|Notable entrants||Daimler Benz AG|
|Notable drivers|| Juan Manuel Fangio
|Debut||1954 French Grand Prix|
|Drivers' Championships||2 (1954, 1955)|
Firsts included the use of desmodromic valves and, developed by Mercedes engineers through experience gained on the DB 600 series of engines used on the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter and others during World War II, direct fuel injection.
The W196's delayed debut at the 1954 French Grand Prix saw the introduction of the aerodynamic closed-wheel aluminium "Type Monza" streamliner body for the high speed track at Reims with Fangio and Karl Kling claiming a 1–2 finish and youngster Hans Herrmann posting fastest lap. The same body was later used only three more times: at Silverstone, Monza, where it picked up its nickname in 1954, and Monza again in 1955.
Attractive as it was, the streamlined Monza body really only was suited to high-speed tracks made up of straights and slow corners, leading to defeat at its second race at Silverstone. A conventional open-wheel-version was introduced at the Nürburgring. Fangio, who had already won the first two GPs of 1954 with a Maserati, won this and the two following GPs, securing his 2nd World Championship.
At the 1954 Spanish Grand Prix in late October the low-mounted Mercedes air-intake clogged with leaves, costing the race and leading to its relocation atop the hood.
In the shortened 1955 Formula One season, abbreviated after the 1955 Le Mans disaster, the W196 won all but the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix, Hans Herrmann crashing in practice, and the other three team Mercedes cars failing to finish. A highlight for driver Stirling Moss was his finish 0.2 seconds ahead of stable mate Fangio at his home event, the 1955 British Grand Prix, his first GP win, a race where Mercedes romped home with a 1-2-3-4 finish.
After capturing the two world championships it competed in, Mercedes withdrew from motorsport at the end of the 1955 season. Despite its strong reliability and good track performance, drivers Fangio and Moss described the car in MotorSport magazine as being "a bit difficult to drive, with a tendency for snap oversteer". Moss also later said that "I'm surprised that the Merc wasn't a little bit easier to drive, because it wasn't. It was a driver's car, but not an easy car to drive." Fangio shared similar feelings, also saying in MotorSport Magazine in 1979 that the car was "not so nice to drive as a Maserati 250F, but you were almost sure to finish. So the Mercedes was incredible in that way." 1970s/80s Formula One driver John Watson drove the W196 at Hockenheim, providing some insight as to why the car was difficult to drive. He said that "if you gave this car wider and grippier tyres and altered the suspension to suit, then the handling would be of a very high order indeed." The W196 was so advanced and ahead of its time, that the narrow tyres available at the time simply could not fully handle the car's exceptional performance.
Mercedes-Benz W196 driven by Stirling Moss at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2009
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The new 1954 Formula One rules allowed engines of 2.5 litres naturally aspirated or, alternatively, 0.75 litres supercharged. The expected target range for competitive engines was 250 to 300 bhp (190 to 220 kW).
Mercedes' 1939 2-stage supercharged 1.5-litre 64.0×58.0 mm V8 (1,493 cc or 91.1 cu in) gave 278 bhp (207 kW) at 8,250 rpm with about 2.7 atm (270 kPa) pressure. Halving this would have only produced 139 bhp (104 kW).
Studies by Mercedes showed that 290 bhp (220 kW) at 10,000 rpm could be achieved from 0.75 litres with a supercharger pressure of 4.4 atm (450 kPa). 390 shp (290 kW) would have been developed with 100 hp (75 kW) being required to drive the supercharger. Fuel consumption would have been 2.3 times higher than a naturally aspirated engine developing the same power. Since 115 bhp/l (86 kW/l) at 9,000 rpm was being developed by naturally aspirated motorcycle racing engines, it was decided that a 2.5-litre engine was the correct choice. This was a significant change of philosophy, since all previous Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix engines since the 1920s had been supercharged.
The 2,496.87 cc (152.368 cu in) straight 8 (76.0×68.8 mm) gave 257 bhp (192 kW) at the 1954 French GP which was its first race. During 1955, this had increased to 290 bhp (220 kW) at 8,500 rpm. The 2,981.70 cc (181.954 cu in) sports car (78.0×78.0 mm) gave 310 bhp (230 kW) at 7,500 rpm and was a bored and stroked version of the F1 engine complete with desmodromic valves and fuel injection. The fuel injection system, the only F1 car with such advanced technology at the time, gave a considerable increase in power over the other carburetted engines. Variable length inlet tracts were experimented with and four wheel drive considered. An eventual 340 bhp (250 kW) at 10,000 rpm was targeted for the 2.5-litre F1 motor.
Chassis and suspension
All versions used well triangulated spaceframes of round-section tubes.
Torsion bars, fitted inside the frame's tubes were used in the double wishbone front suspension and the rear suspension, which featured a modified swing axle, with long arms and a low pivot point for each side, the pivot points near the other side wheel, not unlike later Ford's Twin-I-Beam type front suspension, in an effort to overcome the undesirable camber changes of swing axle suspensions. Nevertheless, as cited above, nasty snap-oversteer was not eliminated.
Sale in 2013
The auction house Bonhams - in its Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale on 12 July 2013 - sold Mercedes-Benz W196R chassis serial '00006/54' for a new World Record £19.7-million Sterling (incl. auction premium). The total bill, including UK VAT on commission charged, came to £20,896,800.00 Sterling. This high price was achieved in recognition of the fact that chassis '00006/54' is the only example of the model available in private hands - all its surviving sisters being in original manufacturer or institutional Museum hands. This particular car is also the most successful of all surviving W196R cars - being the individual driven by Juan Manuel Fangio to win the 1954 German & European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, and then adding a second consecutive victory in the 1954 Swiss GP at Berne's Bremgarten circuit. With that second race win, added to his early-season victories in the Argentine and Belgian GPs in a Maserati 250F, Fangio clinched the second of his ultimately five Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship titles.