Lewis Hamilton is in the news again! Well, when you are a 7-times Formula One World Champion, being in the headlines is just another regular day. But this one’s special, as it is for a good cause. The reigning F1 leader’s McLaren MP4-25A from the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix was sold for a whopping $6.6 million at an RM Sotheby’s auction this weekend.
The auction amount almost broke the benchmark of Michael Schumacher’s 2001 Ferrari F2001 that collected $7.5 million in 2017. However, none of them comes close to the highest price ever paid for an F1 car. Juan Manual Fangio’s Mercedes-Benz from the 1954 season is the current titleholder, selling for almost $30 million back in 2013.
The auction for Hamilton’s first F1 car was held during the 2021 British Grand Prix this weekend at the British racer’s home track, Silverstone Circuit, in front of nearly 140,000 race enthusiasts. The MP4-25 was driven by both Hamilton and his teammate, Jenson Button, during the 2010 F1 World Championship days. The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car also clocked its best finish during the season at the Turkish Grand Prix with Sir Hamilton behind its wheels.
BTW, the period is also kind of nostalgic for Indian F1 fans as the Force India F1 owned by Vijay Mallya used to make rounds of the F1 circuits in those days. The Indian businessman bought the racing team in October 2007 for €88 million after the predecessors, Spyker F1, failed to succeed with their team.
In October 2011, the team was renamed Sahara Force India, when Indian company Sahara India Pariwar purchased 42.5% of the team’s shares for $100 million. Meanwhile, Mallya retained 42.5%, and the remaining 15% belonged to the Mol family.
Force India achieved a tremendous amount of success across its 10 and a half years in F1, achieving a pole position at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, six podium finishes and also finishing fourth in the Constructors’ Championships in both 2016 and 2017.
Guess who the driver was? None other than current RBR racer, Sergio Pérez accompanied by German racer Nico Hülkenberg in the 2016 season and current Alpine promising talent, Esteban Ocon in the 2017 season.
However, with Vijay Mallya facing financial and legal troubles, the Silverstone-based team was put into administration by the High Court in London during the 2018 season in August, when the F1 company failed to pay its debts.
The team later made a late re-entry into F1 circuits in the 2018 Formula One World Championship as Racing Point Force India Formula One Team when Racing Point UK bought the assets from its previous Indian owners. Guess the new owner! Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll led a consortium to acquire Force India with a reported investment of £182 million.
The new administration participated with the Racing Point Force India banner for the remainder of the 2018 season before renaming the team Racing Point F1 in the 2019 season. The same team has been rebranded to Aston Martin for the current 2021 Formula One season, following Stroll’s $235million buyout of the AM brand.
Thanks to the preceding events, the British classic name marked its return to the F1 Championship in 2021 after 6 decades, with AM’s first appearance in F1 dating back to its two-year run in 1959 and 1960.
So moral of the story, the world is much smaller than you think, my friend. You just need to connect the dots.
Alright, enough of the detour, let’s get back to Lewis Hamilton and his 2010 Turkish GP ride, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-25. The race car happens to be the first-ever Hamilton ridden F1 chassis sold in an auction. So it’s just the beginning, no wonder if we see a two-digit number before that million-dollar sign in the future.
The MP4-25 was originally developed by McLaren Racing’s Heritage team with McLaren and Mercedes technicians on hand for full support. After the 2010 season, the race car was put into storage at McLaren, however, it underwent a restoration in 2019.
The reconditioning work was also performed by McLaren’s heritage department and included a complete teardown of the car. All the safety-critical items were thoroughly inspected, tested, and replaced as needed during the process. The engine was also sent over to its original supplier, Mercedes, to have it brought back to factory standard. No wonder the MP4-25 was roaring like a brand new race car at the Silverstone circuit during the auction.
Even better actually, as the McLaren chassis packs in a 2.4-litre Mercedes-Benz FO 108X V8 engine, compared to the current V6 engines the F1 teams use now. McLaren claimed the race car can still be used for track driving, though warned that even a decade-old F1 car is likely far too much for most drivers to handle.
The restored vehicle demonstrated its full capabilities while doing laps at Silverstone with McLaren test driver Rob Garofall behind the wheels. The crowd surely had a day to remember during the 2021 British Grand Prix.
Interestingly, this particular McLaren F1 car has a history beyond the 2010 Turkish GP and was notable for introducing the infamous “F-duct.” Named for the positioning of an outlet near the letter “f” in sponsor Vodafone’s name, the duct was activated by the driver covering up a small hole with his leg. This redirected airflow, reducing aerodynamic drag and adding up to 6 mph on straights, according to the listing.
The F-duct was briefly a must-have feature in F1, allowing teams to keep downforce-generating aerodynamic appendages for corners while eliminating some of the drag penalty on straights. Most teams introduced their own versions, but the system was eventually banned.
The auctioned race car was instrumental in helping the McLaren team to grab the second spot in Constructor Standings during the 2010 season. It also helped Hamilton to take the second position in that season’s Chinese Grand Prix. Jenson Button used the same MP4-25 in the same season’s final race, where he finished third.
However, the MP4-25 also represents the end of an era for McLaren. The British team began a decline after the 2010 season, in part because it had to play second fiddle to the Mercedes factory team. Hamilton joined Mercedes for the 2013 season, and has now won six of his seven championships with them.
But the 2021 season is proving to be quite promising for McLaren with a return of Mercedes powertrain inside its MCL35M, after the unsatisfactory partnerships with Honda and Renault for power units during previous seasons.
Commenting about the car’s auction, Shelby Myers, RM Sotheby’s car specialist and global head of private sales, said that Lewis Hamilton’s achievements in the Formula One are so remarkable that they may never be bettered, and so cars with which he is associated are likely to be the most coveted in the decades to come.