Atlas F1   The Mercedes Century Photo Album

ATLAS F1   Volume 7, Issue 1 by Mark Alan Jones, Australia

Mark Alan Jones looks back at the history album of the Silver Arrows, through memoirs, anecdotes and remarkable photos

1908     In the early 1900s, the Grand Prix machines were yet to develop the technology that would allow high revving engines. With only 1500 rpm the way to make more power was to make bigger engines. This sketch of a 1908 Grand Prix Mercedes had an engine capapcity of over 12 litres, in a four cylinder layout - three litres per cylinder! The year's racing was dominated though by the even larger engined FIATs. However, Christian Lautenschlager in a Mercedes did win the 1908 Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.. Nowadays the race would be known as the French GP.

1937     Dick Seaman aboard the dominant W125 Grand Prix car. In the years leading up to World War II, both Mercedes and the Auto Union group of car makers received massive government subsidies from Hitler's National Socialist German government. The Silver Arrows produced by both would dominate the 1930s, leaving Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Bugatti gasping. Hermann Lang won at the car's first outing at Tripoli when it replaced the W25 car, and Rudolf Carraciola would take it to the 1937 European Formula One Championship.


A Star is Born
100 Years of Mercedes
Atlas F1 Special

  • Ludvigsen on the first car
  • Capps on Neubauer
  • Racing in 1934-1955
  • Mercedes at Indy
  • Tytler on the Ilmor engine
  • Horton on modern success
  • Norbert Haug Speaks
  • Ludvigsen on the industry
  • Mercedes Photo Album
  • The facts and stats
  • The Mercedes Quiz
  • Quotes about Mercedes

    1954     A group of figures attend Juan Manuel Fangio, as the world champion climbs into his slipstreamer W196 grand prix car that would later would take Fangio to a perhaps disappointing fourth place in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. In 1954 and 1955, the W196 would take Fangio to two drivers crowns. An era of Mercedes domination was cut short after the 300SL of Pierre Levegh flew into the crowd after colliding with a slower car during the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours, killing more than 80 spectators. Mercedes perceived the stigma from the Le Mans disaster would haunt their motorsport efforts and retired from racing. At extreme right of the picture is legendary Mercedes motorsport team manager of the 30s & 50s, Alfred Neubauer.

    1955     The Mercedes W196 in all its glory at Aintree, 1955, with Stirling Moss on his way to an emotional debut victory in front of his home crowd. Moss and Fangio dominated Formula One in 1955. Ferrari were not in good shape, Lancia held promise but collapsed after Ascari's death, Maserati lacked a number one driver that could challenge and Vanwall were two years away from competitiveness. Against this backdrop Mercedes took all before them, winning in Belgium, Netherlands, Britain and Italy, only losing Monaco when trouble struck all three cars. At year's end, with June's disaster at Le Sarthe du Mans, the team was disbanded.

    1991     When Mercedes returned to racing, they returned to exorcise the demons of 1955, by entering in sports car racing. In 1987, in partnership with Swiss Peter Sauber and his team, they entered the World Sports Car Championship and showed promise. By 1988 they were winning races. In 1989, Jean-Louis Schlesser led Mercedes to their first World Championship in over 30 years, and Jochen Mass, Manuel Reuter and Stanley Dickens took the Sauber-Mercedes C9 to the win at Le Mans. In 1990 Schlesser successfully retained his title, but Le Mans would fall to Mazda in a huge upset. By 1991, new regulations put in place to phase out turbos were strangling Mercedes. The C11 turbo cars were given weight penalties, while the new C291 non-turbo cars was slow and unreliable. A positive though was the youth driver program that would see the international racing debuts of Michael Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen & Karl Wendlinger. Here at Le Mans sits the undeniably gorgeous sight of the three C11 cars awaiting battle.

    1993     After pulling out of World Sports Car Racing in 1991, Mercedes decided to go after Formula One. But they went about it cautiously, sending long time parter Sauber in ahead of them. Mercedes formed a partnership with Ilmor Engineering, at first a loose partnership. The first Sauber Grand Prix car, the C12, only had loose Mercedes association, with 'concept by Mercedes-Benz' on the flanks of the black Sauber-Ilmors. Here JJ Lehto steers the C12 around Kyalami at Sauber's debut Formula One Grand Prix.

    The Original Benz
    1994     In 1994, as it had for a long time, the Indianapolis 500 had different engine regulations than for the rest of the CART series, ostensibly to encourage US manufacturers to enter and compete against the domination of British-built engines such as the Ilmor and Cosworth. These regulations allowed for 3.43 litre two valve pushrod engines, as well as CART's 2.65 litre four valve overhead cam engines. These 3.43 litre engines were largely production based. Ilmor saw an opening to build a motor specifically to win Indy under these regulations, by taking the pushrod regulations and building a racing engine. That engine, badged as a Mercedes, was placed in the Penske chassis, and saw Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr and Paul Tracy dominate the 1994 Indy 500, with Little Al giving Mercedes its first modern Indy 500 win.

    1994     For the 1994 season the black cars from Switzerland became known as Sauber-Mercedes instead of Sauber-Ilmor. But the results did not improve on the troublesome but vaguely promising first year. By the end of the year, Mercedes had lost faith in Sauber's ability to get to the top, and so for 1995 Mercedes would supply McLaren. Here former Mercedes sports car racer Karl Wendlinger drives the Sauber C13 Mercedes.

