Since 1994: Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1

Apr 5, 2019

Mercedes-Benz officially returned to the pinnacle of motor sports, Formula 1 racing, in March 1994, in collaboration with Peter Sauber. What would eventually become Team McLaren-Mercedes was established in 1995 and won three driver’s world championships (1998, 1999. and 2008) as well as the constructors’ world championship in 1998.

2010 saw the return of a Mercedes-Benz works team. These new Silver Arrows of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team continue a further golden age for the brand with the star in Formula 1: the team goes on to win five World Championship one-two victories in a row: the world championships are won a total of four times by Lewis Hamilton (2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018) and once by Nico Rosberg (2016).

The path to its first works team since 1955 started with relatively small steps for Mercedes-Benz: the C 12 racing car used by the Sauber team in Formula 1 racing in 1993 was labelled “ Concept by Mercedes-Benz”. The Stuttgart-based brand had yet to make the final decision on whether or not to return to the elite discipline of motorsport. However, Mercedes-Benz supported its long-standing partner from Group C racing with its know-how in the development of the Ilmor engine. Sauber drivers Karl Wendlinger and JJ Letho (Jyrki Juhani Järvilehto) finished in 11th and 13th position, respectively, in the drivers’ championship that year, with the team securing 6th place in the constructors’ championship with 12 points.

Then, in 1994, the Sauber-Mercedes C 13 returned the name of the Stuttgart-based brand back to the racetrack for good. The car was again powered by a ten-cylinder engine built at Ilmor. It produced 515 kW (700 hp) of power at 14,000 rpm, propelling the car to a top speed of up to 340 km/h. At the end of a season marked by several rule changes, drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Karl Wendlinger, and Andrea de Cesaris finished 13th, 19th, and 20th, with an 8th place finish in the constructors’ championship. This was still well behind the leading teams of Williams-Renault and Benetton-Ford.

In a team with McLaren

1995 saw the arrival of a new team on the Formula 1 stage: after the disappointing results of the collaboration with Sauber, Mercedes-Benz parted with the Swiss team at the end of 1994 and embarked on a collaboration with British racing team McLaren International. Its owner, Ron Dennis, had already established ties to Mercedes-Benz in the late 1980s. In just four-and-a-half months, the completely new FO 110 engine was designed for the 1995 McLaren-Mercedes MP4-10. This open-wheel car was the first result of the partnership between McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and engine specialist Ilmor. After fourth place finishes in the constructors’ standings in 1995 and 1996, Mika Häkinnen and David Coulthard scored three victories in the 1997 season, securing 6th and 4th place in the world championship.

The German-British racing partnership achieved its goal of a world championship in 1998 with a two-fold triumph: Mika Häkkinen took the world championship in his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-13, and Coulthard won 3rd place in the drivers’ standings. McLaren-Mercedes also won the constructors’ championship by a wide margin, ahead of Ferrari and Williams. During that 1998 season, the Silver Arrows – back in their traditional silver racing livery since 1997 – were first across the finish line in Australia, Brazil, Spain, Monaco, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, and Japan (Häkkinen), as well as in San Marino (Coulthard).

While the basic concept of the MP4-13 of the world championship car was derived from the MP4-12 model of the previous year, substantial modifications in many details were required to comply with the changes to the regulations for the 1998 racing season. The track and overall width were reduced by 200 millimetres, which in turn necessitated extensive modifications to the aerodynamics. A characteristic feature of the MP4-13 was the low nose, ending just above the front wing. The now wider cockpit was moved further back in line with the regulations to optimise weight distribution. This resulted in a longer wheelbase than the MP4-12 had had, along with a slight increase in overall length.

However, the outstanding reputation of Mercedes-Benz as an engine partner of international racing teams was not limited to Formula 1. For example, the 1994 season became the stuff of legends when the American Penske team won the CART IndyCar World Series with a Mercedes-Benz engine built at Ilmor. The Penske cars won 12 out of 16 races that season, including the Indy 500. The Penske cars were powered by Mercedes engines between 1994 and 1999.

Mika Häkkinen successfully defended his world championship title in 1999 in his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-14, with David Coulthard finishing in 4th place. In the constructors’ championship, McLaren-Mercedes finished as the runner-up. Häkkinen and Coulthard again secured the runner-up position in the constructors’ championship in the following years. Mika Häkkinen drove his McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15 to second place in the drivers’ standings in 2000, behind Michael Schumacher for Ferrari, with Coulthard in 3rd place. In the following years, Coulthard (2001 in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-16) and Kimi Räikkönen (2003 in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-17D and 2005 in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-20) both came runners-up in the Formula 1 Championships.

