“Any colour so long as it’s red” seems to be the mantra for 2006 F1 car liveries. Or at least there’s a distinct shift into red territory.

That’s a good thing if you’re McLaren, who cunningly disguised this year’s MP4/21 in the Midland colour scheme so that it’s less embarrassing when it breaks down – but a bad thing if you’re a viewer and have to depend on either your own eyes or James Allen to follow what’s going on.

There’s Midland in red, black and grey, McLaren in red, black and chrome, Ferrari sticking with red and Honda in a surprisingly BAR-biased red, white and black livery. Then of course there’s Toyota in red and white and Super Aguri in white and red.

Toyota’s livery is, as ever, a raggedly ugly scheme that looks like someone’s just flung a bucket of ketchup at it. If I was a team member I’d be really tempted to sneak into the garages at night with a tiny touch-up brush and sort it out…

Classic liveries though are few and far between. Truly memorable ones become benchmarks of cool branding – JPS Lotus, Martini Brabham, Marlboro McLaren, the gold Warsteiner Arrows, Wolf, and a handful of others.

Mostly though, in trying to stand out, liveries often just become garish or confused: witness cars like the early Benettons – a patchwork of wildly nauseating colours that just flew round the track like extremely quick Noel Edmonds knitwear.

The only recent livery that I could count as an instant classic is BAR’s 2004 Chinese GP Friday testcar: a deep midnight blue drenched in a milky way of stars and huge golden 555 logos. Not so much a livery as the world’s fastest piece of fine art.

BAR (as they were then) did a number of special Friday designs to mess with their branding and it’ll be very a very welcome sight if Honda retain that sense of playfulness this year.

And make it less red while they’re at it…