Stallions against arrowsDecember 10, 2018
In the ending season of Formula 1, the top two lines in the protocol are occupied by two teams – one gave the world a car, the other made it the most desirable thing on the planet. One already a hundred years ago won silver, the other became famous in the red color, and their full-time battle on the track is not the first time. If we had visited the Grand Prix race 80 years ago, we would have seen exactly the same picture – the red and silver cars are flying to the finish to race, and no one knows who will win. These two cases from the past reveal the history of the rivalry of these two great teams.
1935. Silence and magic
Ferrari became a car manufacturer after the war, but before that the team of Enzo Ferrari was the court stable of Alfa Romeo – the only force capable then somehow to compare with the “Silver Arrow” in the Grand Prizes
Until 1935, the Italians dominated the championship, but the Germans from Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union came with such a technical base, organization and government support that, before the start of the Second World War, in fact, they played the championship among themselves.
The best car of the season of 1935, the Mercedes-Benz W25, wore a white color from birth, but when the weight of the W25 was higher than the allowed 750 kg, many holes were drilled inside it (even the gearshift lever turned out to be full of holes), and when that didn’t help, it was ripped from the body all the paint. It was then that the Berlin newspapers wrote that the Mercedes car was as fast as a silver arrow.
Under the thin aluminum “skinned” “Mercedes” at that time was a 3.9-liter 8-cylinder engine with 32 valves, assembled in the old school style of two 4-cylinder blocks, and in front of it was a mercilessly howling mechanical supercharger that could hear much ahead of time, like a fire call. If you think that Formula 1 cars do not sound in recent years, then against the background of the W25, they remain voiceless for 80 years!
Mechanical losses due to rotation of the compressor were catastrophic, it took 37.6 percent of power, but at the output the motor produced 430 horsepower (later 494 hp) – almost like military fighters of those years. The Scuderia Ferrari’s Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B motor for the German Grand Prix, for comparison, had only 330 hp.
With such a technique, Fagoli brought Mercedes-Benz victory in the first race of the season in Monaco, Rudolf Caracciola left no chances in French Monlerry and Spa. Next in line was the Nürburgring – the German Grand Prix, which could have become the main triumph of the Silver Arrows in 1935.
The first starting line, however, turned out to be not Mercedes-Benz at all, but the Alpha of Enzo Ferrari’s wards – places this time were allocated by lot so that riders did not kill at the dangerous Nurburgring even during the qualification, fighting for every tenth of a second.
The main star of Mercedes, Rudolf Caracciola, by the end of the starting line made his way from fourth to first place and finished the first lap in the status of leader with a time of 12 minutes and 7.4 seconds – 14 seconds faster than Nuvolari on a red Alfa Romeo, who is still and spun.
Fortunately for the talented Italian, the track after the morning rain remained wet, and this gave him the opportunity to compensate for the lack of power of the car with skill. “Mercedes” and “Auto Union” went ahead on the straight lines, but passed on the aerobatic sections. Inhuman efforts Nuvolari was able to regain second place, but then began the pit stops.
Immaculate organization reigned in the German box: this time the leaders stopped to replace the four wheels and refuel from 47 to 55 seconds and only Karachchiola was stuck with the mechanics for 1 minute 7 seconds.
But even this was a brilliant result compared to the organization of the Italians – one of the mechanics broke the filling pump, and now the team was bustling around the “Alpha” with cans, pouring gasoline through a huge funnel, and Nuvolari was standing nearby and cursing. He managed to leave the track only after 2 minutes 14 seconds.
In the meantime, Manfred von Brauchitsch went out by a large margin, but Tazio Nuvolari, who was in sixth place on that day, was unstoppable, and his rivals began to have problems by the way. Someone in front of Nuvolari drove into the pits, someone gave up the position without a fight, and very soon only the leader on Mercedes-Benz remained in front of the Italian.
The gap rapidly melted, but still remained too significant. On lap 17 of twenty to von Brauchitsch was 1 minute 3 seconds; 47 seconds on the 18th lap, 43 seconds on the 19th, and 32 at the beginning of the finish circle. If Nuvolari had had three laps left, he would have undoubtedly won the victory, but luck, it seems, this time was not on his side.
People already greeted von Brauchitsch throughout the distance, until at the finish for deathly silence the first line did not cross … red Alfa Romeo Scuderia Ferrari. 250,000 German viewers were amazed.
