Before Lewis stormed to victory yesterday in Budapest, the last Briton to win a Grand Prix at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow was the great Sir Stirling Moss.
That success came at his home race, the 1955 British Grand Prix, held on the Aintree circuit in Liverpool. The 58 years and 12 days since have not dimmed the memory of that triumph, which was also the first victory in a ‘grande epreuve’ for Sir Stirling.
We caught up with him to hear his memories of 1955 – and his thoughts on the scale of Lewis’ achievement yesterday…
Sir Stirling, what did you think of Lewis’ success yesterday in Budapest?
SSM: Fantastic, really good. He decided to have a go from the start and drove a good race. And it wasn’t just on Sunday because he got pole position on Saturday, too – I can’t remember whether or not I had pole when I won for Mercedes-Benz …
You did, ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio and Jean Behra. What do you remember of the race?
SSM: It was one of my best successes. One puts Monaco (1961) before any of them because it’s such an interesting event but that British Grand Prix was certainly one of the best races I did. Fangio made a much better start than me and got away, then I had to work like hell to catch him up. He was caught behind a backmarker who was messing around and I managed to pass him there.
A little like Lewis’ crucial move on Mark Webber on lap 51 yesterday, around the outside of Turn 2 and into Turn 3…
SSM: Exactly! The weather that day was good, of course, but all I can say about the finish is that Lewis could relax much more than I could. I crossed the line only half a car-length ahead of Fangio.
What has been your impression of Lewis’ first half season with Mercedes-Benz?
SSM: I am sure that expectations must have come up quite a few notches after the last race. The great thing now is that the team’s very different to how they were. Mercedes-Benz is right behind them all through and then Ross Brawn is a tremendous help. If I were a driver today, there are very few people I’d particularly like to be with, and Ross is one of them – as of course is Adrian Newey.
Ross was on the podium yesterday alongside Lewis. How did famous Mercedes ‘Rennleiter’ Alfred Neubauer greet you after your victory?
SSM: I’m sure he came up and hugged me! He was a very warm man, actually, but people didn’t see that side of him because he was always pushing people out of the way with his flag and so forth.
I remember once in Le Mans that it came over the PA that anyone without an armband would be thrown out of the pit-lane. He didn’t have one so he simply took out a hankie and tied it round his arm! He was quite a character but a very warm man.
If you were in Lewis’ shoes now, 48 points behind Sebastian Vettel in the championship standings, would you think you still had a chance of the title?
SSM: An outside one – certainly it’s possible but I reckon it’s an outside chance. Vettel and his team are so good. But Lewis’ drive on Sunday was terrific and there’s no doubt the team is the equal of any other.
He’s a really exciting driver and a late-braker, and I think this result will give him a great kick-off. So if they can keep up the speed and do the same sort of thing, then he’s got a good chance.