If the measure of a Formula 1 driver’s worth is reflected by the value of one of his used race cars, then Lewis Hamilton slots in front of Michael Schumacher, but remains a world away from Juan Manuel Fangio.
At an RM Sotheby’s auction during the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend, the British driver’s 2013 Mercedes No. 4 — the first Mercedes in which Hamilton won a grand prix — sold for $18.8 million, more than Schumacher’s 2003-season Ferrari did last year.
The final bid, placed by an unidentified buyer, well exceeded the auction house’s estimated price for the car, which was between $10 million and $15 million. The car, chassis W04, still wears the livery it did that season, a silver and green number adorned with sponsor graphics. Its beating heart is a 2.4-liter V-8 motor; the following year, regulations mandated that all teams switch over to a hybrid-assisted 1.6-liter V-6, which powers F1 cars to this day.
Hamilton’s win, which came at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the tenth race of the 2013 season, occurred during his inaugural year for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team. Following the Hungarian GP, Hamilton used that same car to grab four more podium finishes that same season.
While Hamilton only placed fourth in the drivers’ championship in 2013, he eventually went on to win six drivers’ championship titles with Mercedes, giving him seven in total (one with McLaren), tying Schumacher.
Schumacher’s 2003-season Ferrari F2003 sold last year for $14.9 million. But one would have to pony up another boatload of cash to eclipse the bid on Fangio’s silver Mercedes-Benz W196. In the mid-1950s it won nine of the 12 races in which it was entered, and two world championships. It sold in 2013 for an indelible $29.6 million.