I’m far from a car buff as you well know, but Formula 1 has a special place in my heart. It’s not that I was particularly interested to begin with, but in the early 1990s my brother couldn’t get enough of it and so I casually picked up a few things from his magazines and of course watching races on TV. That and of course the Michael Schumacher era began soon to be followed by Sebastian Vettel. That’s why even today I try to keep an eye on developments there, if only tangentially. Checking out the Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance & Project One (76909) therefore was also a bit of a given, be it just to poke a bit of fun at my brother and have a discussion about the details of the model(s).
Contents and Pricing
As a dual pack this set initially cost 40 Euro MSRP, but after LEGO‘s ridiculous recent price hike costs 45 Euro. The good news is that despite all this, this more or loss still equates to merely twice the price of single-item sets. Unlike e.g. with the Lamborghini Urus ST-X & Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo EVO (76899) they didn’t throw a large premium on top. At the same time the less good news comes in that you won’t be able to shave much off those 40 Euro. As an exclusive set only available at LEGO stores and a handful select retailers there’s no wriggle room for large discounts.
However, effectively I got mine for 38 Euro, which in a funny way is even LEGO‘s fault. they appear to be producing this set in such low numbers that they’re constantly running out and it’s out of stock. I tried to pick it up directly in the Leipzig LEGO store on three separate occasions before I gave up and ordered it from one of those few alternate vendors that still had some packages. You should be prepared that it may take a moment before you can get your hand on this.
Another of those things I keep boring you with is of course my dislike for stickers/ decals and in this case it’s really, really bad. As we all know, the Mercedes Formula 1 cars aren’t called Silver Arrows for nothing and consequently this would have meant that LEGO had to produce a ton of pieces for this set in Flat Silver, which of course never happens. Instead they are trying to compensate this with “illusion painting” by means of printed adhesive foil and here once more the sheer number of sticker pieces is beyond belief. And the AMG Project One doesn’t do much better, since in reality it’s also another silver Mercedes. So ultimately you end up with two relatively large sticker sheets and what makes it even worse for me is that you right away can see how they’re even trying to cheat the surface curvature by using gradients on the F1 car’s spine.
The Formula 1 W12 1
Inevitably LEGO‘s heavy reliance on stickers is a two-edged sword and while not using them increases the re-usability value of the sets, but it also diminishes the aesthetic value. Often this can be overlooked, but with the Formula 1 car it really shows very painfully. It has none of the magic it should have and more or less just looks black. This also affects the minute differences between Hamilton‘s car and Bottas‘ version for which some extra pieces are included. Aside from the distinct Yellow camera bar the differentiation is lost without the stickers.
As such, only the Dark Turquoise and Dark Red elements will really stand out and add some flair. The Dark Red 1 x 4 modified plate is exclusive to this set and so are the little knobs used for the rear view mirrors. The wedge slopes have since appeared in more sets, but initially were also limited to this one. There’s a few unique printed parts like the wheel covers used to shim over the regular wheels and create the illusion of those specially marked tires to indicate their softness rating. I feel that this is a bit of a missed opportunity. While the Blue looks very harmonious and calm for a display model, in light of the overall lack of contrast I would have preferred Yellow or Red markings. In fact it would have been cool if they included at least one of those options as an alternative. Other printed pieces are the Mercedes star of course or the faux air intake above the cockpit.
The assembly of the car is simple enough, but make no mistake – this is overall rather fragile. Many elements literally only hang by a single stud or clip and handling requires a tender touch. The model should be held by the modified plates mimicking the chassis or the wheels, but other areas will immediately come off if you don’t have a tender touch. That’s almost like on the real thing except that it doesn’t require racing at 300+ kph or bumping into a wall for the front or rear wing to fly off.
The other apparent issue is the lack of smoothness. At this point I don’t consider it so much a general limitation of using LEGO bricks, but rather of the scale. Point in case: With introductions like the recent “jester shoe” arch it would be possible to create some of the subtle, yet complex curves, just not at this size. This also goes for the suspensions of the wheels, which of course aren’t big fat tubes on the real thing. Neither are spoilers and winglets big and chunky, but I guess there’s really no good way to translate all those paper-thin carbon fiber bits into bricks.
The cockpit is surprisingly adequate in its sparseness and even using the game pad once introduced for the Collectible Minifigures series for the steering wheel is fitting. However, since there is no sticker for it I feel that including the printed version from way back then might still have been better, even if it doesn’t represent the actual button layout. A point that has caused much discussion is the largely inaccurate depiction of the HALO device. Using a rigid tube is really not ideal and overall it looks way too bulky and too large. Short of creating a new piece I can’t think of a much better solution, though. All the swords/ blades or hotdogs that come to my mind are not curved enough to capture the shape.
The Project One
The second car in the package is apparently one I know even less about than the F1 one. That’s why it more or less looks like the many other (super) sports cars in the series. Indeed it also almost builds like the Aston Martin Vantage or the Corvette, give or take the necessary variations to accommodate each car’s specific details. In this case this in particular refers to the large fin blade in the aft section.
Otherwise the car is rather mundane and once more one can only bemoan that there are no genuine silver parts. This would make things look so much more interesting even without the stickers.
Similar to other cars in this year’s Speed champions line-up this one also uses the new 2 x 3 curved wedge slope and all the same these are also printed with the shapes for the headlights. The other printed parts are the AMG logo on the intake grille and of course the canopy piece. The latter lacks opacity, something which sadly has become an “expected” (or dreaded?) standard, even if it didn’t need to be this way if LEGO invested a bit more time and care.
The cockpit is very plain again and shamelessly exploits the fact that a) those racing cars have very stripped down interiors in the first place and b) the dark tinted glass would further restrict visibility. Would be nice to have some bright red Recaro seats and support tubing from the inner frame shining through from time to time, though.
Despite my criticisms this is quite an okay set. LEGO (and by extension Mercedes AMG) had the good sense to not gouge their fans with excessive pricing inflated by licensing fees and that alone deserves some recognition. As someone who builds these models only for fun it would of course have been even better if the set were broadly available in retail and thus I could have gotten some discount, but sometimes it can’t be helped.
The Formula 1 car is clearly the weaker of the two due to the limitations of the system. This would probably make more sense as a Creator Expert/ Icons set in around 1/12th scale, but ironically then I might not be able to afford it. I guess I’m caught between a rock and a hard place on that. If you take the set at its face value it is definitely okay and will fit nicely into your collection of similar Speed Champions models.