At the end of 2006, the McLaren Mercedes team announced that it had signed Formula 1 novice Lewis Hamilton for the 2007 season as its regular driver. He attained his first victory in the premier class of motorsport on 10 June 2007 at the Canadian Grand Prix. Three further Grand Prix victories followed, and the Brit finished his first Formula 1 season as runner-up, just one point behind World Champion Kimi Räikkönen for Ferrari.

In 2008, Lewis Hamilton turned his narrow defeat of the previous season into an equally narrow victory: in his MP4-23, he decided the championship in his favour in the closing stages of the last race of the season. The Brazilian Grand Prix was raced in particularly difficult conditions, with rain before the start and again just before the end. In the last turn of the 71-lap race, Hamilton passed rival Timo Glock (Toyota) for 5th place. This was enough to win the world championship with 98 points. At the age of 23 years, 9 months and 26 days, Lewis Hamilton became the youngest champion in Formula 1 history at the time. This was the third drivers’ title for Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes in Formula 1, following wins in 1998 and 1999. Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes took 2nd place in the constructors’ championship.

In the 2009 season, Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes competed in the new MP4-24. Another team whose Formula 1 racing cars were powered by Mercedes-Benz engines was doing the winning, however: Englishman Jenson Button from Team Brawn Mercedes, driving a BGP 001, won five out of the first six races and was eventually crowned Formula 1 world champion, with his team-mate Rubens Barrichello finishing third.

Return of the works team

For the 2010 season, Daimler AG revived a tradition that had been in hiatus since the end of the 1955 season by entering its own Formula 1 works team. The new Team MERCEDES GRAND PRIX was created by the acquisition of British racing team Brawn GP. After concluding a long-term sponsorship deal with the Malaysian oil and gas company Petronas in late 2009, the new partners settled on the team name MERCEDES GRAND PRIX PETRONAS, or MERCEDES GP PETRONAS for short. The sensation of the 2010 season was the signing of Michael Schumacher as a Mercedes-Benz driver for the new works team: the seven-time Formula 1 world champion drove one of the two Silver Arrows. His team-mate was Nico Rosberg.

This meant that events had come full circle for both Michael Schumacher and for Mercedes-Benz. Schumacher had driven as a Mercedes-Benz junior in Group C and the DTM in 1990 and 1991, and it was with assistance from Mercedes-Benz that he had entered the world of Formula 1 in 1991 – on August 1991 at Spa-Francorchamps with Jordan. At MERCEDES GP PETRONAS, Schumacher now followed in the footsteps of the great Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 works drivers, who in addition to five-time world champion Fangio, included Stirling Moss, Karl Kling, Hans Herrmann, and Piero Taruffi. Schumacher also resumed his working relationship with team boss Ross Brawn, with whom he had won his seven drivers’ world championships at Benetton and Ferrari. Nico Rosberg, who scored three third place finishes during the season 2010, ended up 7th in the drivers’ standings. Michael Schumacher finished the year in 9th place of the drivers’ standings and MERCEDES GP in 4th in the constructors’ championship.

In the 2012 season, the works team competed under the new team name MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS F1. Nico Rosberg won the Grand Prix of Shanghai and finished second on 27 May in Monaco. Michael Schumacher recorded his best result of the season with a 3rd place finish at the European Grand Prix in Valencia on 24 June. The record world champion ended his active career at the end of the year. His successor at the wheel of the Silver Arrow was Lewis Hamilton – the 2008 world champion.

Another protagonist ended a most successful career: Norbert Haug. In the 22 years since 1990 as Head of Motorsport, he shaped the racing activities and brought the brand back to the top of international motorsports. He was followed by Toto Wolff.

Another golden age for the Silver Arrows

In 2013, the Mercedes team raced the W04. At the start of the season, new Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished in 3rd place at the Grand Prix races in Malaysia and China. Nico Rosberg was victorious on 26 May in Monaco. More podium finishes for the works team followed in Canada (Lewis Hamilton, 3rd), Hungary (victory for Hamilton), Belgium (Hamilton, 3rd), India (Rosberg, 2nd) and Abu Dhabi (Rosberg, 3rd). The Mercedes team ended 2013 with 360 points and second place in the constructors’ standings. Lewis Hamilton finished 4th in the overall drivers’ standings, Nico Rosberg 6th.

In 2014, the next Silver Arrows golden era finally began. It would again present major challenges for all teams, with new regulations governing the new vehicles. These included a turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 power unit, expanded hybrid functions, an eight-speed instead of a seven-speed transmission and new specs for the aerodynamics components to reduce downforce levels. Fuel was limited to 100 kilograms per race and vehicle. All in all, the specifications imposed a cut in fuel consumption by around 30 per cent for the V6 engine compared with the V8 in use before.

