Lewis Hamilton F1 race-winning McLaren for sale in auction first


For the first time, one of Lewis Hamilton's Formula 1 cars — a 2010 race-winning McLaren — is being auctioned. How far could the bidding war go? asks Andrew Frankel

Lewis Hamilton McLaren MP4-25 for auction front tq

Lewis Hamilton's 2010 race-winning car has a guide price of $5-7million

Motorsport Images via RM Sotheby's

Formula 1 teams really don’t like selling off their cars. I can remember once being shown around a Williams warehouse stacked to the rafters with old F1 cars, some 20 years older or more. Why not move them on I asked. Because, I was told, they don’t want them falling into the wrong hands and revealing hidden technologies that might, even decades later, be of use to a rival team.

I think there’s another reason too. I don’t think it does the mystique of a Formula 1 team any good to have its old soldiers running around in public. And what if they’re not properly maintained and look shabby? What if someone gets one running and then hurts themself in it? What if it’s perfectly prepared for racing but still just crawls around at the back because its wealthy owner isn’t a very good driver? Rightly or wrongly, none of it reflects well on the brand. So the cars stay on their racks.

Usually. Just occasionally however one or two slip their bonds and find their way out of captivity. This can happen for a number of reasons, but it’s almost always done extremely quietly, absolutely in private and sometimes with terms attached dictating how the car can be used. The chance of a modern, race-winning Formula 1 car coming to auction is rare indeed.

How rare? Well Lewis Hamilton is in his 15th season of Formula 1 and not once in that time has any of the dozens of cars he’s driven come onto the market, be it a race-winning chassis or not.

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Until now. On the Saturday of the British Grand Prix weekend, just before the inaugural Sprint Qualifying Race, a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 will be sold as a one lot auction by RM Sotheby’s. What’s more the soundtrack to the auction will be provided live by the 2.4-litre, 800bhp V8 engine at 18,000rpm as the car is hurled around Silverstone by some presumably extremely trusted McLaren driver. My understanding is that the vendor is not McLaren but an individual who acquired the car some time ago. And this car, the first MP25 chassis, is a genuine race winner too, taking Lewis to victory in the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix.

The Paddy Lowe and Tim Goss designed MP4-25 was also the first McLaren of the era designed independently of Mercedes-Benz, as following the latter’s purchase of Brawn GP, McLaren had been demoted to the role of customer team. But it was still a successful car, successful in terms the modern McLaren would simply love to have today. Jenson Button took its first wins in Australia and China which Lewis followed with back to back victories in Turkey and Canada with a final win at Spa. It was enough to keep the Constructors Title alive until the very last race of the season, scoring 454 points to Red Bull’s 498.

So how much is a car such as this likely to fetch? I think it is almost impossible to say. In a market where supply is one and demand unknown almost anything could happen. If there’s only one bidder it could fail to meet its reserve, but if two wealthy private individuals get into a bidding war and neither wishes to back down, who knows how far it could go?

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My every understanding of people in that financial bracket is not that they buy things because they are expensive per se, but that they are things other equally wealthy individuals cannot have for any amount of money. And as this is the only Lewis GP winner to come up for sale in a decade and a half, who knows how long it might be before they are afforded another such opportunity again? But, for what it may be worth, RM Sotheby’s have issued a guide of between $5-7 million (£3.5-4.9 million) which sounds like plenty, but is small beer indeed compared to the $48,405,000 someone paid for a Ferrari 250 GTO at RM’s Monterey sale in 2018.

As for the live show, I think it is a brilliant idea to have the car screaming around the track as the auction takes place, it will certainly add to the atmosphere in the room and heighten the sense of anticipation. But it is also a brave one. Certainly the staff of RM Sotheby’s and McLaren will stay missile-locked on the sound of that engine, waiting for any tell-tale stutter – or worse – in its voice. They will be barely able to breathe. But I know the car will have been prepared to within an inch of its life by McLaren itself, so I expect RM’s audacity will be rewarded.