The history of Grand Prix Motor Racing through the lives of its greatest drivers, people and events with a special focus on the history of Formula 1. In this post, we dive into the story of one of the most successful teams and ideas in racing history, the Silver Arrows Story.
Mar 1, 1932 – Lindbergh baby kidnapped and later found dead. After an investigation that lasted more than two years, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with the crime. Hauptmann was later found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. He was executed by electric chair on April 3, 1936. Hauptmann a German-born carpenter, proclaimed his innocence to the end.
Apr 19, 1932 – U.S. President Herbert Hoover suggests 5 day work week. It took another another president and six more years for the five day work week to become official.
Jul 31, 1932 – Nazis score resounding victory in national elections winning just over 37% beating the second place party the Social Democratic Party (SPD) who scored 251/2%. Hitler demands that as head of the largest party President Hindenburg appoint him Chancellor.
Oct 12 1932 – The Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR), the controlling body of motor sport in the 30s, introduced a new Grand Prix formula for the 1934 season. The main requirements of this formula were:
The weight of the car without driver, fuel, oil, water or tyres should not exceed 750 kg
A minimum bodywork width of 850 mm at the driving seat
All races must be a minimum distance of 500 kilometers
Choice of fuel was open
Jan 5, 1933 – Work begins on the Golden Gate bridge linking San Francisco and Marin County. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Jan 30, 1933 – President Paul von Hindenburg names Adolf Hitler, leader or fÜhrer of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party), as chancellor of Germany.
Apr 23, 1933 – Starting positions on the grid were decided by qualifying times for the first time at the Monaco Grand Prix. Achille Varzi secured pole position and went on to win the race after an epic duel with his fierce rival Tazio Nuvolari when his Alfa Romeo goes up in smoke. Caracciola crashes heavily at Tabac corner during practice and is out of racing for a year.
May 7, 1933 – All of Tripoli society is turned out to watch Varzi win a controversial Tripoli Grand Prix under accusations of race fixing. SEE MORE
May 22, 1933 – Loch Ness Monster is reportedly sighted by John Mackay. He and his wife saw “something resembling a whale” as they passed the freshwater loch on a nearby road. It is widely regarded as the first “modern sighting” of a monster in the loch.
Mar 20, 1933 – First concentration camp opens at Dachau, at first for political prisoners. Dachau served as a prototype and model for other Nazi concentration camps that followed.
Apr 1, 1933 – Nazi leaders organize nationwide boycott of Jewish Stores. Signs were posted saying “Don’t Buy from Jews” and “The Jews Are Our Misfortune.”
Jun 11, 1933 – Only six of 19 cars of a reduced field finished the 500 km race. Giuseppe Campari would score his last major victory driving a Maserati.
Jul 9, 1933 – Tazio Nuvolari wins the Belgian Grand Prix in a Maserati coming from last place on the grid. The race saw the debut of the Bugatti T51 but to no avail as nobody would stop Nuvolari from winning this race..
Sep 2, 1933 – Nuvolari (MG Magnette) wins the RAC Tourist Trophy sports car handicap race at Ards near Belfast. Nuvolari last won this race in 1930 driving a Alfa Romeo 6C 1750.
Sep 10, 1933 – Nuvolari had to stop two laps from the end of the race to change a burst tire allowing Luigi Fagioli through for the win in a thrilling Italian Grand Prix.
Sep 10, 1933 – The blackest day in motorsport until Le Mans occurred at the Gran Premio di Monza which was run later in the day after the Italian Grand Prix. Since the very beginning of automobile sport there had never been a tragedy of such proportions. Three of Europe’s greatest racing drivers had crashed fatally within a few hours of each other at almost the same spot in the South Curve: Giuseppe Campari, Mario-Umberto Borzacchini, and finally Count Stanislaw Czaykowski.
Sep 22, 1933 – The areas controlled by Abd-al-Aziz are unified under the name Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Abd-al-Aziz is proclaimed King.
Sep 24, 1933 – Nuvolari loses control of his Maserati in the rain and is lucky to survive the crash with minor injuries. Louis Chiron driving an Alfa Romeo scores a well deserved victory.
1934 – Enrico Fermi began experiments where he bombarded a variety of elements with neutrons. He discovered that slow moving neutrons were especially effective in producing radioactive atoms. Not realizing he had split the atom, Fermi announced what he thought were elements beyond uranium.
Feb 4, 1934 – Rudolf Caracciola’s wife “Charly” (née Charlotte Liesen) dies in an avalanche at Urden during a ski-expedition between Arosa and Lenzerheide in the Swiss Alps. Caracciola still recuperating from his Monaco injuries goes into seclusion.
Apr 2, 1934 – In only his 2nd year of top flight racing Guy Moll, a young Algerian wins the Monaco Grand Prix driving an Alfa Romeo.
