Revealed: Top 10 most expensive F1 cars ever to be sold at auction
Got a few spare million in the bank? Then you might consider adding a very special F1 item to your garage, but it’s going to cost you.
For 99% of the occupants of the planet, driving an F1 car is a distant reality but an even lower number could ever consider owning them.
But, as more and more go to auction, more collectors are being given the chance to own some of finest cars ever made.
Many of the cars have been sold by Sotheby’s and a spokesperson for the auctioneers told PlanetF1.com there had been a huge rise in interest in recent years.
“The market for modern era Formula 1 cars has seen a huge rise in interest from collectors in recent years, and that has translated into a significant increase in the prices the cars now command,” marketing and communications director Peter Haynes said.
“There is more money in the market now, so these cars which are incredibly sophisticated and expensive to maintain – are being bought by collectors who have the resources to look after and maintain them.
“Manufacturers like Ferrari, McLaren and Williams, have all created dedicated divisions of their businesses that offer clients the facilities and technical support necessary to look after the cars.
“There’s no question that Ferrari and McLaren F1 cars lead the way in desirability and those driven by Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna are the most desired.
“The value is also dependent on how many races the car has won and whether that was in a year in which the team or driver won the Championship.
“It’s a heavily nuanced market so values vary widely, but there is no doubt that the car of the 80s, 90s and post-2000 are all in the ascendency.”
With that in mind, here are the 10 most expensive F1 cars ever to go under the hammer:
10.) 1991 Jordan 191 – sold for £1.25m in 2021
The first car on our list played a significant role for a man who dominates the rest of this top 10.
Michael Schumacher made his F1 debut in the 191 in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix when he stepped in for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot in the Jordan team, and talk was already about the bright young talent.
He put the car in P7 in his first ever qualifying session but his Sunday was cut short when he was forced to retire with a clutch problem on the opening lap.
Much to Eddie Jordan’s chagrin, that would prove to be Schumacher’s only outing for the team as he lined up for Benetton at the following race.
The car was sold last year by Speedmaster Cars for £1.25 million.
9.) 1982 Ferrari 126 C2 – sold for £1.54m in 2019
The first Ferrari on this list is the sole survivor of the original run of seven 126 C2s which featured in the 1982 season.
This chassis achieved one victory in the hands of Patrick Tambay at the 1982 German Grand Prix but was also driven by Mario Andretti on his way to pole position and a podium at the Italian Grand Prix.
But overall, it was not a good year for the Scuderia. Finishing P5 in the Constructors’ and 61 points off of winners McLaren at a time when it was nine points for winning the race.
It is the rarity of models left that made this one valuable having been owned by renowned Ferrari collectors Jacques Setton and Michael Willms before its sale by Sotheby’s in 2019.
8.) 1992 Williams-Renault FW14B – sold for £2.7m in 2019
One of the finest cars ever designed by one of the finest minds in Formula 1 history, Adrian Newey.
This particular chassis, NoFW14/08, was driven by Nigel Mansell in the first five races of the 1992 season and he took pole position and victory in each one. He would go on to end the campaign as World Champion, the only title in the career of the famously moustached man.
He would swap the chassis halfway through the season with his team-mate Riccardo Patrese taking it from the British Grand Prix onwards.
The distinctive blue and yellow became an iconic memory of F1 history and was given a recent outing by Sebastian Vettel ahead of the British Grand Prix, this time running on carbon-neutral fuel.
The NoFW14/08 was sold at the 2019 Bonhams Festival of Speed at Goodwood and went to a buyer described as a “renowned private collector” for £2.703 million.
7.) 1993 McLaren MP4/8A – sold for £3.6m in 2018
The only car driven by Ayrton Senna to feature on this top 10 list is one of the most iconic ones from the legendary Brazilian’s career.
With the distinct red and white colour scheme, a variation of McLaren’s usual choice of papaya, in line with a sponsorship from Marlboro cigarettes, Senna would win five races that year but miss out on the title to his arch rival Alain Prost.
It was also the final full season driven by the Brazilian with his tragic death occurring as a result of the crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
This chassis, No. MP4/8-6, was driven during Senna’s record-breaking sixth victory at Monaco, a tally that has yet to be beaten.
