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What happens to old F1 cars?

Have you ever wondered how it is that former F1 cars end up being driven at events like the Red Bull Ring Classics? We explain.
Start of the race in the boss GP

Anyone who attended the Red Bull Ring Classics in person last year had the pleasure of seeing the STR3 in action: the vehicle in which Sebastian Vettel secured his first ever Formula 1 victory at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix was in the line-up for the BOSS GP. But other legendary models on the grid such as the Ferrari Sharknose got fans equally excited. So, how is it that such cars come out of retirement to make a comeback at historic race events?

The fact is that an F1 car becomes obsolete at the end of the season. Back at the factory, it is decided which parts are need to be kept in reserve for future developments and which are no longer required. Some racing outfits exhibit their cars in a museum (e.g. Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart). Sponsors also have the opportunity to acquire a redundant F1 car as an exhibit. This type of show car consists only of the chassis minus the drive train. They are therefore no longer driveable and do not feature in show runs.

Only rarely does a historic gem make it onto the market via the factory, a reputable dealer or an auction house. From there, they may end up in the hands of private owners for whom they generally represent the crowning glory of an existing collection. In theory, old F1 cars are still capable of putting in a few laps, but in practice, only a handful of these incredibly fascinating vehicles are actually risked in a competitive event.

The reasons are obvious:

  • Repairs are time-consuming and costly
  • Spare parts are difficult or impossible to obtain
  • The value of the cars is in the millions
Red Bull Ring Classics - the event for every true historic fan

It is difficult to put a price tag on a historic vehicle; the figure depends on a variety of factors including age, history and condition. The record for the most expensive F1 car is held by the W196 in which Juan Manuel Fangio became world champion in 1954. In 2018, it was sold at a Bonhams auction for 29.7 million dollars. The second and third most expensive F1 cars were two Ferraris driven by Michael Schumacher: Sotheby’s auctioned an F2001 for 7.5 million dollars in 2017 and an F2002 for 6.6 million dollars in 2019.

This is exactly what makes an event such as the Red Bull Ring Classics so appealing. On the weekend of 7th – 9th June, you will have the rare opportunity to admire motorsport history up close and personal. Your ticket entitles you to wander through the garages and watch the team mechanics working on the cars.

Purchase your Red Bull Ring Classics ticket now!

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