The Early years
Mercedes has been involved in motor racing even before the term “motor racing” was coined. The Mercedes-Benz marque we know today was created following a merger of a German industrial machine production company Benz & Companie Rheinische Gasmotoren-Fabrik (Benz & Cie) and a German engineering company Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) in 1926. The new company was named Daimler-Benz (today known as Daimler AG). Its motorsport roots can be traced all the way back to the first ever motor race, the 1894 Paris-Rouen, where a single Benz vehicle driven by Émile Roger finished 14th. On the other side of the future partnership, DMG built its first race car in 1902 – the Mercedes Simplex. The vehicle dominated racing before the First World War. Benz’s involvement in motor racing continued throughout the 1910s with the Blitzen-Benz (introduced in 1909) and in the 1920s with the Benz Tropfenwagen (introduced 1921). By the end of the 1920s Benz & Cie ran into financial difficulties which led to the merger with DMG and the formation of Daimler-Benz.
The 1930s – Rise of the Silver Arrows
The 1930 saw Daimler-Benz and its Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows dominate Grand Prix racing in Europe. Led by the legendary team manager Alfred Neubauer, Mercedes-Benz and its main rival Auto Union, won all European Grand Prix Championships from 1934 until they withdrew form racing in 1939, ahead of the Second World War. In the process they produced many legendary cars such as the Mercedes-Benz W25 (1934 to 1936), W125 (1937), W154 (1938 and 1939), and W165 (1939), which were driven by motorsport greats Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch, Richard Seaman and many others.
Why the “Silver Arrows”?
Mercedes’ racing cars are nowadays instantly recognizable by their traditional silver color, so the question seems a bit redundant. However the story of how they got the famous color is the stuff of motorsport legend. Firstly its important to establish that the “Silver Arrows” name was given to German racing teams, both Mercedes and Auto Union. Back in the old days each country was assigned a color that made them instantly recognizable, for example Italian cars were painted red, British cars were painted dark green, French cars were painted blue, while German cars were painted white (interchangeable with silver as both colors share the same heraldry tincture).
However according to Alfred Neubauer’s account of the origin of the Silver Arrows given in 1958, Mercedes started using the color silver by accident. The story goes that Mercedes’ new car- the W25 was originally painted white, but after it was deemed around 1kg too heavy ahead of the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring in 1934, a desperate Neubauer (and in some accounts driver Manfred von Brauchitsch) decided to scrape off the lead-based paint which helped the car meet the 750kg maximum weight limit. Without paint the silver aluminum surface of the car was exposed and, after von Brauchitsch won the race, the media nicknamed Mercedes’ cars – the Silver Arrows.
This account has been contested numerous times by motorsport historians (among others) who pointed that Mercedes and Auto Union raced silver cars as early as 1932. Still the story remains one of motorsport’s most enduring legends.
Formula 1 – The First Run
The 1954 Season
The Car: Mercedes-Benz W196
WDC Positions: Juan Manuel Fangio, P1; Karl Kling, P5; Hans Herrmann, P6; Hermann Lang, N/A
In 1953 Daimler-Benz decided it was time for Mercedes to return to Grand Prix racing. The return happened in 1954 when the Mercedes brand entered Formula 1, after 14 years away from motorsport (the F1 championship was established in 1950). The team, led by Alfred Neubauer, entered their latest vehicle – the Mercedes-Benz W196, an advanced machine that ran in two configurations – as an open-wheeler and as a wider streamlined version.
The 1951 World Champion, Argentine driver Juan Manuel Fangio, transferred from Maserati to Mercedes in round four of the championship, just in time for the German outfit’s debut at the 1954 French Grand Prix. Mercedes dominated the race scoring a 1-2 victory with Fangio and Karl Kling. Another Mercedes driver, Hans Herrmann, recorded the fastest lap of the race. In addition to those three, Hermann Lang also drove for the team in round 6 – the German Grand Prix.
The campaign finished with Fangio taking the Drivers’ Championship, scoring 4 pole positions and 4 wins for Mercedes. The Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship wasn’t introduced until 1958.
The 1955 Season
The Car: Mercedes-Benz W196
WDC Positions: Juan Manuel Fangio, P1; Stirling Moss, P2; Piero Taruffi, P6; Karl Kling, P11; Hans Herrmann, P22; André Simon, N/A
The 1955 season was Mercedes’ first full Formula 1 season. Throughout the campaign the team hired several drivers: Juan Manuel Fangio, Karl Kling, Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann, André Simon and Piero Taruffi. An updated version of previous year’s Mercedes-Benz W196 was again used and further developed throughout the season. The team was dominant with 4 pole positions and 5 wins out of 7 races (Fangio won 4, while British driver Stirling Moss famously won his home British Grand Prix). Fangio again picked up the Drivers’ Championship for the team, ahead of Moss who finished the season in second place.
