On the British television show Top Gear, host Jeremy Clarkson often interviews notable people, politicians, actors and athletes before sending them around a race track in a car. In all of these interviews, Clarkson asks the guests what cars they have owned and driven. Of all the guests, perhaps the Formula One drivers give answers which surprise or shock the audience the most. It’s often hard to picture race car drivers driving anything other than their race cars. At the end of the day, however, they must leave their high performance machines at the track or in the team garage.
So what do Formula One drivers drive? You might be inclined to believe that because they spend their careers going fast, they naturally want to have a garage filled with fast performance cars. On the other hand, it could very well be plausible that someone like Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso desires less speed and more comfort when driving away from the track. This doesn’t mean you’re going to catch any of them driving a 1988 LeBaron convertible, but it suggests that less exotic and more practical cars may be found in their driveways.
A quick look through the cars of Formula One drivers shows a wide range of tastes and function. The exotic cars of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Pagani are balanced off against the more practical cars of BMW, Mercedes, Infinity and Mini. At the ‘lower’ end, even Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen and Fiat are represented. Overall, among the variety of cars available, certain models have become favorites within the Formula One community, being owned by more than one or two drivers. These range from affordable sporty hatchbacks to rare and pricey exotic cars. These are ten of the more popular cars among the Formula One drivers.
10 Fiat 500 Abarth: $22,700 (base)
The Fiat 500 is probably not what comes to mind when you think of Formula One. Launched in 2007, the Italian designed 2-door hatchback is small and lacks the aggressive look we associate with F1. Despite this, the car has a large fan base thanks to its small size, good handling and reliability. The 500 comes in a variety of models with an assortment of engines ranging from 0.9L to 1.4L. There are several specialized Abarth versions of the 500. Most of these come turbocharged with additional upgrades to the interior or brakes. Ferrari has even created a special edition for its customers to use while their Ferraris are being serviced. Engine power on the turbocharged model ranges from 130 to 180 hp, depending upon edition.
9 Mégane Renault Sport: $36,700 (base)
This is another car which seems out of place when discussing the cars of Formula One personalities. Don’t let this French hatchback fool you, however. The Mégane Renault Sport, or just RS, is a sporty and well performing car designed by Renault. At the heart of this is a 2.0L turbocharged engine which, depending on the specific model, produces between 222 and 265 hp. Some may scoff at this FWD hatchback as being unworthy for a F1 driver. They only need to know that a version of this car set the FWD record around the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in a time of 8:07.97. If that’s not enough, there is also a video online of an RS keeping up with and beating a Porsche 911 on the same track.
Notable F1 drivers who own this car include Mark Webber and Vitaly Petrov.
8 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG: $65,400 (base)
Finally we get into something a little more luxurious and powerful. Available in sedan and wagon models, the C63 AMG provides the luxury of a Mercedes with the power and performance associated with the AMG badge. All versions of this car are powered by a 6.2L V8. Power varies depending on the version and packages added. The ‘base’ C63 puts out 451hp. An AMG Performance Package can boost this to 480hp giving you a 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds. For peak performance, drivers look to the C63 AMG Black Series. This top of the line version has numerous upgrades and an engine which now produces 510hp giving the C63 a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds. For the 2015 model year, the 6.2L motor will be dropped in favor of a 4.0L twin-turbo 480hp power-plant.
7 Lotus Evora: $78,600 (base)
Lotus is synonymous with performance and excellent handling. It is, therefore, not surprising that this British car is found in the garages of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. The first Lotus to break away from the successful Elise platform, the Evora maintains the distinctive Lotus look. Despite this, it differs in that it is the only Lotus model with room for two passengers in the back. The car is powered by a mid-mounted 3.5L engine from Toyota which, in its supercharged version, puts out 345 hp. The naturally aspirated version of this engine is also available and produces a respectable 276 hp. 0-60 times depend on the engine used, yet can be achieved in less than 5 seconds. Not too bad for an engine from a Toyota Camry.
6 Nissan GTR: $97,800 (base)
Packed with all sorts of electronics and control aids, the GTR is a high-tech giant killer. Nissan’s super car may not have the luxuries found in a Mercedes or Porsche, but at a far cheaper price, it can easily compete with the high priced performers. In numerous tests and competitions, the GTR has proven itself as capable as, if not superior to, cars like the Porsche 911, Audi R8, Lotus Elise and Chevrolet Corvette. It is also a proven winner in the Japanese Super-GT racing series. Helping achieve this success is the 3.8L twin-turbocharged V6 engine which produces 545 hp. This power meets the pavement through an AWD and traction control system which enables the car to go 0-60 in an astonishing 3.2 seconds.
