April 03, 2021
Only 10 years after the war, the British Grand Prix driver joined the German team – a big thing in those days – for a brief but glorious period of success
When Stirling Moss joined Fangio in the Mercedes dream team
What would it mean for an Englishman to drive a Mercedes, only 10 years after the end of a war that had killed so many millions? In 1937 Dick Seaman had signed up for the same team and watched as the shadow of war fell across Europe. He stood to attention when Adolf Hitler inspected the cars and their drivers in Berlin and made a reluctant Nazi salute on the victory podium at the Nürburgring. He had been killed, while leading a Grand Prix in one of the Silver Arrows, only weeks before Britain and Germany went to war. Now former foes were expressing unstinted admiration of Germany’s engineering prowess as applied to the science of motor racing – skills that had only recently been used to fashion Tiger tanks, V2 rockets and Messerschmitt engines. It was as if the two things had no connection.
Mercedes’ tentative return in 1951 with pre-war cars in Argentina – not exactly a hostile environment – proved only that reviving obsolete machinery was not the way to go. It was followed in 1952 by the development of new sports coupés which secured first and second places at Le Mans and in the Carrera Panamericana. That was more like the old Mercedes, and the company’s full-scale return to Grand Prix racing in 1954 saw them resuming the sort of dominance they had enjoyed between 1934 and 1939. For Stirling Moss, just as it had been for Seaman, the invitation to join this historic team was the greatest compliment that could be paid to a racing driver.
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