Unfortunately on June 11 1955 tragedy struck at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. In what became known as the 1955 Le Mans disaster, Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh was involved in a crash that catapulted him into the crowd, killing him and more than 80 spectators. It is considered to be the most catastrophic crash in motorsport history. Driven by this and the immense expense and effort needed to maintain its racing operations, Daimler-Benz decided to withdraw from motorsport at the end of the season. The Mercedes name would not return to Formula 1 until 1994.
Interlude – Engine supplier
Mercedes-Benz made its return to Formula 1 in 1994, after acquiring a stake in an independent British Formula One engine manufacturer Ilmor. Daimler- Benz acquired a 25% share of Ilmor in 1993, increasing it to 55% in 2002 and becoming the sole owner in 2005. The company was immediately renamed Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines and finally in 2011 Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. It is the current Mercedes engine factory based in Brixworth, Northamptonshire.
In 1994 Mercedes supplied its engines to Sauber, but soon after partnered with McLaren in 1995. The manufacturer also acquired a 40% stake in the team making McLaren a de facto Mercedes works team. The partnership was highly successful, from 1995 until 2014 McLaren Mercedes scored 78 wins and won 1 Constructors’ and 3 Drivers’ Championships. Mika Hakkinen won the championship in 1998 and 1999, while Lewis Hamilton won the title in 2008. The sole Constructors’ title was won in 1998.
In 2009 Mercedes started supplying its engines to the newly formed Brawn GP team. The team spectacularly won the Drivers’ (Jenson Button) and Constructors’ championship in their first (and only) season in Formula 1, scoring 8 race wins in the process.
At the end of the 2009 season Daimler AG, in partnership with Aabar Investments, acquired the majority stake in the Brawn GP team and sold back their 40% stake in McLaren. Brawn GP was renamed and entered the 2010 season as Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team. This would mark the first time Mercedes competed in Formula 1 as a full works team since 1955.
In the years that followed Mercedes continued to supply its engines to customer teams like Williams, Force India (now Racing Point), Lotus and Manor. In 2019 it was announced that from 2021 onward Mercedes will again supply its engines to McLaren, renewing the famous partnership.
As an engine supplier (excluding Mercedes’ results as a works team) the manufacturer won 86 races, 2 Constructors’ Championships and 4 Drivers’ Championships.
Formula 1 – The Return
The 2010 Season
The Car: Mercedes MGP W01
WDC Positions: Nico Rosberg, P7; Michael Schumacher, P9
WCC Position: P4
In 2010 Mercedes returned to Formula 1 as a works team after Daimler AG bought a 45.1% stake in Brawn GP, with their partner Aabar Investments acquiring an additional 30%. Ross Brawn continued on as Team Principal. The team was rebranded Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team.
The team’s history can be traced back to Tyrell Racing, a team that competed in F1 from 1970 until 1998, when it was bought by British American Tobacco and renamed British American Racing. BAT invested serious money into the operation and built a high-tech modern HQ in Brackley that is being used by Mercedes to this day. The team changed ownership again in 2006 when it was bought by Honda and renamed Honda Racing F1 Team. Honda withdrew from F1 at the end of 2008 and the team was sold to Ross Brawn and Nick Fry who renamed it Brawn GP. After winning the double crown in their first season, at the end of 2009 Brawn and Fry decided to sell the majority stake in the team to Daimler AG and Aabar Investments.
Wanting to start the first season of Mercedes’ return to Formula 1 in a big way, Brawn lured his former collaborator, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher back to Formula 1 (the German retired after the 2006 season). Nico Rosberg (son of 1982 F1 champion Keke Rosberg) was chosen as Schumacher’s team-mate, completing an all-German lineup behind the wheel of the all-new Mercedes MGP W01.
Unfortunately the first year back proved to be a tough one for the German manufacturer. The team’s best results were three third-place finishes by Nico Rosberg at Sepang, Shanghai and Silverstone. Rosberg ultimately finished the season in 7th place, while Schumacher was 9th, without a single podium to his name. Mercedes finished the season in 4th place, behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.
The 2011 Season
The Car: Mercedes MGP W02
WDC Positions: Nico Rosberg, P7, Michael Schumacher, P8
WCC Position: P4
In the leadup to the 2011 season Daimler AG and Aabar Investments acquired the remaining 24.9% stake in the team, becoming the sole owners. Both Rosberg and Schumacher were retainened to pilot the Mercedes MGP W02.
Schumacher was the first one to score points, finishing ninth in Malaysia. He also scored the team’s best 4th place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix. Rosberg finished the season again in 7th place, while Schumacher finished 8th. Mercedes finished 4th in the Constructors’ Championship, behind Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.
