Motorsports history of Mercedes-Benz – Newsletter 2/2020
- 20 years with Bernd Mayländer as the regular driver of the Official FIA F1™ safety car
- Top models from Mercedes-AMG in the 25th season in the service of safety in motorsports
- Ten years ago, the Mercedes works team returned to Formula One racing
- One hundred years ago, Walter Schock, Mercedes-Benz rally driver and European champion, was born
Stuttgart. After the impressive anniversary for 125 Years of Motorsports at Mercedes-Benz, the brand continues to celebrate further outstanding racing moments from its history in 2020. The highlights include the début ten years ago of the first Mercedes-Benz works team in Formula One since 1955, Bernd Mayländer’s first appearance as the regular driver of the official Formula One safety car 20 years ago and the birth 100 years ago of Walter Schock, the international and European rally champion in 1956 and 1960 driving Mercedes-Benz cars.
Safety right out front: For 20 years, Bernd Mayländer has regularly led the Formula One field on the world’s legendary race tracks. Despite that, this motorsports veteran and Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador, born in 1971, has never won a Grand Prix. The reason is that Mayländer does not participate in the race for victory in a racing car, but drives the official Formula One safety car to ensure the safety of the racing drivers. His company car in the 2020 season is, as last year, the Mercedes-AMG GT R official FIA F1™ safety car, which is the fastest safety car in the history of Formula One so far and manages up to 318 km/h.
Safety with a star: Since 1996 – making 2020 the 25th consecutive season – Mercedes-Benz has provided the official FIA F1™ safety car and the official FIA F1™ medical car. Both of these cars are Mercedes-AMG performance vehicles that are optimised and specially equipped for their purposes. The Mercedes-Benz Museum commemorated this unique situation in 2015 with the special “Safety Cars” exhibition. Bernd Mayländer’s first “company car”, the Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG safety car (C 215) from the year 2000, was also on display there.
Première in Australia: As the official driver of the Formula One safety car, Bernd Mayländer made his first appearance in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on 12 March 2000. That year, the field of 22 racing cars also included the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/15 driven by Mika Häkkinen (Formula One world champion in 1998 and 1999 in McLaren-Mercedes cars) and David Coulthard (Formula One vice world champion in 2001 also in a McLaren-Mercedes). Häkkinen was vice champion in the 2000 driver’s championship, while Coulthard took third place. McLaren-Mercedes took the second place title in the constructors’ championship.
Nearly 100 per cent: The Formula One safety car is deployed in critical situations during the race, for example after an accident or in extreme weather conditions. At this point, Bernd Mayländer takes the lead in the field, slows the cars down and leads them around the track at a safe speed. It is important that he does not drive too slowly, as otherwise the engines and tyres of the Formula One cars would cool down too much. This means he explores the potential of his official car almost to the limit: “If a qualifying lap in the safety car is 100 per cent, I start at 90 per cent,” explains Mayländer, “that’s pretty fast.” If it allows lapped vehicles to be overtaken, he cuts the throttle a little and only drives at 220 km/h rather than 250 km/h. When the string of racing cars is neatly strung out behind his car, which he can see from the instruments and screens in the safety car’s cockpit, Mayländer increases the speed “to 97 or 98 per cent”.
Communication: To allow Bernd Mayländer to concentrate fully on the driving, his co-driver Richard Darker takes over the communication tasks, e.g. with the race management. By the end of 2019, Mayländer had taken part in no less than 368 Grands Prix in the Formula One safety car. This even surpasses the position held by Rubens Barrichello, the record holder amongst the drivers, who participated in 323 Grands Prix in his Formula One career (1993 to 2011).
From company car to safety car: Even though he did not take over the role of safety car chief pilot until 2000, Bernd Mayländer has had a close relationship with the very first official FIA F1™ safety car from 1996. This is because it was adapted from Mayländer’s company car, which he drove as a former Mercedes-Benz racing driver, a C 36 AMG. From 1995, Mayländer competed in the DTM German Touring Car Championship in AMG Mercedes C-Class racing touring cars – in 1997 he drove the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR together with Klaus Ludwig in the FIA GT Championship. This car – bearing start number 12 – as it did for the victory by the Klaus Ludwig/Bernd Mayländer/Bernd Schneider team on 20 July, 1997 in the four-hour Zeltweg race on the former A1-Ring in Spielberg, Austria – can be viewed in the Legend 7 section of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. In the DTM, Mayländer won the 2001 season finale at Hockenheim.