The crew around new Head of Motorsport Toto Wolff and Technical Director Paddy Lowe tackled the fifth attempt to win the drivers’ and constructors’ crowns since the comeback with their new F1 W05 Silver Arrow. The W05 Silver Arrow had a so-called vacuum nose with a rather broad shape. The front section featured a hump towards the cockpit. As is the case for many competitors, the car had a slim waist and a graceful overall appearance. The colour scheme was classic Mercedes and featured the traditional silver – with the light green accents of title partner Petronas, a Malaysian oil corporation. A message to former driver and brand ambassador Michael Schumacher (45), who has been in a medically induced coma since his skiing accident in Meribel, France, on 29 December 2013, was painted on the sides of the cockpit: “KeepFightingMichael” – the hashtag for social media posts intended to give the legendary driver and his family courage.

The first race of the 2014 season, the Australian Grand Prix, was won by Nico Rosberg. This was followed by a breathtaking series one-two victories: Hamilton won the Grand Prixes of Malaysia, Bahrain, China and Spain one after the other ahead of his team colleague Rosberg. After the victory at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, there was a further series of race triumphs at the end of the season in Italy, Singapore, Japan, Russia and the USA. Hamilton, driving with self-chosen starting number 44, won the Formula 1 World Championship title with a clear lead over Nico Rosberg. The lead of Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 in the constructors’ championship was even clearer: the team won 701 points, followed by Red Bull with 405 points in second place.

The dominance of 2014 was continued by the brand from Stuttgart in 2015 with the Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid: Lewis Hamilton became Formula 1 World Champion for the third time with 381 points (ten race victories, six runners-up and one third place) ahead of Nico Rosberg with 322 points (six victories, seven runners-up and two third places). The constructors’ championship once again went to Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 with 703 points, ahead of Ferrari with 428 points.

In the 2016 season, Mercedes-AMG Motorsport started with the Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid. In the competition between the two drivers, this year Nico Rosberg came out on top against Lewis Hamilton. Right from the start of the season, the racing driver born in 1985 in Wiesbaden, Germany, made his claim for the championship title clear with four victories in a row: Rosberg won the Australian Grand Prix (ahead of Lewis Hamilton) as well as in Bahrain, China and Russia (again, ahead of Lewis Hamilton). In total, Rosberg managed nine victories, five runners-up and two third places in this season. He won the Formula 1 World Championship with 385 points ahead of his team colleague Hamilton with 380 points (ten victories, three runners-up and four third places). In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 was ahead of Red Bull with 765 points to its 468. After the end of the 2016 season, Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from Formula 1.

In 2017, Lewis Hamilton took back the world championship title in the new Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ Silver Arrow. His new team colleague was Finnish racing driver Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton won his first race of the season on 9 April 2017 in Shanghai at the Chinese Grand Prix. At the Mexican Grand Prix on 29 October 2017, he completed the world championship win ahead of time. This year, Lewis Hamilton attained a total of nine victories and two runners-up positions. The constructors’ championship went to Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 with 668 points, ahead of Ferrari with 522 points.

In 2018, driving the Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+, Hamilton secured his fifth world championship title ahead of Ferrari racing drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen. Hamilton attained a total of eleven victories, three runners-up and three third places with 408 points in the racing year. As early as at the Mexican Grand Prix on 28 October 2018, he extended his lead in the drivers’ championship so clearly that he was already champion. In the constructors’ championship, the brand from Stuttgart was at the top for the fifth time in a row with 655 points, followed by Ferrari with 571 points. The championship was won by Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 ahead of time with Lewis Hamilton’s win at the Brazilian Grand Prix on 11 November 2018. Even the last race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 25 November 2018, was finished by Lewis Hamilton in first place. It was the 73rd victory of his career.

The triumphs of 2018 in Formula 1, DTM and customer sport were a unique start for the 2019 season. They are fully in step with the anniversary of 125 years of Mercedes-Benz motorsport. The highlights of this unique history from 1894 to the future of the fully electric racing can be experienced at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in the Legend 7: Silver Arrows – Races and Records exhibition area.

