Category Archives: Mercedes

Formula 1: The Emergence of Team Mercedes

In 1950, the FIA brought in changes to make motor racing more competitive and exciting. A new formula, the Formula One was established. Under the new rules, weight limits were scrapped. Car engines could have any amount of power. It could be a supercharged 1,500 cc or those that could attain 4,500 cc. There was also a Formula Two category for cheaper and less powerful car engines. The FIA arranged races in a calendar comprising of Italian, French, Belgian, Swiss, Monaco and British Grand Prix. There were thirteen teams consisting of about thirty drivers. Other races out of the championship were also put on the calendar.

An attempt to tame German and Italian dominance

Racing events became orderly. As expected, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari and Talbot kept swiping places. British Racing Motors (BRM) would later arrive on the car racing scene. The company was founded by Raymond Mays, a racer in the pre-war era. He was sickened by the dominance held by Italian and German constructors. The two had dominated motor racing for two generations. BRM was a prestigious company whose aim was to stamp British authority in motor racing. The company commissioned Rolls-Royce to design a supercharged engine with a 1500 cc capacity.

BRMs – total failure

Progress on the new car was painfully slow. At one point, the winter in Lincolnshire was bitterly cold forcing draughtsmen to wear special gloves. Eventually, five years later, the final product was unveiled. It was during the British Grand Prix and the car ended up being a total disappointment. Tens of thousands of fans who included Queen Elizabeth watched in dismay as it tottered. Nothing worked even in the later races. The BRM was a complete failure. New FIA rules rendered it ineligible. In the same year, 1952, Mays went bankrupt. His company was taken over by its banker.

Mercedes – better and organized

As BRM faded into oblivion, Mercedes managed to rebuild its team. By 1954, its cars were exceptional. Mercedes drivers were among the best in the world. The company had enough money to finance development of Grand Prix cars. The company was highly organized. With Alfred Neubauer as the team manager, it was not difficult to see how successful Mercedes was. Neubauer felt that every driver should make his own decisions. There was a general rule in the team that once a driver secured a lead, no teammate was supposed to challenge him. Neubauer developed a the red and black flag signal used to advise drivers on whether to slow down, speed up or maintain current speed.

Equipped and well-staffed

Team Mercedes enjoyed luxurious breakfast menus carefully selected by the team manager. It modernized its cars and added ferocity to their engines. There was also a mobile workshop that travelled with the team to any circuit. The Mercedes-Benz workshop truck had every kind of kit a Formula One team would envy. It had grinding equipment, precision drills and welding gear. The team’s high-speed racing car transporter could, cruising at speeds of over 100 mph, quickly deliver a racing car to and from European circuits. Over 200 people worked directly with the racing team.

A winning driver

From 1952 onwards, FIA made it compulsory for Formula One drivers to wear crash helmets. This was to later save their key driver, Argentinean born Juan Manuel Fangio. The talented and passionate driver handed Mercedes four wins in 1954. That year alone, Fangio won six out of nine championship races. Fangio commanded a lot of respect among his peers. His genius on and off the track coupled with teaming up with the likes of Moss led the world to take a bow for Mercedes.