The 2012 Season
The Car: Mercedes F1 W03
WDC Positions: Nico Rosberg, P9; Michael Schumacher, P13
WCC Position: P5
In 2012 the team’s name was changed to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team in order to promote AMG, Daimler AG’s high performance brand. The driver lineup again consisted of Rosberg and Schumacher, while the new car – the Mercedes F1 W03 attracted some controversy. Several teams protested Mercedes’ “radical” rear wing design, but the FIA unanimously rejected the complaint by the third race of the season.
The W03 showed improved performance very early in the season with Rosberg taking the team’s first pole position since 1955 at the Chinese Grand Prix. Schumacher qualified 3rd in the same session, but was promoted to 2nd after Lewis Hamilton received a grid penalty. The race ended with Rosberg winning Mercedes’ first F1 race since 1955 and becoming the first German driver to win a Grand Prix behind the wheel of a German car since Hermann Lang won the 1939 Swiss Grand Prix. Schumacher unfortunately retired from the race, however he added another podium finish for the team at the the European Grand Prix where he finished third.
In the end Rosberg finished the season in 9th place, while Schumacher finished 11th. Mercedes finished 5th in the Constructors’ Championship, behind Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus.
The 2013 Season
The Car: Mercedes F1 W04
WDC Positions: Lewis Hamilton, P4; Nico Rosberg, P6
WCC Positon: P2
At the end of 2012 Michael Schumacher decided to end his Formula 1 career and 2008 F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was announced as Mercedes’ new driver. Nico Rosberg remained with the team. For the 2013 season Mercedes unveiled their new car – the Mercedes F1 W04.
The season started better than expected when Lewis Hamilton scored two consecutive third place finishes in Malaysia and China. Rosberg brought the team its first victory of 2013 at the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by a third place finish for Hamilton in Canada and a win by Rosberg at Silverstone. Hamilton finally scored his first win for Mercedes in Hungary and the season ended with two more third place finishes – Hamilton in Belgium and Rosberg in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton finished the season in 4th place, while Robsberg fihished 6th. Mercedes finished the season as the runner-up, behind Red Bull, with 8 pole positions and 3 wins.
The 2014 Season
The Car: Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid
WDC Positions: Lewis Hamilton, P1; Nico Rosberg, P2
WCC Positon: P1
In 2014 it all finally came together for Mercedes. Big regulation changes were introduced ahead of the season, ushering in what is colloquially known as the “V6 Turbo-Hybrid Era”. Mercedes most successfully adapted to the changes with their new Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid. Both Hamilton and Rosberg were retained for the season.
The season started in spectacular fashion with Rosberg winning the first race of the season in Australia. The next four races were won by Lewis Hamilton with Rosberg in second place. Rosberg and Hamilton repeated the feat in Monaco and Austria, this time with Nico in P1. Hamilton won again in Silverstone, while Nico Rosberg’s win in Germany marked the first time a German driver won his home Grand Prix in a German machine, since Rudolf Caracciola accomplished the feat in 1939. Hamilton led another 1-2 in Italy, won again in Singapore, followed by 3 more consecutive 1-2 finishes with Hamilton on top. The season ended with Rosberg winning in Brazil and Hamilron in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton finished the season 67 points ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg to win his second World Drivers’ Champiobship. Mercedes won the Constructors’ title with a 296 point lead over Red Bull Racing. The team dominated the championship with 18 pole positions and 16 wins out of 19 races, eleven of those being 1-2 finishes.
The 2015 Season
The Car: Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid
WDC Positions: Lewis Hamilton, P1; Nico Rosberg, P2
WCC Positon: P1
Mercedes’ dominance continued into 2015. The team retained Hamilton and Rosberg who again were the only challengers for the Drivers’ Championship. The new car was dubbed the Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid.
The season started with a 1-2 led by Hamilton in Australia, followed by a Hamilton led 1-2 finish in China and another win by Hamilton in Bahrain. The next 1-2 finish came in Spain, this time with Rosberg on top, who also won the next race in Monaco. Then came 3 consecutive 1-2 finishes with Hamilton on top in Canada, Rosberg in Austria and Hamilton again in Great Britain. Hamilton then led another 1-2 in Belgium and won the next race in Italy. Hamilton’s next win came in Japan, with a 1-2 finish, followed by a win in Russia and a 1-2 in the US. The final three races were all 1-2 finishes with Rosberg on top.
In the end Hamilton won his second consecutive Drivers’ Championship (third overall), 59 points ahead of Rosberg. Mercedes won its second consecutive Constructors’ Championship with a 275 point lead over Ferrari. The team scored 18 pole positions, 16 wins and 12 1-2 finishes out of 19 races.
The 2016 Season
The Car: Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid
WDC Positions: Nico Rosberg, P1; Lewis Hamilton, P2
WCC Positon: P1
In 2016 Hamilton’s dominance was finally challenged by his team-mate Nico Rosberg. The drivers fought it out in the new Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid.
