Why Is There a Honda Formula 1 Car Running Around Dressed as a Mercedes-AMG?

Mercedes didn’t run its own F1 team until 2010, so what’s a 2006 Honda doing in a Silver Arrows livery? We asked, and even they weren’t sure.

byJames Gilboy|
F1 photo


At Donington Historic Festival this past weekend, sharp-eyed spectators noticed something amiss with a historic Mercedes Formula 1 car doing demonstration laps.

Several historic F1 cars lapped the famous Donington Park at the event, including the car pictured, which confused F1 fans in attendance. Longtime viewers recognized that the "Mercedes" F1 car was definitely not one built in 2010—when Mercedes rejoined F1 as a manufacturer—or later, as it featured aerodynamic elements that have been banned since 2009. Close examination revealed that the "Mercedes" in question was, in fact, a modified Honda, specifically 2006's RA106.

F1 teams regularly construct "frankencar" static display cars from handfuls of spare parts. Red Bull Racing is known to slap modern liveries on V8-era cars for exhibition runs, and Alfa Romeo has been making its rounds at auto shows with an oddity of a car that uses a 2017-spec, halo-free chassis, but a 2018 engine cover, sans the "shark fin." Such cars are rarely capable of moving under their own steam, however, so this isn't a case of cobbling together spares for promotion purposes.

So why would Mercedes put its name on a Honda and campaign it as its own car? The answer is that it's not actually Mercedes doing it, and that Mercedes was just as confused as everyone else when this car took to the track.

A Mercedes spokesperson confirmed to The Drive that neither the automaker nor the racing team had any knowledge of this car's existence before last Thursday, when it was shown to the public in Donington. It is indeed a 2006 Honda with a 2010 Mercedes livery, but it's a car owned and operated by a private party, wither neither Honda's nor Mercedes' blessing.

Modern F1 cars in private hands are a rarity, but not unheard of. A privately owned Scuderia Ferrari F2003-GA flattened the overall lap record at Road Atlanta last March, and other cars sometimes fall into the hands of the drivers that competed in them.

With engines that alone cost more than most supercars, retired modern F1 cars are exclusively the toys of the über-wealthy, who sometimes drive (and crash) them in gentleman racing series like Boss GP. It seems that one such millionaire owns a Honda, but wants a Mercedes, and given the two companies' recent histories in F1, you can't blame them.