F1 Dominators – Mercedes-Benz W196

Stirling Moss (above), driving the Mercedes-Benz W196 to victory ahead of teammate Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1955 British Grand Prix, held at Aintree. 

Image Source: Liverpool Echo

The Mercedes-Benz W196 competed in the 1954 and 1955 Formula One seasons, winning nine of the 12 championship races the car entered. 

Production of the car was overssen by Fritz Nallinger, with assistance from Rudolf Uhlenhaut. Uhlenhaut head a team of engineers, which included Hans ScherenbergLudwig Kraus, Manfred Lorscheidt, Hans Gassmann and Karl-Heinz Göschel.

After various studies, they had decided that using of a 2.5 litre, naturally aspirated engine against a 0.75 litre supercharged engine would be best for the new regulations changes. 

The W196 therefore used an eight cylinder inline engine, producing 257bhp @ 8,260rpm, debuting midway through the 1954 season at the French Grand Prix held at Reims using streamlined bodywork. 

Juan Manuel Fangio, who had driven eariler in the year for Maserati, switched to the German marque and led German teammate Karl Kling home for a 1-2 finish. 

Juan Manuel Fangio on his way to victory at the 1954 European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in Germany aboard the monoposto version of the W196.

Image Source: © Agridecumantes via Wikipedia

At the following race, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the car wasn’t well suited to the track’s layout. Fangio was the best placed Mercedes driver, finishing a lap down in fourth, behind race winner and fellow countryman José Froilán González in the Ferrari.

Because of this, a monoposto version of the W196 was devepoled. Introduced for the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in Germany, the car was now  100kg lighter than its predecessor – 650kg against the 750kg of the streamliner. 

The car was the quickest of the field and Fangio would go on to win three of the four remaining Grand Prix to win his second drivers’ title, becoming the only driver in Formula One history to do so having drove for two different teams in a single season. 

The monoposto (top) and streamlined versions of the Mercedes-Benz W196.

Image Source: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

For 1955, the Argentine had a new teammate in the form of British driver Stirling Moss. Between them, they won five of the six races they entered, four of which were won by Fangio.

The fifth win was taken by Moss at the British Grand Prix at Aintree, winning by 0.2 seconds. In fact, Mercedes were so dominant that day, they recorded an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 finish, with Kling finishing third and Italian Piero Taruffi a lap down in fourth.

However, due to the 1955 Le Mans disaster, in which Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators were killed after his 300 SLR collided with the Austin-Healey of Lance Macklin as the latter left the pits, launching the Frenchman into the crowd. 

As a result, numerous motorsport events were cancelled, including four Grand Prix, handing Fangio his third world title. Mercedes would also pull out from Formula One and other forms of motor racing, an act which would last until 1989.

Juan Manuel Fangio – pictured here at the Nürburgring in 1986 – managed to win eight Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz during the 1954 and 1955 Formula One seasons.

Image Source: © Lothar Spurzem via Wikipedia


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