ARTICLE BY Minh Vuong

What if Nike Air Max Sneakers Had Classic Formula 1 Liveries?

Sneaker Freaker Nike Air Max 95 Benetton B188

Motorsports and sneakers are already pretty closely intertwined, especially in the Formula 1 world, with the industries sharing technology and sportswear companies sponsoring racing teams. However, beyond licensed fan merch in the form of underwhelming rebadged shoes, F1 footwear has yet to take pole position in the sneakersphere. So, in light of the new GP season having just kicked off, here are some Nike Air Max (Verstappen) executions inspired by classic liveries that probably would get sneakerheads racing to cop – if they actually existed.

Sneaker Freaker Nike Air Max 1 McLaren MP4/5

Nike Air Max 1 ‘McLaren MP4/5’

The McLaren MP4/5 had a fantastic 1989 and 1990, winning both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships with Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Gerhard Berger at the wheel. The 1989 season was the first year turbocharged engines were banned, so naturally aspirated F1 cars were the go, meaning efficient air intake was vital for performance. Guess what else harnessed the power of air a couple of years prior? Yep, the Nike Air Max 1. McLaren’s simple red, black and white colour-blocking translates easily onto the iconic Swoosh sneaker, with plenty of room for sponsor logos and a Senna decal – the late Brazilian was a certified Air Max fan.

Sneaker Freaker Nike Air Max 95 Benetton B188

Nike Air Max 95 ‘Benetton B188’

On the sneaker side of things, the Benetton family may be best known for their eponymous fashion brand, but they also dabbled in F1 throughout the mid 1980s to early 2000s. The Benetton B188 was used throughout the 1988 season and some of 1989, briefly facing the aforementioned McLaren MP4/5 in the latter year. If the B188 was a sneaker, it’d be the Air Max 95, whereby the model’s distinct layered uppers can really express the ‘united colours’ of Benetton. Plenty of panels also means sponsor logos galore – a bit of a change from the relatively unbranded OG 95s.

Sneaker Freaker Nike Air Max 97 Ferrari 641

Nike Air Max 97 ‘Ferrari 641’

The Ferrari team poached Alain Prost from McLaren in 1990, teaming up with Nigel Mansell to snag six victories during the season in the 641 (AKA F1-90). Given the Italian cultural connection, the Air Max 97 is the perfect sneaker to express the prancing horse’s vehicle for the hot-blooded rivalry Prost had with his ex-teammate Senna. Less really is more for this sleek sneaker with its all-red uppers, tonal Air sole and splattered black midsole. Swap Swooshes for Ferrari logos and call it a day. And besides, red cars go faster; so red sneakers must too.

Sneaker Freaker Nike Air Stab Williams FW14B

Nike Air Stab ‘Williams FW14B’

Of the teams featured here, Canon Williams actually did have some official sneakers for pit crew, but these Air Stabs modelled after the FW14B won the 1992 season would be a killer pair. Led to victory by Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese, perhaps it was the car’s stability that handled the former’s intense driving style – something the Air Stab also delivered to runners. In 2020, Sebastian Vettel actually bought the very chassis Mansell drove to clinch the championship! Too bad the German (nor anyone else) can’t wear these fictional Stabs – unless a keen customiser whips up a pair for pit lane use.

Want more mockups? Check out the fictional sneakers the very real cast of Tiger King would wear.

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