The 2016 campaign started very successfully for Rosberg who won the first four races, two of those (Australia and Russia) being 1-2 finishes. Hamilton finally won in Monaco and Canada, while Rosberg fought back in Baku. Then came four victories in a row by Hamilton with one of those (Hungary) a 1-2. Rosberg then won the next three races, one of which (Italy) was a 1-2. Rosberg won again in Japan followed by four consecutive 1-2 finishes with Hamilton on top to end the season.
In the end Rosberg managed to beat Hamilton for his first Drivers’ Championship by 5 points. Mercedes won its third Constuctors’ title in a row with a 297 point lead over Red Bull. The team’s results were again impressive with 20 pole positions, 19 race wins and 8 1-2 finishes out of 21 races.
After finally winning the championship Nico Rosberg surprised everyone by announcing his retirement from Formula 1.
The 2017 Season
The Car: Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+
WDC Positions: Lewis Hamilton, P1; Valtteri Bottas, P3
WCC Positon: P1
In 2017 the team’s name was changed to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. Rosberg’s retirement caught the team off-guard, so they had to act quickly to find a replacement. In the end Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas was recruited from Williams to partner Lewis Hamilton in the new Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+.
The season was more challenging for Mercedes than previous three season, as Ferrari rose up and proved to be a formidable foe. Mercedes’ first victory of the season came in the second race in China courtesy of Lewis Hamilton, while in Russia Valtteri Bottas earned his first career win. Hamilton won again is Spain and then in Canada, which also marked the team’s first 1-2 finish of the season. Bottas won in Austria, followed by another 1-2 with Hamilton on top in Great Britain. Hamilton won again in Belgium, followed by a 1-2 in Italy led by Hamilton. The Briton proceeded to win the next race in Singapore aswell. Hamilton won again in Japan and the USA, while Bottas ended the season on a high note by leading another 1-2 for the team.
Ultimately Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel by 46 points to win his fourth Drivers’ title, while Mercedes won its fourth consecutive Constructors’ Championship, 146 points ahead of Ferrari. Although the team’s results slipped a bit compared to previous seasons, the team still scored 15 pole positions and won 12 races out of 21, four of which were 1-2 finishes.
The 2018 Season
The Car: Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+
WDC Positions: Lewis Hamilton, P1; Valtteri Bottas, P5
WCC Positon: P1
Hamilton and Bottas remained with the team for 2018, piloting the new Mercedes AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+.
Ferrari again proved to be Mercedes’ main rival and it would take until the fourth race in Azerbaijan for Hamilton to score Mercedes’ first win of the season. Hamilton led a 1-2 for the team at the next race in Spain, then won again in France. Germany marked another 1-2 for the team with Hamilton on top. The Briton proceeded to win in Hungary, Italy and Singapore. Two consecutive 1-2 finishes led by Hamilton followed in Russia and Japan. The season ended with two more wins by Hamilton in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton was successful again and won his fifth Drivers’ Championship ahead of Sebastian Vettel by 88 points. He became only the third person in history of F1 to win five world titles, the other two being Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher (both former Mercedes drivers). Mercedes became only the second team in history to win the Costructors’ Championship five consecutive times (only Ferrari had won six in a row). The team finished the season 84 points ahead of Ferrari and in the process scored 12 pole positions, won 11 out of 21 races (all by Hamilton), with 4 being 1-2 finishes.
The 2019 Season
The Car: Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+
WDC Positions: Lewis Hamilton, P1; Valtteri Bottas, P2
WCC Positon: P1
Both Hamilton and Bottas were retained for 2019, as the team embarked on their quest to match Ferrari’s record of six consecutive Constructors’ Championships. The car built for this task was the Mercedes AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+.
The team started 2019 strong, taking 5 1-2 victories in a row. Bottas won the first race in Australia, Hamilton won in Bahrain and China, Bottas again in Azerbaijan and finally Hamilton in Spain. This amazing result was followed by two more wins by Hamilton in Monaco and Canada and another Hamilton led 1-2 in France. The team scored another 1-2 finish with Hamilton on top in Great Britain and another win by Hamilton in Hungary. Mercedes would not win again until the Russian Grand Prix, where Hamilton led another 1-2 by the team. Bottas would then win in Japan, Hamilton in Mexico, followed by a 1-2 with Bottas on top at the United States Grand Prix. Hamilton finished the season strongly with a win at the last race in Abu Dhabi.
Lewis Hamilton made history again and became only the second person to win six Drivers’ Championships (Michael Schumacher, who ultimately won seven, being the other one). He finished ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 87 points. The team matched Ferrari’s record of winning six Constructors’ Championships in a row. To do this they beat the Scuderia by 235 points. The team scored 10 pole positions and won 15 out of 21 races, 9 of which were 1-2 finishes.