Formula One Ferrari.
Formula One Ferrari.
Image: Supplied

By the time you read this, another race-winning Formula One Ferrari driven by Michael Schumacher will have found a happy new billionaire owner. The seven-time world champion’s 2002 F1 car was auctioned at Sotheby’s Sealed auction, which ran from 16-19 August in Monterey, US, and would likely have sold for several million dollars.

Chassis 215 of the Ferrari F2001-B carried the German to victory in the season-opening 2002 Australian Grand Prix, providing the foundation for a fifth championship that drew him level with previous record holder Juan Manuel Fangio. Two weeks later, at the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, chassis 215 captured the 150th pole position in Ferrari’s F1 history, with Schumacher battling from 21st position to third in the race.

The car’s public offering presented a rare opportunity to acquire a racing car of historic significance. Old racing cars are getting ever more popular in the niche world of high-end car collecting and Ferraris raced by Schumacher are automotive unicorns. In November last year, Schumacher’s 2003 championship-winning Ferrari F2003-GA sold for US$14.8-million (R263-million) at an RM Sotheby’s collector-car auction in Geneva, making it the most valuable modern F1 car in history.

The previous record was held by another Schumacher Ferrari — the F2001 in which he won his fourth F1 world championship — which was sold at a New York Sotheby’s auction for US$7.5-million (R139-million) in 2017. “These cars used to be really difficult to sell, and people were scared off by them,” says Andrew Olson, a specialist at RM Sotheby’s. “Now, people are recognising their historic importance and their racing history, and their significance is finally being appreciated.”

For collectors who already have the obligatory Ferrari F40 and Mercedes-Benz gullwing parked in their garage, a classic race car is the next must-have. Instead of these vintage racers gathering dust in museums or private garages, it’s not uncommon for people who own old F1 cars to drive them on the track, says Olson.

The more illustrious the provenance, the higher the price. In May a buyer shelled out €12-million (R243-million) for a 51-year-old Ferrari 312 PB at an RM Sotheby’s auction in Italy. The Ferrari “P” series of racing cars from 1963 to 1973 produced some of the most famous achievements in the Italian stable’s racing history. Among these were back-to-back victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1963 and 1964 and the famous 1-2-3 finish at the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona, which led to Ferrari’s triumph over Ford in the world championship that year.

Instead of these vintage racers gathering dust in museums or private garages, it’s not uncommon for people who own old F1 cars to drive them on the track

Other old F1 cars to fetch sky-high auction prices recently include Lewis Hamilton’s 2010 McLaren MP4-25, which sold for £4.73-million (R110-million) in 2021, and Ayrton Senna’s 1993 McLaren MP4/8A, which took £3.6-million (R85-million) in 2018.

Values of both racing and street- legal classic cars have soared again after a brief pause in early 2020 owing to the pandemic, according to Hagerty, a leading provider of specialty insurance for classic vehicles. Ferraris tend to top the charts at many classic-car auctions, but the car that has achieved the highest price to date is from Germany. In May 2022, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé racing car — one of only two ever built — was sold for a world-record US$142-million (R2.6-billion). Read that again: two-point-six-billion rand!

The car had been in Mercedes’s possession since being built and it had been assumed that the German firm would never part with one of the crown jewels in its company collection, considered the “Mona Lisa” of cars because of its rarity and racing pedigree.

• From the September edition of Wanted, 2023.

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