The ex-Hamilton Mercedes F1 car was used for 14 of the 19 races in the 2013 season.
Last weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, with all of its glamour and spectacle (with a few controversies thrown in for good measure) can be seen as the start of a new era for Formula 1 in America – the sport’s cashing in on years of audience growth in the region thanks to Drive to Survive on Netflix and a more global PR push.
The Vegas GP wasn’t just about the cars on track and the celebrities in pit-lane, mind you. There was also a series of high-profile auctions taking place simultaneously. And one of those auctions happened to set a unique new record for the sport.
Arguably the most interesting car to pop up for auction was a Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 car – specifically a W04 driven in the 2013 season by the most famous and successful driver of the current era, Lewis Hamilton, and the last of the 2.4-litre V8s.
Although Hamilton didn’t win a title in this car, he did help set the foundation for the incredibly dominant seasons that followed. Winning the Hungarian Grand Prix in this car and claiming four further podium finishes, Hamilton ended the season fourth in the standings.
Over the next seven seasons, he would win six world titles – interrupted only in 2016 via his memorable clash with teammate and eventual champion Nico Rosberg.
Despite not being a world championship car, there was still plenty of buzz around this particular AMG. Former Hamilton machinery rarely comes up for sale, particularly from the super star racer’s years at Mercedes.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive is now available to stream on Netflix.
When bidding finished and the gavel eventually dropped, this Mercedes earned the record as the most valuable sale price of any modern-era Formula 1 car sold at auction, and the second most valuable overall.
The record for a modern F1 sale had been held previously by a car that had championship-winning pedigree, the F2003-GA Ferrari driven by Michael Schumacher to his sixth series triumph. It sold last year for US$14.9m.
This Hamilton racer comfortably eclipsed that figure, selling for US$18.815m, or approximately $31.1m.
There’s a good reason why Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 cars are hard to come by. Apart from this one, all of the other chassis are owned by either Mercedes, Toto Wolff, or Hamilton himself. Those wanting to add one of those cars to their collection will need some incredibly convincing connections.
It still falls well short of the most valuable Formula 1 car of all-time; the Mercedes-Benz W196R that Juan Manuel Fangio drove to title glory in 1954 – his second championship victory out of five. It sold for US$29.6m some 10 years ago, meaning with inflation it would presumably be worth much more today.
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