The car Lewis Hamilton drove to his first Formula One win for Mercedes sold for $18.8 million Nov. 17 at an RM Sotheby's auction in Las Vegas.
The sale, which saw a hammer price of $17.1 million plus a 10 per cent buyer's premium, took place in the Awakening Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel during the first-ever F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Set inside a round theater filled with a boisterous crowd that had been entertained by a dance performance and welcoming remarks by British comedian James Corden, it was the most money paid publicly for any modern F1 car to date. RM Sotheby's had initially estimated the car's value to be $10 million to $15 million.
Hamilton used the car to win the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2013. It's the only Mercedes F1 vehicle from the modern era not owned by Mercedes, by team principal and Chief Executive Officer Toto Wolff, or by Hamilton himself, according to the auction house. It was unclear at the time of the auction who owned the vehicle, known by its chassis No. W04.
Shelby Myers, the global head of private sales for RM Sotheby's, compared Hamilton's connection to the W04 to other memorable sports teams and star players in history. "It can only be compared to Jordan and the Bulls, Brady and the Patriots, or Messi and Argentina," he said.
The W04 joins a growing number of decommissioned race cars becoming popular among private collectors. In 2017, RM Sotheby's sold Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F2001 for $7.5 million. In 2022 another Schumacher Ferrari, a F2003-GA, sold for almost $15 million at an RM Sotheby's sale in Geneva, up till then the biggest public payment ever for a modern F1 car. A 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 driven by five-time F1 world champion Juan Manuel Fangio is the most expensive race car ever sold. It sold for $29.6 million at a Bonhams auction in 2013.
A spokesperson for RM Sotheby's declined to specify who purchased the vehicle.