FormulaNerds Cut To The Race Podcast

Discovering Formula One Team Origins: Mercedes

Latest Episode | Cut To The Race Podcast

It’s not rare in Formula One to hear of a team name change such as what happened with Brawn GP and Mercedes.

These teams change their name throughout their history mainly because of sponsors or new ownership takeovers.

We look to discover the roots of Formula One teams and how they evolved throughout the years. We start with one of the most successful teams in recent times, Mercedes.

Mercedes came a very long way. From almost going into administration to Ross Brawn turning them into a championship-winning team. It led to many years of celebrations and it goes way back into the Formula One heritage.

Tyrrell Racing 1969 – 1998

It all started with Tyrrell Racing. The team did not fully get into Formula One until the 1970s. Their first entry was to be in 1968 but the FIA considered their technology as a sanger to Formula One and banned it for the years to come.

Together with Elf and Ford, Tyrrell produced a car that had aviation-inspired fuel tanks which made the chassis 15kg lighter than others.

One of the problems that Tyrrell had was that a big part of their budget came from Ford but the other prominent amount came from Elf, a French state-owned petroleum company. This led to conflicts and so Ken Tyrrell started developing his secret car using a March 701 chassis.

This led to the Tyrrell 003 which won the 1971 Formula One championship. They won the title with Jackie Stewart behind the wheel. The Scotsman won the three Formula One titles. The first one was in 1969 when Tyrrell were still working with Matra International. Then he won the title in 1971, making it the best season ever for Tyrrell and earned himself the last Drivers’ Championship title in 1973.

That year was the last one for Tyrrell’s reign. Stewart retired and their other driver Francois Cevert passed away. It all went downhill from the P34, a six-wheeled single-seater racing car which ran in 1976 and 1977.

In 1983 they took their last win in the Netherlands thanks to Michele Alboreto and from there, it was the beginning of the end. In 1984, they were accused of using illegal tactics to run their cars underweight and they were disqualified. Then financial troubles took over and in 1998, British American Tobacco took over to become British American Racing.

British American Racing

Also referred to as BAR, in short, Craig Pollock was one of the main figures of the team. He brought in the 1997 World Champions, Jacques Villeneuve and when Honda stepped in as engine supplier in 2000, things started to improve. In 2001, Villeneuve put BAR on the podium in Spain and Germany but the team were still not where they wanted to be.

Jacques Villeneuve driving for BAR in front oh his home crowd in Canada in 1999

That is why in 2003, team principal Dave Richards brought in Jenson Button from Renault but Villeneuve was not happy and left. The youngster found himself unlucky, being a runner-up to Ferrari in 2004 after he scored 10 podiums and the 2005 ended up being somewhat of a disappointment too.

Button decided to buy himself out of his BAR contract for £10 million and rejoin Williams again in 2006. The British American Racing team failed and that is when Honda stepped in.

Image Credit: ESPN

Honda Racing

It was the first time since 1968 that Honda once again had their name on the starting grid in Formula One. Rubens Barrichello joined from Ferrari and that created a great atmosphere around the Japanese constructor’s garage.

Great things were expected from the Brazilian but it was not enough for Honda. In 2006 he finished seventh behind Williams’ Button while the combined drivers’ points put Honda in fourth in the Constructors.

But Honda did not have the finances to keep supporting the team in Formula One and on December 5, 2008, they announced that they will be stepping down from the sport. Ross Brawn stepped in though and saved the jobs of many.

Rubens Barrichello driving for Honda at the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix

Image Credit: Eurosport

Brawn GP

Honda had many people working for the team, and their exit from the sport meant that many people were going to lose their jobs. Ross Brawn gave those workers the best Christmas present one could ask for at that time. They go to keep their job because he was taking over the team and rebranding it as Brawn GP.

Works on the Honda RA109 were already underway, especially since there was going to be a huge regulation change for the 2009 season. Similar to 2022, those changes saw the cars go through an aerodynamic shift and there were many unknowns going into the season.

And no one would have thought that a team that was going into administration at some point would come out on top and win the Championship with Brit Jenson Button. It was no easy road though. First, there were legality issues with the double diffuser chassis that the team used. They found loopholes around it and luckily they continued with the development of their car.

The engine was still a question mark since Honda pulled out. That is when McLaren-Mercedes Team Principal, Martin Whitmarsh, came in and supplied the team with a Mercedes V8 engine to finally create the Brawn BGP001.

Button and Barrichello, together with Ross Brawn led the way to one of the greatest Formula One victories in history.

Brawn GP celebrating the Constructors’ Championship win and Jenson Button’s Drivers’ Championship win in 2009

Image Credit: BBC

Mercedes AMG Petronas

After that successful season, Mercedes bought a great stake of the team and it became the team that we know it now.

Mercedes were already a part of the sport though back in the early stages of Formula One. They withdrew from it following the Le Mans tragedy in 1955, the season Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio were in the team.

Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes 300 SLR went through the spectator’s stand which caused 80 fatalities ad four Formula One races to get cancelled. Mercedes decided to withdraw from the sport at the end of that year, only to return in 1993.

That year they returned as engine suppliers to Sauber, only to switch to McLaren in 1995. This partnership saw Mika Hakkinen being crowned champion in 1999 and saw Lewis Hamilton win his first title in 2008.

The years to follow were dominated by Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel before the new hybrid era started. This opened up a Formula One period which saw Mercedes dominate in any way possible. From 2014 to 2021, Mercedes won every Constructors’ Championship title.

Lewis Hamilton won six Drivers’ Championships throughout those seasons while Nico Rosberg won once in 2016.

It’s a time when Mercedes were deemed unstoppable and impossible to beat until Max Verstappen won the World Champion title in a very controversial Grand Prix. In 2022, they are now struggling to dominate as usual.

The new regulations gave the team a lot of porpoising obstacles to overcome but George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are doing their best to keep their team in the fight and bring home points.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton racing for Mercedes in the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix

Image Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

Featured Image Credit: Formula One

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Back to the top