Jun 3, 1934 – Mercedes made its debut at the Eifel GP at the Nürburgring. Caracciola was still recuperating from his injuries suffered in Monaco and Mercedes-Benz only entered two cars in the race which was run as a Formula Libre event. Manfred von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes would win over the Auto Union of Hans Stuck.
Jul 1, 1934 – Louis Chiron holds off the entire German might and wins the French Grand Prix at Monthlery. Although Mercedes and Auto Union had not been successful at Montlhèry, the race cast a very definite shadow onto the future for the other teams. SEE MORE
Jul 15, 1934 – Hans Stuck takes the first win for Auto Union beating the Mercedes of Luigi Fagioli by two seconds at the flag. Manfred von Brauchitsch crashed badly in practice and broke an arm, a shoulder blade, his collarbone and five ribs.
Jul 29, 1934 – Belgian customs agents demanded that the German teams pay duty for their alcohol based fuel. The Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams withdrew their entries in response. With the Belgian Grand Prix now down to only seven entries the Bugatti of René Dreyfus won giving Bugatti it’s last Grand Prix win.
Aug 2-3, 1934 – President Hindenburg dies, Hitler appoints himself President AND Chancellor. Hindenburg was never an ardent Hitler supporter, but did little to impede him as Hitler began employing terror tactics in his drive to consolidate power for the Nazis.
Aug, 15, 1934 – The early stages of the race developed into a battle between Caracciola (Mercedes-Benz), Varzi (Alfa Romeo) and Stuck (Auto Union). After nine laps all three were out of the race that saw Mercedes teammate Luigi Fagioli win the Coppa Acerbo. Tragically the race cost the life of the young Algerian Guy Moll, killed in a crash attempting to pass the third Mercedes of Ernst Henne.
Aug 19, 1934 – Hans Stuck driving an Auto Union wins Großer Bergpreis von Deutschland hillclimb in Freiburg Germany. He would go on and with the hillclimb championship for that year.
Sep 9, 1934 – The Mercedes of Rudolf Caracciola wins the race but must be relieved by Luigi Fagioli due to pain from his hip injury.
Sep 23, 1934 – At the Spanish Grand Prix the Auto Union would prove the quickest in the race but was outlasted and beaten by the Mercedes of Luigi Fagioli and Rudolf Caracciola who finished in that order.
Sep 30, 1934 – At the The Masaryk Grand Prix at Brno, Czechoslovakia, Luigi Fagioli driving for Mercedes is forced to made an unscheduled pit stop handing the race to the Auto Union of Hans Stuck.
Sep 30, 1934 – Babe Ruth towels off after playing his last game in a Yankees uniform. The following year he signed with National League’s Boston Braves but retired after just 28 games in a Braves uniform.
The AIACR European Championship (Drivers) for 1934 did not yet exist but it is generally acknowledged that had it existed, Hans Stuck would have been champion.
1935 – Robert Watson-Watt developed the ability to detect aircraft to the point that he was able to produce a “hush-hush” document, “The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods.” The RAF High Command were skeptical until Watt successfully demonstrated an experiment detecting aircraft up to eight miles away. This was done by A.F. Wilkins, a member of Watt’s staff. Close to the BBC’s powerful transmitter he demonstrated that a Handley Page Hayford bomber used for the experiment was able to be detected from this distance.
1935 – Erich Ludendorff wrote The Nation at War, advancing the theory of total war, in which politics were used to rally all the moral and physical resources of a country to advance the cause of war.
Apr 22, 1935 – Caracciola led an all Mercedes front row as the Auto Unions did not appear at Monaco, the first race of the season. Luigi Fagioli took the flag after having led the race all the way from start to finish, the first driver to have done so in Monaco. Caracciola was for to retire on lap 60 with a broken valve.
May 12, 1935 – The Tripoli Grand Prix, a Formula Libre event was held on the Mellaha circuit, the fastest road circuit in the world at that time and saw Caracciola score comeback victory. SEE MORE
26 May 1935 – Bernd Rosemeyer after some persuasion is allowed by team manager Willy Walb to start at the International AVUS Rennen. Rosemeyer had up to that time never officially raced a car of any kind. He would start on the front row but was forced to retire due to tire failure.
Jun 1, 1935 – The Road Traffic Act of the United Kingdom introduced by the then Minister of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha. The Act was made in a year in which a record number of people had been killed by motorcars. As implemented the Act stipulated that on this date, test & license plates would be required in England. The test was initially voluntary to avoid a rush of candidates.
Jun 23, 1935 – The Auto Union team was a non starter at Barcelona. The new 5.6 litre engines had shown carburetor problems that the team tried to sort out before the more important (for them at least) German Grand Prix. Fagioli’s mercedes leads his teammate Caracciola for the victory at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Jul 14, 1935 – Fagioli, called into the pits for refusing team orders to hold station promptly retires his car. Caracciola leads von Brauchitsch in a Mercedes 1-2 at the Belgian Gran Prix. Louis Chiron finishes an exhausted third place for Alfa Romeo.
