Mercedes Benz won its first Formula One Grand Prix for 57 years in China today, completing the successful comeback many thought it could not achieve.
Winning driver Nico Rosberg took pole position for the race ahead of teammate and seven time champion Michael Schumacher, before driving a calculated race to put the famed Silver Arrow back in the winners circle for the first time since Juan Manual Fangio drove his last race for Mercedes at Monza in September 1955.
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In addition to being Mercedes first win since it pulled out of all racing in 1955 following the disaster during the 1955 Le Mans 24 hour race, it was Nico Rosberg's maiden pole and win, and Ross Brawn's first win with the Mercedes marque after a long and successful period at Ferrari, an unchequered one-year stint at Honda and a glorious year with his own team under his own name in which Jenson Button won the drivers title and Brawn F1 won the constructors title.
Though Mercedes Benz has continued to compete successfully in Formula One as an engine supplier, it did not compete as a constructor between the last race at Monza in 1955 (which was won 1-2-3-4 by Mercedes cars), and the purchase of the Brawn F1 team at the beginning of 2010.
In both full seasons (2010 and 2011) since Mercedes purchased the Brawn F1 team, it has finished a distant fourth in the constructors title, but 2012 dawned with an obviously much faster car. In both the first two rounds of the 2012 season in Australia and Malaysia, the Mercedes cars showed much improved speed, but had failed to produce that speed for full race distance.
Even today a critical mistake saw Rosberg's teammate Michael Schumacher forced to withdraw after a front wheel nut was not locked during a tire change.
It was interesting today to watch the live betting odds for the race during the event - even with Rosberg in a winning position, the bookies were betting against a Mercedes win until the final laps.
Now that Mercedes has once again returned to the winners circle, we might reasonably expect the three-pointed star to grace the podium on a far more regular basis.
In the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, Mercedes engines finished in all three podium positions, with McLaren Mercedes drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finishing second and third.
The remaining goal for the Mercedes F1 team is now the winning of a title. Though Nicco Rosberg is now in sixth place in the drivers' title with 25 points from his win today, the unreliability of the Mercedes cars in the first two races, which netted a total of one point to Michael Schumacher, means the team is realistically already too far behind to win the 2012 constructors title.
Though the odds reflect that Mercedes has more chance of winning the Constructors title (10/1) than Rosberg has of winning the Driver's Title (17/1), if the Mercedes Silver Arrows continue to show such speed, I think Rosberg is still in with a chance of the title.
Michael Schumacher has mellowed considerably in his old age, and might be prepared to play number two driver to the young Rosberg - if that were the case, and the Mercedes continue to qualify well, think back to the 1999 Championship where Schumacher returned from injury late in the season and drove in support of his Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine winning the title. As Irvine pointed out at the time, "he's also the best number two driver in the world."
When Mercedes left all racing in 1955, the reasons were simple - the marque had been involved in the worst accident in auto racing history.
Though the team dominated World Championship Grand Prix racing that year with one of the most talented driver pairings in Grand Prix history (Sterling Moss and Juan Manual Fangio as pictured above), the Mercedes factory pulled out at the end of the season from both Grand Prix and Sports Car racing. The Silver Arrows dominated the 1955 Grand Prix season.
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