It is no surprise that this car is a favorite of Formula One drivers with notable owners including champion Jensen Button and Timo Glock.
5 Maserati Quattroporte: $104,000 (base)
The Quattroporte (literally translated into ‘four-doors’) is Maserati’s flagship car, and has been in production since 1963. Over the years, it has gone through six main generations of development. The new sixth generation Quattroporte, released in 2013, utilizes Ferrari engines. The 3.0L V6 and 3.8L V8 produce 404 and 523 hp respectively. There is an AWD option available for the 3.0L version. All other Quattroportes are RWD. As one would expect from an Italian car maker, the interior if full of leather, brushed aluminum and wood. Paddle shifters, WIFI, heated seats, multi-zone climate control and a 1280 Watt, 10-speaker audio system are other features of this car. With such a balance of power, luxury and practicality, it is no wonder this car is driven by Formula One aces Felipe Massa and two-time champion Fernando Alonso.
4 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG: $214,500
The second Mercedes on this list, the SL65 AMG, has a much bigger price tag, yet, provides much more power and performance than the C63 AMG. One look at this car’s specifications and it’s easy to understand why Formula One champions Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel own one. The RWD SL65 is powered by a monstrous 6.0L twin-turbocharged V12 engine which produces 621 hp. If you opt for the special SL65 AMG Black Series, engine power gets bumped up to 661 hp. This power allows the SL65 to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. Inside, the car has many luxuries to keep you comfortable while flying down the road. AMG provides sport seats, vents channel warm air around your neck and head for top-down driving and the sunroof can go from clear to opaque at the touch of a button. For an additional $16,000, you can upgrade the brakes and add carbon-fiber parts to the vehicle.
3 Porsche 911 GT2 RS: $245,000
With a lap time around the Nürburgring of 7 minutes and 18 seconds, this 911 is an obvious target of the speed obsessed. The 911 GT2 RS is powered by a 3.6L twin-turbocharged flat-six cylinder engine which produces 620 hp. Unlike other 911s, the GT2 RS is RWD and not AWD. This design means the car is lighter than other Porsches but suffers with a slightly slower 0-60 time of around 3.4 seconds (as opposed to the Turbo S at 3.1). With so much power going to the rear wheels, a stability control system is standard. Inside, this car is all about racing. Carbon fiber seats have a six-point harness. Fabric is Alcantara, a material used in Formula One because of its fire-retardant properties. A pure performer with a tendency to get loose in the back, it is probably fitting that this Porsche has found its way into the garages of F1 veterans Jensen Button and Mark Webber.
2 McLaren MP4-12C: $269,000 (base)
Built to do battle with Ferraris and Lamborghinis, this British car looks the part. The first McLaren production car since the legendary F1, the 12C was first produced in 2011. Its 3.8L twin-turbocharged V8 produces 616 hp and allows the car to go 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. For environmentally conscious drivers, they will be pleased to know that McLaren’s engine is rated to have one of the best horsepower-to-carbon dioxide emission ratios among internal-combustion engines. That said, it’s unlikely McLaren will be stealing away too much of the Toyota Prius market. Most of the car is built from aluminum, plastic and carbon fiber which helps keep the weight down while maintaining strength.The height adjustable suspension, no doubt, comes in handy when Formula One stars Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton are pulling into driveways and parking lots.
1 Ferrari Enzo: $659,000
It is fitting that a manufacturer so dominant in Formula One should have top spot. It is doubly fitting that the car should carry the first name of the man who founded the company. The Enzo can not be interpreted as anything other than a pure race car. Its 6.0L naturally aspirated V12 produces an amazing 651 hp. This helps the car accelerate from 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. Maintenance costs are high with an oil change running about $700 and a full brake job hitting around $30,000. With only 400 produced, the car is a rare and highly sought prize for collectors with examples costing upwards of a million dollars, nearly double its original cost. Despite this, F1 drivers Jensen Button and Kimi Räikkönen both own one. Seven time champion Michael Schumacher can be added to this list if we include his Ferrari FXX, a specialized evolution of the Enzo and the only one in black. I guess when you are the winningest Formula One driver, you get what you want.