    1994     Mercedes-Benz mid-sized saloons continued to be used privately thoughout the 80s and 90s in Touring Car racing under the various Touring Car regulations including Group A, and International Touring Cars/DTM. Here is a slightly rarer Super Touring Car, a class not embraced by the factory, but some examples were built privately. This car was built by Phil Ward for the Australian Super Touring Car Championship, and was driven by Ward and journalist Peter McKay. Ward finished fourth in the series behind the factory and semi-factory BMWs.

    1995     Results in F1 improved, but in some ways the first year with McLaren was a step backwards, not least of which was the Nigel Mansell farce. McLaren's sponsors Marlboro helped Nigel Mansell, a man Ron Dennis was on record in years previous as saying he would never hire, into the seat at McLaren. This proved to be the problem, as Mansell complained he didn't fit comfortably into the McLaren MP4/10's cockpit. A widened MP4/10B was introduced to solve this problem, but Mansell proved to be slow and lacklustre. The relationship was terminated after Mansell parked the McLaren in his second race for the team, Mansell being replaced by Mark Blundell for the rest of the year.


    The Original Mercedes

    The Original Daimler
    1996     It could only be Monaco. Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren MP4/11 Mercedes at Virage du Tabac. The McLaren-Mercedes combination continued to slowly gain momentum. In a year when the only show in town was the Williams FW18 Renault, McLaren continued to climb the slippery slope, with Hakkinen claiming several podium spots, ahead of the rest and not far from Benetton and Eddie Irvine. Power was still needed though.

    1997     The return win. David Coulthard on his way to victory in the 1997 Australian Grand Prix, the first win for Mercedes-Benz as an engine supplier, and a first time win for McLaren in the new slightly retro silver colours reminiscent of the Mercedes of the 30s, 50s, late 80s and early 90s, combined with the white of the Mercedes of the early 1900s. This brilliant start aside, 1997 would be a year of frustraion with wins at the A-1 Ring and the Nurburgring disappearing in clouds of smoke and dribbles of oil along with the Mercedes-Ilmor engines. But against the might of Williams and Ferrari, three wins managed to come McLaren's way. And Williams would step backwards without Renault in 1998. Ferrari was the goalpost for 1998....

    1998     Finally, an endeavour rewarded. Mika Hakkinen drove a brilliant Japanese Grand Prix at a moment when circumstances called for a drive from the top drawer. All year it had been Mika and Michael Schumacher, and on this day Mika Hakkinen, McLaren and Mercedes grabbed the glory of being world champions. For Mercedes it had taken far longer this time than it did in the 30s, 50s or late 80s, and had been much harder. From the top there is only one direction to go.

    1999     An image which sums up 1999 perhaps better than the results indicate. Against a Ferrari without Michael Schumacher, McLaren-Mercedes stumbled to the line in 1999. David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen in their McLaren MP4/14 Mercedes collided here at La Source at Spa-Francorchamps, just two races after a similar collision at the A-1 Ring. Once Schumacher was out with a broken leg from his shunt at Silverstone, the pressure seemed to be off, but mechanical failures, driver error and poor fortune allowed Ferrari's Eddie Irvine and Jordan's Heinz-Harald Frentzen to push Hakkinen and Coulthard all the way. Hakkinen maintained his driver's title - but McLaren-Mercedes constructors' title was taken by Ferrari.


    The Original Maybach

    1999     Mercedes returned to the burgeoning world of sports car racing in 1997. In 1998, Mercedes dominated the FIA GT series, with Klaus Ludwig & Ricardo Zonta winning the world championship from teammates Bernd Schneider & Mark Webber. However, early retirements would rob them of any chances in the 1998 Le Mans 24 Hours. After the cancellation of the 1999 GT series Mercedes pulled out all stops to develop the new Mercedes-Benz CLR model specifically for Le Mans. But Le Mans has never been a lucky place for Mercedes, with only two wins to their credit despite being heavily favoured or outright favourites on no less than ten occasions. Despite thousands of laps in testing, a major aerodynamic defect was found in the car when Mark Webber somersaulted at Indianapolis during qualifying. It happened again to Webber in the race morning warm-up on the Mulsanne. And finally a third time, this time Peter Dumbreck at Indianapolis in the early hours of the race. The surviving car was withdrawn shortly after, with Mercedes leaving Le Mans without success once again. Here, the surviving car of Bernd Schneider, Pedro Lamy and Franck Lagorce negotiates evening practice.

    2000     The high point of the season for the Mercedes was Hakkinen's performance at the Belgian Grand Prix, but Mercedes slipped another rung from 1998, with the drivers' title joining the constructors' title at Ferrari in 2000. Here, Hakkinen in his McLaren MP4/15 Mercedes negotiates Les Combes at Spa-Francorchamps. McLaren and Mercedes had lifted the goalposts, but so too had Ferrari and Michael Schumacher. It was a year the two titans of recent years streeted the opposition, as only the German Silver of McLaren-Mercedes and the Italian Scarlet of Ferrari won races, just like it had been in 1908, in 1937, in 1954. 2001 beckons, but it seems the more things change, the more it stays the same.

    Mark Alan Jones© 1995-2005 Kaizar.Com, Inc.
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