If Lewis Hamilton can win his fourth Formula One World Championship this year, it’ll be a four in a row for Mercedes after Nico Rosberg won the title last year. As it’d also be a fourth consecutive Constructors’ Championship for the Silver Arrows, it’s hard to remember a time when Mercedes weren’t dominating F1.
Owing to a long hiatus from the sport, it’s not always been this way, but it’s certainly true that F1 cars have had a massive impact on Mercedes as we know it.
Mercedes first competed in Grand Prix racing in the 1930s, and were a real force to be reckoned with. After some time away, they returned to what was now known as F1 partway through the 1954 season. With the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio at the wheel, the team recorded a 1-2 finish in their first race. Fangio went on to win the drivers’ title, and repeated this success in the next season.
However, after the 1955 Le Mans disaster in which Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh and more than 80 spectators died, the team withdrew from all forms of motor racing, including F1. Despite this, the time spent in the sport certainly rubbed off on Mercedes, which can be seen with streamlined models such as the iconic 300 SL with its gull-wing doors, and in engines like the powerful 6.3-litre M100 V8.
Mercedes didn’t return to F1 until they began supplying engines to Sauber in 1994, but it was the partnership with McLaren a year later that really lit the blue touch paper. In an era dominated by Michael Schumacher, it only took a few years before McLaren Mercedes won both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
The success of the partnership allowed the stunning McLaren F1 road car to hit incredible new heights, including becoming the world’s fastest production car in 1998. The following year, Daimler took control of the high performance engineering firm AMG, who helped to bring even more power to the F1 team and production cars.
From the track to the road
After returning to being a factory team in 2010 - and with plenty of help from Schumacher - Mercedes have now become the dominant force in F1. There’s always been a clear trickle-down effect from the sport to the cars we drive out on the roads; from traction control, to multifunction steering wheels and the use of carbon fibre - like on the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren which was released in 2003.
One of the most important developments in recent years comes with making engines more environmentally-friendly. The current 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines that are used in F1 are more efficient than we’ve ever seen before, and there are stiff penalties if engines prove to be unreliable. As Mercedes must find economy and reliability in such highly-tuned performance engines, this eventually trickles down to you when you’re driving anything from the mind-blowing Mercedes-AMG GT R to the family-friendly GLA SUV. Plus, the current S-Class runs on a 6-cylinder turbo engine built on what the F1 cars use, with cooling technology developed on the track transferred to the road too.
Whether it’s the never-ending quest to find the lightest and sturdiest materials, or how to squeeze as much power and reliability from an engine, F1 cars have changed Mercedes forever. And with the unveiling of the 1,000 horsepower road-legal Mercedes-AMG Project One hybrid supercar at the 2017 Frankfurt International Motor Show, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting.