Delving into Mercedes-Benz's rich motor racing history in France
The French Grand Prix has returned to the Formula One schedule this season after a decade away from the sport. This is significant for a number of reasons, but undoubtedly the most important is that it marks the revival of motorsport's most historic Grand Prix.
France is widely regarded as a pioneer of motor racing, having held the first competitive motor race in 1894 (Paris-Rouen) and the world's first Grand Prix in 1906, open to international competition and with a 'Great Prize' being awarded to the winner.
The Paris-to-Rouen event was the first foray into racing for Mercedes, embedding the roots of the marque's long and rich motorsport history. Its participation in racing continued to evolve and grow through the late 1800s and early 1900s, with initial success not being far away.
One of these early triumphs was the 1908 French Grand Prix at Dieppe. Daimler's Mercedes machine stormed to victory with Christian Lautenschlager behind the wheel, ahead of Benz's Victor Hémery and René Hanriot - with the German manufacturers locking out the podium, well before they eventually merged to form Mercedes-Benz in 1926.
Mercedes' good fortunes in France continued, with the manufacturer back on the top step of the podium at the 1914 French Grand Prix - where it reached a landmark milestone. Staged on public roads in Lyon, it featured an epic 20-lap battle for victory between Peugeot and Mercedes.
Max Sailer established an early lead for Mercedes, before retiring with an engine failure. The advantage swung to Peugeot, only for Lautenschlager to reel in the race leader and pounce with three laps to go - in front of an estimated 300,000 people!
He stormed to victory for Mercedes, while Louis Wagner and Otto Salzer overhauled Boillot's ailing Peugeot to finish second and third. It was the first all-Mercedes podium in Grand Prix racing and a breakthrough moment for its involvement in racing.
In Mercedes-Benz's post-merger era, the team dominated the European Championship in the 1930s, taking three titles in four years - 1935, 1937 and 1938, all won by the legendary Rudolf Caracciola. This fruitful period included two French GP wins, with Caracciola claiming victory in 1935 at the wheel of his Mercedes W25 ahead of Manfred von Brauchitsch to score a 1-2 finish.
But, Mercedes went one better in 1938, with the top three finishers driving W154s - further establishing the Silver Arrows' history of success in France. Von Brauchitsch emerged as the race winner this time round, ahead of Caracciola and Hermann Lang.
Since the formation of the F1 World Championship in 1950, Mercedes has only competed in one French GP. But, it proved to be an incredibly special one, as it marked Mercedes' F1 debut and first victory in the sport. Talk about arriving in style!
Mercedes arrived at the 1954 French GP with the now-iconic W196, sporting its stunning streamlined bodywork configuration for the fast Reims circuit. It proved to be the class of the field, with Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling dominating the event.
They battle intensely throughout the race, but Fangio emerged ahead at the finish (by half a car length) to score a remarkable 1-2 finish. Quite the F1 debut for the W196 and the Silver Arrows, and a sign of what was to come over the following two seasons...
Mercedes might not have as long or rich a history of F1 racing in France compared to some of its rivals but competing in the country still holds a special place in its heart and has been the scene of some landmark moments in the formative years of the manufacturer.