supposedly espousing Nazi ideals – while
attempting, but failing to keep his favoring
of Caracciola under wraps.
Had Mercedes-Benz bothered to
persuade Bernd Rosemeyer to join it from
rival Auto Union, and perhaps adopted
some of the latter’s futuristic methods
and more enlightened practices, a great
team might have become even greater.
But then again, it might not.
The bottom line is that being the best
team at any given time has been deemed
preferable to being a superteam.
Mercedes proved that as long ago as
1914. Its regimented, fastidiously prepared
squad and relatively conservative car
defeated the era’s fastest driver, the
mercurial Georges Boillot, in the Peugeot
that finalized the sport’s basic design
architecture – four inclined valves per
cylinder actuated by twin overhead cams,
plus four-wheel brakes – to score a
memorable 1- 2-3 in the French GP at Lyon.
When mercurial Colin Chapman signed,
at Ford’s behest, Graham Hill, a genuine
contender for second-best, as Clark’s
teammate and allied them to the
integrated Type 49 design and its new
and exclusive DFV engine… journeyman
Denny Hulme won the 1967 title driving
a Brabham powered by a two-valve
engine based on a stock block.
And in 1968, when Chapman became
the first to add overtly commercial
sponsorship to the GP mix, fate decreed
that Clark, killed that April in a Formula 2
race at Hockenheim, would forever be
associated with a more innocent age.
Balancing external and internal forces
with each other, and within themselves, is
practically impossible in such a fast-paced
environment. Keeping them balanced for
a worthwhile period amid its inherent
instability to create a superteam is yet
more difficult, as our top three prove…
Yet although they were great friends, there
was no way on God’s green (with a central
yellow stripe) Earth that Stewart wanted
to be Clark’s teammate. For Lotus, number
twos at that time were third-class citizens.
That even the most unified teams are
routinely poisoned by the clashing egos
of necessarily selfish men remains the
sport’s greatest dichotomy. It’s been rare
that the two best of any generation have
been at the same team at the same time.
When Rudolf Caracciola joined
Tazio Nuvolari at Alfa Romeo in 1932
– arguably the first superteam, i.e., the
two best drivers in the best car – his car,
painted German silver rather than Italian
red, stuck out like a sore thumb, and
accusations of favoritism were bandied
back and forth throughout the year.
Alfa Corse withdrew from racing at the
season’s end, seeing no good reason to
beat itself up while allowing competitors
a chance to defeat it.
From 1937 Alfred Neubauer, the first
celebrity team manager, struggled to
keep in order his Mercedes-Benz line-up –
a German aristocrat, a German blue-collar
hero and an Englishman driving for a team
Mercedes’ defeat of Peugeot in the 1914 French
GP (ABOVE, winner Christian Lautenschlager) was
Europe’s last major road race before the start of
the First World War. Racing would resume in 1919.
(ABOVE LEFT) Jackie
Stewart celebrates his
1969 French Grand
Prix victory. A major
factor in the Scot’s
three titles in five
seasons (1969, ’ 71
and ’ 73) was Ken
Tyrrell’s ongoing focus
on his lead driver.
(TOP) The Fiat
805/405 of Carlo
Salamano grinds to
a halt in the 1923
French GP. The car’s
design was way ahead
of the opposition, but
flawed in its execution.
(ABOVE) After a
dominant 1978 season,
Lotus overreached in
’ 79, leaving “copycats”
to reap the rewards.