However, despite the driving pedrigree of Villeneuve and Zonta, and the technical experience of Reynard Motorsports, the year was a disaster and a major disappointment for the team, especially after Adrian Reynard aimed to secure the pole position and race victory in its first race. The cars were usually quite competitive and looked like points-scoring contenders on several occasions (Villeneuve at one point, had briefly run third during the Spanish Grand Prix), but reliability was terrible, with Villeneuve alone failing to finish the first eleven races of the season. The end result was last in the constructors' championship with no points, behind much smaller teams such as Minardi, Arrows and Sauber.
Before the 1999 season had even started, BAR ran into trouble with the FIA. BAR wanted to have a different livery on each car, as their showcars did. Jacques Villeneuve's car was to display Lucky Strike branding and Ricardo Zonta's car to have 555 branding. The FIA's regulations state that both cars must have the same liveries, with only minor differences such as the car number, driver's nationality flag and name. A quick-fix design was created by having a dual livery where one side of the car had Lucky Strike branding and the other side had 555 branding. Both of these were cigarette brands owned by the team's parent company, British American Tobacco. The car's livery then had a "zip" up the centre which spread wide at the end of the nosecone to allow other sponsors not to be affected by the dual colour design. Their adverts were on a silver background. The rear wing was also compromised to stop the dual sectioning affecting the small space: 555 had the side facing forwards and Lucky Strike had the side facing backwards. This was passed by the FIA. It was only used for the 1999 season as BAR then solely used Lucky Strike branding. All mechanics' suits were also half Lucky Strike and half 555.