Formula 1, or F1, is the highest class of single-seat racing on Earth, with race speeds often exceeding 200 miles per hour (322 kilometres per hour). Many manufacturers have taken part in F1 since the first race in 1950. Instead of being known as simply a team, within the sport they bear the name of ‘constructors’. This name comes from the chassis in F1 cars being custom made by each constructor, and every constructor is also required to field two vehicles in a season of racing. The current F1 season sees ten manufacturers, and 20 drivers, taking part.
These highly tuned, aerodynamic race vehicles will usually be in use for just one season. An F1 season comprises of 20 rounds of racing in cities such as Abu Dhabi, Austin, Montreal, and Shanghai, to name just a few. Many fans of the sport would love to know what happens to the vehicles after their time on the circuit and this article will provide some interesting answers to this question.
Many of these vehicles will find homes as display pieces either in the constructor’s headquarters, a car dealership, or given to sponsors as a thank-you for their support. Some of these exhibition vehicles will end up in international auto shows or as travelling promotional pieces for the constructor. These show cars are always stripped of any running gear and what remains is just the chassis and driver cabin. The running gear will often be used as spare parts, or even sold by the manufacturer. Fans of F1 have always been eager to own a piece of their favourite vehicle, and the parts market for ex-F1 cars is quite large, especially in the United Kingdom.
In cities that are unable to host an F1 event, some constructors will use their older vehicles in a live display of driving or burnouts. This driving display will usually take place on a custom-built track through a city. This exhibition demonstrates F1 to potential new fans and creates publicity for the sport. These older vehicles that still drive also have a use for tire manufacturers who will employ retired F1 vehicles to test new tire technologies and durability. Retired cars are not just suitable for driving displays, the Goodwood Festival of Speed allows private owners of ex-F1 vehicles to race them competitively.
Although this is not a common practice, some constructors will gift their retired F1 car to a driver. Michael Schumacher received his race car in 1995 as a gift of gratitude after winning back-to-back F1 titles, and Fernando Alonso received the same after winning two titles in 2005 and 2006. Winning or favourite cars will also have high value for private collectors. Many ex-F1 vehicles can command over $10 million at auction, and one 1954 F1 Mercedes even sold at auction in 2013 for almost $30 million.
Owning an ex-F1 vehicle is way out of reach for most fans of the sport, but many have turned to buying raced F1 furniture, or even race-driven oil, used nuts, and even spoilers for their memorabilia collections.