It sold for €4,197,500 at the ‘Les Grandes Marques à Monaco’ by Bonhams in 2018.
6.) 2010 McLaren MP4-25A – sold for £4.8m in 2021
The most modern of all the cars on this list, this version of the MP4-25A did not join its predecessors on the boulevard of the McLaren Technology Centre and was sold at auction in 2021.
It was the car built for the 2010 season and this particular chassis (25A-01) was the first off the production line. It would be driven by both Hamilton and Jenson Button meaning that it shared the unique accolade of having been driven by two World Champions.
Hamilton also drove it wheel-to-wheel with Schumacher in the Chinese Grand Prix as the two most successful drivers in F1 history went to battle.
Before its sale, McLaren Racing Heritage and Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains presented it in ready-to-drive condition and it was sold by Sotheby’s for F4.8 million in 2021.
5.) 2002 Ferrari F2002 – sold for £5m in 2019
Just as the RB18 was in 2022, the F2002 was a phenomenal car when it came to the most important metric, wins.
It took 15 wins, 11 pole positions and 15 fastest laps from 19 races and this particular chassis was driven to victory at the San Marino, Austrian and French GPs by Schumacher.
The German would end the 2002 campaign as World Champion, drawing him level with Juan Michael Fangio as the driver with the most title wins in history. It sold for $6,643,750 at a Sotheby’s auction in Abu Dhabi.
4.) 1998 Ferrari F300 – sold for £5.3m in 2022
Unlike many other cars on this list, the F300 was not a Championship-winning machine but did guide Michael Schumacher to a second place finish behind Mika Hakkinen in what was his second season with Ferrari.
The 1998 campaign was another one in which Ferrari spent lagging behind Hakkinen and McLaren but the F300 was to serve as a base for the years of success that Ferrari was soon to enjoy.
What made this particular chassis special was that it never lost a race with Schumacher having been victorious in all four grands prix that he took part in with this particular model. Those four races were the Canadian, British, French and Italian GPs.
It remains the only Ferrari Formula 1 chassis to run at least three races and achieve victory in every single race entered. It earned $6,220,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in Monterey, California.
3.) 2001 Ferrari F2001 – sold for £5.5m in 2017
With a team of Rory Byrne, Ignazio Lunetta, Aldo Costa, Marco Fainello, Nikolas Tombazis, James Allison and Ross Brawn behind it, the F2001 became one of the most successful cars in Ferrari’s illustrious history.
Michael Schumacher guided it to nine race victories in the 2001 season as he successfully defended his Drivers’ Championship. It was a year that saw him draw level with Alain Prost on four World titles, behind only Juan Manuel Fangio.
This particular chassis was used during Schumacher’s victories at the Hungarian and Monaco GPs.
Sold by Sotheby’s in New York in 2017, it fetched $7,504,000.
2.) 2003 Ferrari F2003 – sold for £10.7m in 2022
The most recent addition to this list came in November 2022 when Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari F2003 fetched £10.7 million at an auction in Switzerland.
The chassis 229 was driven to seven race victories during Schumacher’s title winning 2003 season and was one of just four Schumacher-era Ferrari Formula 1 chassis with five wins or more in a World Championship winning season.
It was put on auction in Geneva by Sotheby’s and fetched 13 million Swiss francs ($13.2 million) from a telephone bidder. It also beat the previous best for a Schumacher car which was the F2001.
The F2003 remains the most expensive modern F1 car ever to be sold.
1.) 1954 Mercedes W196R – sold for £19.6m in 2013
A record that is unlikely to be broken any time soon. The W196R was driven by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and was the car he drove when he took the second of his five F1 titles in 1954.
The #6 chassis won in Germany and Switzerland before being driven by Hans Hermann to P4 in Italy.
Not only was it an astounding piece of machinery but it was also the start of a new age with Mercedes making their first entry into Formula 1. 60 years after Fangio’s ’54 win, Mercedes won their third Drivers’ World Championship, this time piloted by Hamilton.
It became the most expensive F1 car ever sold when it was auctioned by Bonhams in July 2013 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, fetching £19,601,500. Not only that, it is also the fifth most expensive car ever sold.