentious, isn't above one of humanity's earliest and lowest tricks: spying.

When a new car rolls out its garage for the first time, rival teams gaze on its fins, finials, and foils, hoping to pinch design ideas they can deploy to make their cars faster.

Red Bull, it appears, has looked to protect its aerodynamic tricks by pinching an idea used by British warships in 1914. Back then a British zoologist – John Graham Kerr – penned a letter to Churchill where he explained how camouflage could be used to confuse and not conceal.

A lot of engineering effort goes into making F1 cars fast and, it appears, a lot of design is helping to keep those ideas safe

Can you see me?

Dubbed Dazzle Camouflage, the deceptive design looks to break up an outline's regularity by using strongly contrasting shapes. Think of a zebra, giraffe or jaguar. They look conspicuous in a museum but when darting across the savanna, they're difficult to pick up.

Dazzle, when daubed over ships, made it very difficult to work out the direction, speed and size of a ship. And, as such, it confused visual range finders.

Words: Martin Cooper