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The Hidden Optical Illusion In the Formula 1 Logo Is Tearing us Apart

How much of our world is true to reality, and how much is an interpretation formed by our own beliefs and prejudices?

Jim Weeks

Jim Weeks

Yesterday, Motherboard's UK editor Ben Sullivan sent myself and VICE Sports UK staff writer Will Magee an email. Ben sits roughly five metres from us in the UK office so I'm not sure why he didn't just shout down the desk, or walk those five metres, but that's beside the point. All communication is good.

Titled "mind blown", Ben's email contained a link to a Reddit page concerning the Formula 1 logo, which is displayed below:

What do you see when you look at this logo? Do you see a black F and a swooshy red 1? Most people do. Ben saw it. I see it. Our food channel, Munchies, see it. If you see it too, you're in the majority. That's fine, because clearly the logo does show a black F and what looks like a swooshy red 1.

However, the Reddit page title is instructive: "The red part in the Formula 1 logo is not the '1'." Fix your gaze between the black and red areas and another, more traditional 1 appears. Can you see it? Keep looking and… yes! It's a bit like a magic eye puzzle for people who can't do magic eye puzzles.

If you can't see it, you're not alone – many people are wholly unaware of this additional 1. There are those who have watched F1 for years and not noticed it. 1996 world champion Damon Hill has literally no idea that it's there*, hiding in plain sight. So, if you spotted it immediately, well done.

Damon pictured looking for the magic 1, possibly // PA Images

However, VICE Sports UK staff writer Will Magee can only see the black F and the 'magic 1' next to it. He can not see the red 1; to Will, this is merely a colourful swooshy shape meant to convey the speed that grand prix racing is famous for, and nothing else.

Perhaps warming to his new role as a sports logo truther, Will contends that the red area looks literally nothing like any 1 he has ever seen and grows angry at our insistence that it sort of does, actually. Even when confronted with several of his peers who see F1 written twice, he considers the black F and the 1 immediately next to it to be the only truth. Everything else is blasphemy.

I believe there to be multiple truths. Obviously the red 1 isn't a standard presentation of the number, but it is sufficiently similar that, when you know you're looking at the Formula 1 logo, your brain interprets it thus.

Warming to my new role as a pseudo philosopher, I would suggest that we do not see what is really there, but rather what we believe we should be seeing. Which begs the question: how much of our world is true to reality, and how much is an interpretation formed by our personal beliefs and prejudices? What even is 'reality'? Ultimately, the freedom to shape our own world is something that everyone has a right to.

Except for Will, who I truly believe is just trying to wind me up.

*While this may very well be true we do not actually know it for a fact.

@Jim_Weeks