Andretti’s title-winning Lotus F1 car tipped to fetch up to $9.5 million at auction | 2023 F1 season


The only existing Formula 1 car used by an American driver to win the world championship will be put up for auction at the end of the current season.

Mario Andretti’s Lotus 79 chassis number four will be auctioned by Bonhams at this year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The auction house estimates it will sell for between $6.5-9.5 million (£5.25-£7.68m).

The 79 chassis was tremendously successful, with all bar one of its six wins coming courtesy of Andretti. However his team mate for much of the 1978 season, Ronnie Peterson, who scored the car’s other win, died after crashing at the start of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Andretti clinched the championship at the same race with two rounds remaining of the season.

That marked the last title win for a Lotus driver in F1 and also the team’s seventh and final constructors’ championship title.

Lotus made great advances with ground effect aerodynamics with the 79 which made the car the class of the field. Andretti and Peterson often ran in tandem at the front of the pack in 1978.

The Lotus 79 dominated the 1978 season

While Lotus founder and figurehead Colin Chapman drove the concept work behind the team’s creations, the 79 was designed by Geoff Aldridge and Martin Ogilvie. It was powered by a 3.0-litre Ford-Cosworth DFV V8 engine, which Lotus introduced to F1 over a decade earlier.

Lotus struggled to follow up the success of its 79. The radical 80 chassis introduced the following year was a flop, and led the team to reintroduce the 79 before the season was over, though by this point they had been out-developed by their rivals.

The high price estimated for the car is partly a reflection of the rare position it occupies in F1 history. Only one other American driver, Phil Hill, has won the F1 world championship, with Ferrari in 1961. However Enzo Ferrari often destroyed his former racing cars and Hill’s 156 is believed to be among those which were scrapped once it was no longer in service.

The Lotus 79 will be auctioned at Yas Marina in a live broadcast during the grand prix weekend.

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