- 25 years ago: First victory for McLaren-Mercedes since the Stuttgart-based brandʼs re-entry into the Formula One World Championship
- Ten years ago: Nico Rosberg takes the first victory for the new Mercedes-Benz Formula One works team
- 19 April 2022: Indianapolis winner Al Unser jr. turns 60
- 7 May 2022: Le Mans winner Stanley Dickens celebrates his 70th birthday
- 120 years ago: A Mercedes-Lohner-Porsche wins the Exelberg Race
Stuttgart. The Mercedes-Benz motorsport chronicle lists important anniversaries for April and May, which this Newsletter presents. Newsletter No. 2/2022 will be reporting further anniversaries from mid-May.
9 March 1997 – 25 years ago: First victory for the new Silver Arrows
The alliance of McLaren and Mercedes, which has existed since 1995, waited two years for this success: on 9 March 1997, David Coulthard wins the Australian Grand Prix, beating Michael Schumacher on Ferrari and also his own teammate Mika Häkkinen. The colour of the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/12 is striking: its silver-white instead of the previous white-red harks back to earlier eras of success of the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows.
Shortly before that, towards the end of the 1996 season, McLaren boss Ron Dennis visits Mercedes-Benz board member Professor Jürgen Hubbert and motorsport boss Norbert Haug in Stuttgart after promising test drives of the racing car designed by Adrian Newey to set the objectives for the new season. “It is coming, I can smell it,” the Briton predicts, as Hubbert later reports and adds: “And what happens? David Coulthard wins the very first race in Australia.” In 1998 and 1999, Mika Häkkinen wins two World Championships in a row on McLaren-Mercedes, and Lewis Hamilton wins the third for this team with a one-point lead in 2008 – after missing the championship by just one point in his first year in Formula One in 2007. Norbert Haug remembers: “In the 1990s and early 2000s, apart from Ferrari, there are no works teams in Formula One, only engine partnerships. This era is an extremely important part of Mercedes-Benzʼs motorsport history and has made the current heyday of the works Silver Arrows possible.”
15 April 2012 – Ten years ago: First victory of the young works team in Formula One
From the 2010 season on, Mercedes-Benz once again competes in Formula One with a works team – 55 years after the Silver Arrows withdrew at the end of the 1955 season. The drivers: record world champion Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. More than two years pass before the first victory, but ten years ago the time is ripe: Nico Rosberg wins the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai for AMG Petronas F1 ahead of McLaren-Mercedes teammates Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton on 15 April 2012. This means that the drivers of three racing cars powered by Mercedes-Benz are on the podium – together with motorsport boss Norbert Haug, who receives the first trophy for the works Silver Arrows of the modern era on behalf of the team.
The background: in 2009, Ross Brawnʼs team becomes World Constructorsʼ Champion with the Brawn GP01 and an engine from Mercedes-Benz, and Jenson Button wins the World Championship. Success is already on the horizon at an early stage. In mid-2009, Haug therefore proposes to the board to take over the team – which then happens at the end of the year. A few months later, it starts competing as a works team in silver livery.
“At this point, the engineers have long been working on the new engine generation with two hybrid systems, as they have been used since 2014 and still are today as so-called power units. In an extremely fruitful cooperation, the series was able to learn from motorsport and motorsport from the series – a wonderful example of useful development steps at racing speed,” says Haug. When these systems are introduced in Formula One in 2014, a year late because the competitors were not yet ready, the works team is ready for the most successful era in the more than 125 years of motorsport history of Mercedes-Benz. By 2021, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg wins seven Driversʼ World Championships in a row and becomes Constructorsʼ World Champion eight times in succession.
19 April 1962 – 60 years ago: Al Unser jr. is born
Al Unser jr. comes from a racing dynasty. His father wins the Indianapolis 500 four times. He himself succeeds in doing so twice. Between 1982 and 1997, the racing driver from Albuquerque celebrates 31 victories in the American IndyCar/Champ Car series and becomes champion twice. On 19 April 2022, Al Unser jr. will turn 60.
Arguably, Unser jr. celebrates his most spectacular success in 1994 with Roger Penskeʼs team. The PC 23 racing car is powered by the Mercedes-Benz 500I engine. Today, the engine can be seen as an exhibit of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Legend Room 7: Silver Arrows – Races and Records. It is being used only once, but with resounding success.
The V8 turbo engine produces around 752 kW (1,024 hp), some 150 kW (204 hp) more than the competition. This is because Penske has discovered a passage in the regulations that is supposed to give near-production engines with up to 3.4 litres of displacement a chance over the 2.65-litre racing engines. A perfect challenge for Mario Illien, responsible for the Formula One engines at Mercedes-Benz from 1993 to 2005. The Swiss national designs the superior 500I, and Al Unser jr. wins the “Indy 500”. “The engine, and with it the victory of 1994, is undoubtedly one of the greatest masterpieces of Mario Illien and his partner Paul Morgan,” acknowledges Norbert Haug, Racing Director at the time. “Immediately after the race, the regulations are changed. But we knew that already before the start.”
7 May 1952 – 70 years ago: Stanley Dickens is born
In contrast to Formula One, many good and experienced racing drivers in the sports car and GT series are rarely in the limelight. However, if a suitable team and a bit of racing luck come together, they too can achieve great success. The Swede Stanley Dickens, who celebrates his 70th birthday on 7 May 2022, falls into this category. Because three instead of two drivers usually share the cockpit for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Mercedes-Benz partner and racing team boss Peter Sauber also enters three instead of two Sauber-Mercedes C9s in 1989, he signs Dickens and Manuel Reuter as well. They are partnered with the experienced Jochen Mass.
The silver-coloured sports cars with the incredibly powerful eight-cylinder turbo engine from Mercedes-Benz take first, second and fifth place. As they cross the finish line in formation, Jochen Mass / Stanley Dickens / Manuel Reuter are the winners. Second are Mauro Baldi / Kenny Acheson / Gianfranco Brancatelli and fifth Jean-Louis Schlesser / Jean-Pierre Jabouille / Alain Cudini. In 1991, Dickens drives again for Sauber-Mercedes at Le Mans, but the C11 does not finish. The racing driver starts in exactly 111 races between 1978 and 2010 and achieves top results in Europe, Japan and the USA. After his racing career ends, he works as a PR and marketing consultant.
11 May 1902 – 120 years ago: Exelberg victory of Mercedes-Lohner-Porsche racing car
From Formula One to Formula E – electric power is also proving its worth in motorsport in many racing series. It powers purely electric racing cars or supports the combustion engine in hybrid systems. These ideas are not new; the first successes date very far back in automotive history. The pioneers are the Lohner-Porsche cars around 1900, which are equipped with various combustion engines. In this design, an internal combustion engine drives electric wheel hub motors in the front wheels via a generator. This mixed drive system gives rise to the name suffix “Mixte” after the French term “voitures mixtes”. Later, from 1907, vehicles from the Austrian Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft were produced with this drive principle under the name Mercédès Mixte.
Ferdinand Porsche himself competes in the Exelberg Race in Lower Austria on 11 May 1902 in a two-seater Lohner-Porsche with a Mercedes 28 hp engine. This competition covers a distance of 4.2 kilometres and is held between 1899 and 1904. On the gravel track with gradients of four to eight per cent, the constructor, who went on to be Technical Director of the Oesterreichische Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (Austro-Daimler) from 1906, wins the large car class with the Mercedes-Lohner-Porsche.