Thing, Caracciola, Rosenmayer drove next … And Manfred von Brauchitsch turned into boxing and in the arms of his brother, a Mercedes mechanic, could not hold back tears. Tires from Continental ahead of time warned the team that von Brauchitsch was too aggressively piloting and offered the tactics of two pit stops, given the gap, the rider even had that time.
But instead, under the pressure of Nuvolari, the German only inflated the pace, finally killing the rubber. The tire of one of the rear wheels just exploded.
The Germans dominated the championship until the last Grand Prix, which took place in Switzerland two weeks before the start of World War II, and Nuvolari’s racing talent was in demand by Mercedes’s competitors from Auto Union when their main star Rosenmayer, Schumacher of those years, died.
As for the team Enzo Ferrari, then she was soon shown at the door – Alfa Romeo decided to form its own factory team, which soon led to the emergence of another car brand.
1952. Midsummer Night’s Dream
The full-fledged successor to the pre-war Big Prizes, Formula 1, began to be held in the early 50s, and with it the roar of engines returned to Le Mans. Then the question of what is more popular, closed bodies or open wheels, was not so obvious.
And in 1952, the most controversial race of the post-war period was planned on the Sarthe ring – after 22 years, Mercedes-Benz returned with his old guard, including the pre-war chief of the team Alfred Neubauer and Karachchiol himself.
Ferrari first came to Le Mans in the status of the factory team – the crowd. Previously, private cars, such as the team of Luigi Chinetti, a successful Ferrari importer in the USA, performed (and won) on her cars.
Another team that could intervene in this dispute was Jaguar with the C-Type model with a new aerodynamic body – the course of the last races showed that the British were inferior to competitors in speed and the engineers tried to reduce drag.
Unfortunately, this affected the size of the radiators and predetermined cooling problems in the race. Nevertheless, according to the results of the training, the first two positions were occupied precisely by the Ferrari and Jaguar racers. “Mercedes” settled on a modest 9, 10 and 11 places.
After the classic Leman start, when the pilots first reached their cars, the American company Cunningham was ahead in general, and the Jaguars, Ferrari and Aston Martins were already following.
Gradually, due to the breakdowns that began, one or another team began to drive into the pits – this is how Aston Martins, one of Cunningham, dropped out of the fight, all the Jaguars came down due to overheating problems. Ferrari, in turn, suffered because of problems with the clutch, but remained in the group of leaders, and now the French were ahead on Gandini.
As for the “Mercedes”, under the leadership of the old wolf Neubauer, three “Silver Arrows” went at a restrained pace to stay in the top ten, to save cars, but always be ready to “eat” someone from weakened rivals.
From pre-war times, the pilots of Mercedes-Benz started the race on an equal footing, but as soon as the struggle settled down after the start, the riders had to stop fighting among themselves and begin to save the equipment life.
At night, the Ferrari and Mercedes forces decreased by one crew – the first due to disqualification, the second – due to generator failure, and Pierre Levegh took the lead at Talbot.
Now, this race should have definitely gone down in history – a strange vibration progressed at the Frenchman’s engine, and experienced Leveg decided not to change with a team-mate in order to save the technique on his own. Victory could get a man who drove a 24 hour race behind the wheel without changing and sleeping.
The morning was met by riders with a strong fog that so tightly covered the track that the Mercedes pilots had to open the doors – two cars cut the air like huge metal birds with raised “gull wings”. One can only guess what a fantastic sight it was.
Meanwhile, the sun was rising, and Neubauer vainly asked the pilots to pull themselves together and keep pace – the Mercedesians gradually rose to second and third place and now rushed in pursuit of Leleg, who managed to create a decent lead.
The French were already preparing for the victory of a compatriot in a domestic car, but then exhausted by 22 hours behind the wheel, Leveg was mistaken with the inclusion of another transfer in the turn of Mezon Blanche and turned the engine, which was not less tired than the driver. Talbot gave up the ghost.
Now only the only Ferrari remaining in the game, which initially stood on the pole, could prevent the Germans, but the Italians, as luck would have it, continued to pursue problems – small but proud outsiders on Nash-Healey followed the Mercedes. In the hard race, where 40 of the 57 cars started, the Mercedes-Benz team won to get out of the race very soon.
In 1955, the Mercedes-Benz team returned to Le Mans for a victory with an even stronger composition, but the performance ended in the most tragic accident in the history of motor racing – the same Pierre Levegh flew into the stands with the audience, 80 people died. Ferrari also won the subsequent marathons as many as eight times, but since the beginning of the 70s, she has never fought for victory in the absolute. Fans are waiting for her to return to Le Mans to this day.