An excellent family: Since 2000, Bernd Mayländer has had the opportunity to drive an extraordinary family of Mercedes-AMG performance cars as safety cars. The tradition extends from the Mercedes-Benz CL 55 AMG (C 215, 2000), the SL 55 AMG (R 230, 2001 to 2002), CLK 55 AMG (C 209, 2003), SLK 55 AMG (R 171, 2004 to 2005), CLK 63 AMG (C 209, 2006 to 2007), SL 63 AMG (R 230, 2008 to 2009), SLS AMG (C 197, 2012 to 2014) through to the Mercedes-AMG GT S (C 190, 2015 to 2017) and Mercedes-AMG GT R (C 190, since 2018). All these historic safety cars of the brand with the star are included in the extensive Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle collection.
A dream job: The race weekend on the track starts on Thursday for Bernd Mayländer as he inspects the track on foot to assess safety-relevant features such as curbs and crash barriers. Then he drives 15 to 30 laps alternately with both the safety cars available on site. “This is how I get accustomed to the track,” he explains, “I do my own personal qualifying laps.” On race Sunday, the Formula One safety car driver is also on hand for all the support races just to be on the safe side. “I’m often in the car from 8.45 a.m. – with a half-hour lunch break before the start of the Formula One race at 3.10 p.m.,” says Mayländer. He bears great responsibility, which is why he communicates directly with the race management team if there are any parts lying on the track, for example. “If you add up all the many different aspects, I have actually found my dream job,” says Mayländer.
Modern works team: Ten years ago, on 14 March 2010, the Mercedes-Benz works team returned to Formula One racing: The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team celebrated its première in the Bahrain Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg both picked up points – Rosberg came fifth, followed by Schumacher in sixth place. However, the team had to wait more than two years until its first victory: On April 15, 2012, Nico Rosberg won the Formula One, the first time since 1955 that a Mercedes-Benz works racing car had done so. This was the foundation of an extremely successful era. Since 2012, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team has won 93 races and won the drivers’ and constructors’ world championship double six times in a row from 2014 to 2019.
Birthday 100 years ago: In 2020, Mercedes-Benz Classic commemorates the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of rally driver Walter Schock. He was born on 3 April 1920 in Stuttgart-Wangen, Germany. After leaving school, he began an apprenticeship as a motor vehicle mechanic at Mercedes-Benz and was assigned to the testing department when his training finished. Although only 17 years old, Schock was allowed to take a driving test and worked as a driver and test driver. As a young man, he showed an inclination for motor sports. Then the Second World War broke out and Shock became a pilot in a Luftwaffe night squadron.
Rally successes: After the end of the war, Walter Schock was highly successful as a rally driver with Mercedes-Benz vehicles from 1954 onwards. In 1954, he participated in the Solitude Rally for the first time in a Mercedes-Benz 220 (W 180) and, much to his own surprise, won a gold medal. The following year, Schock teamed up with Rolf Moll at the Rally Monte Carlo – and took third place in the overall standings. In 1956 and 1960, Schock and his co-driver Moll became European Touring Car Rally Champions and also won the International Rally Champion title in 1956.
Victories in Argentina and Monaco: Amongst his greatest success stories were the first German overall victory in the Rallye Monte Carlo in 1960 and in the Argentine Touring Car Grand Prix in 1961 – in both cases driving a Mercedes-Benz 220 SE (W 111). Walter Schock was also drawn to circuit racing, as victories in races at the Nürburgring show. And in 1972, at the ripe age of 52, he finished 2nd in the senior ranking of the Rallye Monte Carlo. Walter Schock died in 2005 at the age of 85 in Stuttgart.
Ready for a sporting weekend: the weekend travel bag commemorating “125 Years of Motorsport” from Mercedes-Benz, which is a limited edition of 125, is available in the Mercedes-Benz Museum Shop as well as online in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Store (https://www.mercedes-benz-classic-store.com/en/detail/index/sArticle/1763/sCategory/437). The handcrafted bag made of silver grey cowhide in a classic design is a celebration of the unique motorsport history of Mercedes-Benz. This is emphasised by the appliqués showing among others the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows W 25 (1934), W 196 R (1954), the racing sports car 300 SLR (W 196 S) from 1955 and the DTM touring race car AMG-Mercedes 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II from 1992. The appearance is rounded off with brand logos and additional vehicles including the Formula One racing car Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+. The price of the exclusive bag which, in addition to the main compartment (lined in cowhide and canvas), also has sections for a laptop and other accessories, is 690 euros.