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Mercedes’ £2.4m F1 car for the road is incoming

Mercedes-AMG’s F1 car for the road has been snapped undergoing final tests ahead of the £2.4million limited-edition hypercar’s unveiling before the end of the year.

A number of pre-production vehicles were pictured and videos at the German brand’s private proving grounds at Immendingen, close to the Swiss border, and show the extreme performance and design of what is set to become the nearest thing to a modern-era Formula One car for the road that – extremely affluent – customers can buy.

Just 275 examples are due to be produced, all of them using the 1.6-litre turbocharged hybrid powertrains lifted straight from Lewis Hamilton’s machines.

Mercedes said these recent track tests were the first time it would the car up to 11, allowing the highly complex hybrid power units in the road cars to be turned up to the maximum power output – a massive 1,000 horsepower (735kW).

The circuit shakedown has also been used to make refinements to the car’s driveability while boffins have also been able to develop its highly-complicated active aerodynamics. 

Footage shows the mind-boggling interplay between the various active components on the car, including the louvres, air outlets in the front bumper, huge aerofoil running along the spine of the car and massive rear wing. 

The officially released photos and video show the car will feature a digital rear view mirror – which is a necessary addition as the rear view from a conventional mirror will be almost entirely  obscured by the louvred engine cover and F1-style shark fin.  

The hypercar has been garnering plenty of interest since plans to built it were first revealed back in 2017 – and not just because of its eye-watering asking price.

Mercedes is set to become the first car-making F1 competitor to use a complete Formula 1 drive unit for a hypercar with road approval.

Despite it using a mighty – and super-complex – powertrain that’s helped Mercedes win the last six constructor championships back-to-back, the German manufacturer claims the One will also be ideal for ‘everyday performance’ on the road.

It can also be driven in an all-electric mode when customers want to potter through town and city centres in silence – similar to conventional hybrid cars on the road today, like the Uber-driver’s favourite Toyota Prius.

Mercedes said the tests were also used to help it overcome the ear-busting noise level of an F1 engine.

The current legal noise limit for passenger vehicles to meet type approval is 74 decibels – a fraction of the rasping note produced by Hamilton’s racing car.

In 2018, Mercedes-AMG was forced to release pictures of the ballistic One being driven at ‘a secret test ground in England’ – which happens to be Millbrook Proving Grounds in Bedfordshire – after its behind-closed-doors evaluation of the vehicle became public knowledge.

That’s because local residents could hear the cacophonous 1.6-litre turbocharged F1 engine being put through its paces from miles away.

The car maker says its development team has used the recent tests to enter ‘uncharted territory’ using ‘exceptional engineering expertise’ to find solutions to make the exhaust note road legal.

And Mercedes has announced that the next phase of testing will take place at the road-car Mecca that is the Nürburgring, where the hypercar is widely expected to smash all records for fastest laps of the northern loop for a vehicle that has numberplates, indicators and need to be taxed and insured.

All 275 models promised for production have been pre-sold to deep-pocketed customers, Mercedes confirmed in 2017. 

No less that four electric motors combine with the 1.6-litre six-cylinder petrol engine to produce around 1,000hp – and that’s with the redline trimmed from a wailing 15,000rpm in F1 specification to a slightly less eardrum-shattering 11,000rpm for the One.

The lithium-ion batteries and the system used to cool them have also been lifted directly from the Mercedes Formula One race cars, though the One has more of them to boost the zero-emissions driving range and a plug-in socket so you can replenish electricity from the mains.

With the batteries fully charged, the car will be able to cover 15 miles in electric-only mode – enough for almost five laps of the Silverstone circuit or a quick blast to the local shops and back.

While Mercedes promises this will be a road-legal vehicle, the vast majority of owners are likely to limit the licence-losing performance – including a 217mph top speed – to use on track only.

Mercedes said drivers will be able to switch between a range of driving modes, including a ‘highly dynamic’ setting that’s similar to the setting used by Hamilton and team-mate Valtteri Bottas when they want to set a blistering qualifying lap time.

Other settings will modulate how much power is being fed to the wheels, just so owners can drive it on the road without fear of pirouetting at every roundabout.

Combining carbon bodywork and a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis should mean the One is no heavyweight, though the German car maker has refrained from divulging its official weight just yet.

Inside, Mercedes says the cabin is ‘Formula 1 for two’, though it is most definitely more luxurious than the cockpit Lewis Hamilton has to lower himself into for each session.

Passengers will sit in carbon-fibre bucket seats and the driver will be gripping to a rectangular steering wheel scattered with switches and dials similar to the complex high-tech ones used in the premier racing series.

Two 10-inch displays sit on the dashboard – one behind the steering wheel and another sprouting from the centre console – feed vital information to the person trying to control almost 1,000hp with their right foot.

A third screen – linked to a camera at the back of the car – acts as a rear-view mirror – ideal for seeing who is in your slipstream of if someone has left a shopping trolley behind your hypercar at the supermarket.

The One’s F1-derived rivals include Ferrari’s LaFerrari and McLaren’s P1 and Senna.

But it’s Aston Martin’s Valkyrie hypercar – built in collaboration with the Red Bull Racing Formula One team – that is its closest rival.

Here’s how the two compare… 

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