Reims 1954. – Mercedes comes back to GP racing and wins first F1 race

Juan Manuel Fangio Mercedes W196 French GP 1954

Mercedes returned to the Grand Prix races this day in 1954 and made the first victory in Form 1 on French Reims, and won them by Juan Manuel Fangio in front of Karl Kling.

After the Second World War, Germany was excluded from the international motorsport until 1950. In addition, Daimler-Benz and Auto Union had other problems, such as the division of Germany and the rebuilding of destroyed factories.

However, Daimler-Benza’s management considered that the value of racing as a developmental exercise was key to recovery strategy. There was no question will they return to racing, just when will that happen, depending on the state of the company and international politics.

French GP F1 1954 Reims Photo Patrice Vatan

At the beginning of 1951, Mercedes-Benz discreetly tested the terrain by sending two W163s from the 1939 with a 3-liter V12 engine in Argentina to compete on two Formula One races. Karl Kling and Hermann Lang finished second and third on both races behind Gonzales’s 2-liter Ferrari.

This gave Mercedes-Benz a glimpse of where they were compared with competition, but more importantly, they were no negative reactions to their participation.

Shortly after, the Daimler-Benz board decided to return to racing with a sports car based on serial components next year.

Under the guidance of a brilliant engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut in 1952, two Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs were made, which finished in the first two places at Le Mans and Carrera Panamericana. After that, they gave up on them, made a serial version and devoted themselves to the new F1 design for the start of the new 2-liter formula.

The design team led by Uhlenhaut and Hans Scherenberg made the car that was trully worthy of respect  No matter how much money a team has, this does not necessarily guarantee success and therefore we must respect all that the Daimler-Benz W196 has achieved.

On July 4, 1954, Mercedes-Benz returned to the French Grand Prix in Remis with three cars driven by Fangio, Karl Kling and Hans Herrmann. The cars looked spectacular because they were covered with a beautiful aerodynamic body that perfectly suited the track in Reims.

The track was practically a triangle on top of which were demanding slow corners, with two very long straights and a third which was cut by two very fast corners.

Mercedes-Benz achieved a 1-2 victory in its comeback race, but some noted that the cars looked bad in slower windings, prompting discussion of how heavily aerodynamics actually contributed to their victory.

In addition to the first victory in Formula 1, Mercedes won their first pole position (also Fangio, with a second advantage ahead of Kling) and the first fastest lap (Hans Herrmann).

It was tenth F1 victory for Fangio who won his second championship in 1954 after 1951 and the first in a row of four consecutive titles between 1954 and 1957.

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