1000th Formula 1 race in China: History will be made

Did you find this as well? History lessons at school were mostly interesting, but I could never remember the dates. Unless the story was really gripping. Like Columbus in 1492. Or American Independence in 1776. Before the upcoming Chinese Grand Prix, the 1000th race in Formula 1 history, I have dug into the archive to find a few exciting motor sport anniversaries that you’ll surely remember as well.

1886 – Zero Hour

Okay, you know the date: On 29 January Carl Benz applied for a patent from the Patent Office of the German Reich in Berlin for a “vehicle with gas engine operation” under the number DRP 37435. It was the day the automobile was born. In the same year, but independently of Carl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler built his motorised carriage.

Grand Prix of Germany 1937, the later winner Rudolf Caracciola in the Mercedes-Benz W 125.

1894 – The games begin

Well this one is a little trickier: 125 years ago, the French daily newspaper “Le Petit Journal” put on the very first motor race. It was a form of endurance race, which was held on public roads from Paris to Rouen on 22 July. 17 of the 21 participants made it to the finish line – among them were nine vehicles with engines which had been invented by Gottlieb Daimler and produced under licence by the French vehicle manufacturer Panhard & Levassor. The goal of the race was to cover the route from Paris to Rouen as fast as possible with a horseless carriage that was “not dangerous, easy to drive and inexpensive to run.”

The Grand Prix of England 1955, which will end with a grandiose quadruple victory for the Silver Arrows from Stuttgart, is off to a free start.

The main prize went to the participant “whose car came closest to this ideal.” The prize money of 5,000 francs was ultimately split between a Panhard & Levassor and a Peugeot. Both were powered by a two-cylinder V-engine designed by Gottlieb Daimler and built exactly according to his original plans. One of Benz’s vehicles also took part in the competition. The 3.7 kW (5hp) car crossed the finish line in 14th place, but was moved up to fifth place due to the “successful improvements to the motor car with petrol engine.”

At our celebration of 125 Years of Motorsport at Silverstone last weekend, Valtteri Bottas drove the W 125 from 1937, the successor to the first Silver Arrow.

1934 – A naked car becomes a Silver Arrow

It now gets really historic for our team: The Mercedes-Benz W 25 had its first outing at the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring on 3 June. The car would later go down in history as the first Silver Arrow and celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2019. The racing car was a completely new development introduced in 1933 to compete in a new formula for Grand Prix racing.

Three 300 SLRs at the start of the 18th International Eifel Race on 29 May 1955. From the left: the later winner Juan Manuel Fangio (starting number 1), Karl Kling (number 3, fourth place) and Stirling Moss (number 2, second place).

The regulations for the new series stipulated a maximum weight of 750kg without petrol, oil, coolant and tyres. Apart from that, there were no design restrictions, giving technicians plenty of room for innovation. The Mercedes engineers from Stuttgart decided on a classic vehicle architecture with an in-line eight-cylinder engine mounted in the front, which drove the rear wheels via a transmission on the rear axle.

Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton drove a few laps on the Silverstone track in a classic Mercedes Formula 1 racing car: the W 196.

The supercharged engine produced an output of 354hp (260 kW). And what about the weight restriction of 750kg? Legend has it that the car was slightly too heavy when it was weighed on the eve of its first race. But the team could reduce the weight of the W 25 just enough by removing the white paint from the car, thus exposing its metallic silver skin. The first Silver Arrow was born. The next day, Manfred von Brauchitsch won the Eifelrennen in his W 25 and in doing so set a new track record with an average speed of 122.5 km/h.

This would be the first of many victories for the Silver Arrows. The W 25 would compete until 1937, the last year of the 750kg formula. As time went on its design was continuously modified for even higher performance. The engine displacement was increased to a maximum of 4.7 litres, almost doubling the output to 646hp (475 kW) Along with von Brauchitsch, motorsport legends like Rudolf Caracciola and Luigi Fagioli also raced with the W 25 in 1934 and 1935.

1954 – The victory march gains momentum

And another anniversary: 65 years ago, on 4 July 1954, Mercedes made its Formula 1 debut at the French Grand Prix in Reims. The driver line-up included Karl Kling, Hans Herrmann, Hermann Lang and Juan Manuel Fangio, who would go on to win not only the French Grand Prix, but also the 1954 and 1955 World Championships. The team went into the season with the newly-developed W 196 R. The car was powered by a 2.5 litre, in-line eight-cylinder engine, which reached 256hp (188 kW) in its first race. There were two versions of the W 196 – the famous Streamliner version, which was aerodynamically optimized for low drag on long straights, and the classic open-wheel Monoposto.

While the Streamliner rapidly became a legendary racing car due to its unconventional design, it was the Monoposto that was mainly used in 1954 and 1955 (the two seasons that Mercedes competed in F1). But however you look at it, both versions of the W 196 were incredibly successful. They won nine of the 12 Formula 1 races in which they competed.

2019 – The story continues

And today? This weekend, the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai marks another historic moment – it is the 1000thrace in the history of Formula 1. And after the first two races of the season we’ve scored 87 points with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport – dropping only one point from the maximum available.

At the last race in Bahrain Mercedes-Benz achieved its 450th podium and 175th win at the very highest level of motorsport. If the season carries on like this, it will definitely go down in history!

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Bradley Lord is Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Communications Director. At the age of four he joined his first Formula 1 race. Since then he's a big fan of motor sports in all it's facets.