Another new name will adorn the Tyrrell this year, as the team that once powered Sir Jackie Stewart to championship success starts another new chapter in it’s impressive and elongated life. Of course, many new fans to Formula One are probably thinking that I have finally gone senile, but I promise you this: the lineage of the current Mercedes MGP-W01 can be traced all the way back to the ’60s. From Tyrrell to BAR, to Honda and Brawn, the current guise of the Brackley-based team is now owned by the German motor manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz, and what better way to come back to the sport than with an all-German line-up.
Following one of the sport’s greatest championship stories, that of Honda being resurrected as Brawn and taking both titles, comes possibly another as it was learned late last year that Ross Brawn had sold his team to Mercedes. Brawn insisted that he would continue in his roll as team principal, and so the rollercoaster ride of Brawn post-Ferrari continues.
The link to the technical director has certainly helped the transition as well, with the man almost certainly being a draw to Michael Schumacher. Despite turning 41 earlier in the year, Schumacher still has the motor sport bug in him and a return during 2009 seemed possible, the seven-times world champion testing a 2007 Ferrari. However, a neck injury sustained from a motorbike accident ended the dream for last year, but that didn’t stop the German driver. Shortly after the announcement that Mercedes would be taking over the team, Michael Schumacher was announced as the lead driver alongside fellow countryman Nico Rosberg. BMW-refugee Nick Heidfeld completes the all-German line-up as the squad’s test and reserve driver.
This isn’t the first time Mercedes have taken on the challenge of Formula One though, for the company threw some money at the sport back in 1954 and 1955. The W196 car was very successful and Juan Manuel Fangio took eight victories from twelve attempts. Fangio only retired the once and Sir Stirling Moss also took a famous first win at Silverstone in ’55, the story being that Fangio only needed P2 to secure the championship and deliberately let Moss pass on the final lap. To this day, even Moss himself doesn’t know if this is true or not, the five-times Argentine champion passing away in 1995.
Of course with such a long and illustrious history in the motor industry and motor sport, I could discuss Mercedes-Benz from now until the end of my time, but for now at least, the marque has returned and a new silver arrows will adorn the race tracks of the world in an attempt to repeat last year’s phenomenal success.
The Mercedes livery was unveiled separately to the car itself, an event at the Mercedes museum in Stuttgart providing the backdrop to the silver colour scheme hiding the Brawn BGP-001 underneath. The car itself was finally shown to the world in early February at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit as the first group test of the year got underway. Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg took the wraps off the MGP-W01 before heading out for a few shake-down laps.
The 2010 challenger is an evolution of the championship winning Brawn from the year previous, and features a few Red Bull-esque flourishes. Interestingly, the front wing appears to have been changed very little, but the nose has certainly undergone some work. Having been narrowed and raised slightly, the front of the car is more shapely and as the line builds up and over the monocoque, the Newey-dip is there for all to see. Also drawing attention is the downward slant of the top of the car before it rises again towards the cockpit. Again, this is very reminiscent of the RB5, the car that challenged Brawn the most last time around.
The sidepods have grown in size slightly and the air-intake above the driver’s helmet is quite the work of art, looking more likely to at home on a fighter jet than a Formula One car. The rear wing looks to have been left alone and Brawn’s double diffuser is missing, the rules now banning such a device from the 2010 machines*.
The silver livery is welcomed but only as a reminder of the team’s past. If it wasn’t for the silver-finished W196s that charged around the circuits of old, one would have to seriously question the choice of colour for the MGP-W01. Whereas McLaren seem to have found a very successful way of presenting their car in silver, Mercedes’s looks dull and uninspiring. Only the little amounts red from the few sponsor’s logos and the pale Petronas blue break up the monotony of the colour scheme.
Of course, Mercedes are going to be well talked about this year, if not for the car’s performance then for Michael Schumacher’s. The multiple world champion should run well in the car and if he can keep himself out of trouble for long enough, it would seem there is little reason why further wins could not be added to the already record-breaking list. In the second seat sits a driver who has either just made the greatest move of his career, or the worse. In order for this venture to be a success for Nico Rosberg, he simply has to stamp his authority all over Schumacher. Failing to do so could mean years of obscurity, second places and bad press. Just ask Rubens Barrichello…
Mercedes’s car designation system refers to the team’s name, Mercedes Grand Prix, and the W refers to the team’s heritage, where previous versions were simply named Wagen (German for car). The final numbers are incremental, and as this is the first wagen in quite a while, it has been designated 01. Hence, MGP-W01.