Press conference at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, 25 January 2010. Mercedes-Benz presents its new Formula 1 factory team MERCEDES GP PETRONAS. The drivers for the new Silver Arrow are Nico Rosberg and seven-times Formula 1 record world champion, Michael Schumacher.
Italian Grand Prix, Monza, 7 September 1997. David Coulthard in a McLaren Mercedes MP4/12 clocks up his second victory of the season and the second Formula 1 victory for the McLaren-Mercedes team. At the end of the season, he finishes third in the 1997 World Championship driver rating.
The year 1995 marks the first Formula 1 season in the partnership between Mercedes-Benz and British racing team McLaren. The McLaren Mercedes MP4/10 is painted in the team colours white and red.
Italian Grand Prix, 13 September 1998. The subsequent 1998 Formula 1 world champion, Mika Häkk inen in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13.
British Grand Prix in Silverstone, 23 April 2000. David Coulthard in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/15 picks up his first victory of the season for McLaren-Mercedes and finishes third in the drivers’ ratings at the end of the season.
Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, 10 June 2007. Formula 1 newcomer Lewis Hamilton, who has achieved a podium finish at all Grand Prix races to date, clinches his first Formula 1 victory in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-22. After three more victories, he ends the season as runner-up – but only one point behind.
Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, 20 March 2016. Nico Rosberg wins the first race of the season in a Mercedes F1 W07 hybrid. He goes on to secure eight more victories and then, with a second place in the last race of the season in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 27 November 2016, takes home the title of Formula 1 World Champion.
Stoffel Vandoorne, photo from 2019.
China Grand Prix in Shanghai, 18 April 2010. Nico Rosberg in the new Silver Arrow MGP F1 W01 wins the first podium place for the new factory team with third place.
Mexican Grand Prix, 29 October 2017. Lewis Hamilton finishes the race in ninth place in a Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+ and secures the Formula 1 World Champion title early for the fourth time after 2008, 2014 and 2015. Together with the successes of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, he also secures the team the Formula 1 constructors’ title – for the fourth time in a row since 2014.
Mexican Grand Prix, 28 October 2018. Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes F1 W09 EQ Power+ finishes fourth. In this way, he wins his fifth World Champion title ahead of schedule and is one of only three racing drivers to win the top accolade in motorsport at least five times. Apart from Hamilton, only Juan Manuel Fangio and record world champion Michael Schumacher have managed this so far.
Mexican Grand Prix, 28 October 2018. Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes F1 W09 EQ Power+ finishes fourth. In this way, he wins his fifth World Champion title ahead of schedule and is one of only three racing drivers to win the top accolade in motorsport at least five times. Apart from Hamilton, only Juan Manuel Fangio and record world champion Michael Schumacher have managed this so far.
Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, 31 October 1999: Mika Häkkinen secures his second Formula 1 World Championship title in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4/14 with a victory in the final race of the season.
Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, 10 May 2015. Lewis Hamilton’s pit stop. The race ends with the third double victory of the season for the Silver Arrows, and at the end of the season the Brit once again secures the World Championship title – his third after 2008 and 2014.
The 2014 Formula 1 season sees the birth of a revolutionary racing formula. With immediate effect the focus was on hybrid power in the champions league of motorsport. Instead of the previous 2.4-litre V8 engines, 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged engines with hybrid modules are now being used.
China Grand Prix in Shanghai, 17 April 2016. Nico Rosberg secures his third win of the season and, at the end of the season, becomes the first German driver to win the Formula One world championships in a Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow. Rosberg wins a total of nine Grand Prix races in 2016 in the Mercedes F1 W07 hybrid and clinches five second places and two third places.
Monaco Grand Prix, 25 May 2014. A dream comes true for Nico Rosberg with his Formula 1 victory in the Principality of Monaco. The German, who grew up in Monaco, wins the race in a Mercedes F1 W05 hybrid ahead of Lewis Hamilton. This is the fifth double victory in succession for the two Silver Arrow drivers.
Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang, 24 March 2013. In the 2013 season, Lewis Hamilton takes over the cockpit of the Silver Arrow from record world champion Michael Schumacher. In the new Mercedes F1 W04, Hamilton achieves a podium position in the second race.
China Grand Prix in Shanghai, 15 April 2012. Nico Rosberg (in front) starts from pole position and wins the race in a Mercedes F1 W03. This is his first Formula 1 victory and also the first victory for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.
Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, 22 May 2011. Michael Schumacher (starting number 7) and Nico Rosberg (starting number 8) are sixth and seventh in their MGP F1 W02s.
American Grand Prix in Austin/Texas, 25 October 2015. Lewis Hamilton wins ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes F1 W06 hybrid and becomes Formula 1 World Champion early for the third time, for the second time in a row with MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.
Formula 1 2018: Brazilian Grand Prix, 11 26, 2018. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton starts from pole position and wins the race, while Bottas achieves the fastest lap time. MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Motorsport wins the FIA Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship for the fifth time in a row.
American adventure: the Penske Mercedes team, powered by engineering from Stuttgart, is successful in the IndyCar Series. At the wheel of the Penske PC-23 with an Ilmor-Mercedes-Benz engine is Al Unser Jr., winner of the 1994 IndyCar World Series.