Jul 28, 1935 – Nuvolari scores legendary triumph against the might of the German nation as Brauchitsch could only Nuvolari storm past and vanish in the distance to victory in the eighth Grosser Preis before an astonished crowd. SEE MORE
Aug 25, 1935 – Rudolf Caracciola leads his Mercedes teammate Luigi Fagioli in the rain to victory at the Swiss Grand Prix. A burst tire ruins any chance for Hans Stuck to challenge Der Regenmeister.
Sep 8, 1935 – The Auto Union of Hans Stuck wins the Italian Grand Prix as all three Mercedes cars suffer from mechanical problems. Nuvolari takes over Dreyfus’ Bugatti to finish 2nd but refuses any prize money giving it all to Dreyfus.
Sep 15, 1935 – The Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935 deprived German Jews of their rights of citizenship, giving them the status of “subjects” in Hitler’s Reich.
Sep 22, 1935 – Caracciola leads a Mercedes 1-2-3 after three cars suffer broken windshields from thrown stones at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Mar 7, 1936 – Germany marches unopposed into the Rhineland. The reoccupation of the Rhineland was a serious international provocation that violated the treaties of Versailles and Locarno. Hitler later reportedly admitted: “If the French had marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance.”
Apr 13, 1936 – Three years after a crash on the same track that nearly ended his career Caracciola took a superb victory in the Monaco GP in front of two Auto Unions of Varzi and Stuck. Nuvolari succeeded to bring home his brakeless Alfa Romeo in fourth under torrential rain. Proving the adage more gas, less brake.
May 2, 1936 – Selassie abandons Ethiopia and exiles to French Somaliland. Three days later Mussolini’s legions march into Addis Ababa, completing the Italian conquest of Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
Jun 19, 1936 – After rain postponed the fight one day, the undefeated American Heavyweight Joe Louis was knocked out by Germany’s Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium in New York.
Jun 19, 1936 – Amelia Earhart’s plane disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island while attempting solo flight around the world.
Jun 21, 1936 – The Hungarian Grand Prix and Tazio Nuvolari scores another victory, this time over Rosemeyer as the Mercedes team fails to finish. SEE MORE
Jul 18, 1936 – With the support of Hitler and Mussolini, fighting erupts in Spain as the result of a right-wing revolt lead by General Francisco Franco.
Jul 26, 1936 – Bernd Rosemeyer leads his Auto Union teammate Hans Stuck to victory at the German Grand Prix after the Mercedes team suffers a variety of issues. Antonio Brivio takes a well deserved third place for Alfa Romeo.
Aug 1, 1936 – Hitler opens the XIth Olympiad in Berlin. Musical fanfares directed by the famous composer Richard Strauss announced the dictator’s arrival to the largely German crowd. African American Jessie Owens would win four gold medals in track & field.
Aug 15, 1936 – Mercedes-Benz decided not to start at Coppa Acerbo, to prepare for the Swiss GP instead. Battling drug addiction, Varzi show up for the race after the team went looking for him in Rome. Bernd Rosemeyer leads an Auto Union podium sweep.
Aug 23, 1936 – Bernd Rosemeyer leads another Auto Union 1-2-3 at the Swiss Grand Prix forcing Mercedes to look for answers. They would withdraw for the remainder of the season to lick their wounds.
Sep 13, 1936 – Without the Mercedes team in attendance Bernd Rosemeyer won his filth race of the season at the Italian Grand Prix. Tazio Nuvolari came in second driving an Alfa Romeo.
6 – 7 October 1936 – Auto Union held a driver test at Nürburgring and German Champion motorcycle racer Hermann Paul Müller was invited to join the team for the next season.
Oct 8 – 22 1936 – Mercedes-Benz held a driver school at Nürburgring with 27 drivers. Swiss Christian Kautz and British Voiturette racer Richard Seaman were invited to join their junior team for next season.
The AIACR European Championship (Drivers) for 1936 is won by Bernd Rosemeyer for Auto Union.
1937 – Hormel Foods announced a contest to find a name for their spiced ham product and SPAM was born. It gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II
Apr 26, 1937 – German Luftwaffe destroys Basque town of Guernica in Spain. The bombing is considered one of the first raids on a defenseless civilian population by a modern air force.
May 6, 1937 – The airship Hindenburg crashed and burned while landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey; 35 people on board and 1 ground crew member were killed.
May 28, 1937 – Germany forms a new state-owned automobile company, then known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company.”
Jul 11, 1937 – The major contenders had to split their teams in half because of clashing dates with the Vanderbilt Cup race in the United States. This awarded Rudolf Hasse (Auto Union) a rare victory in the Belgian Grand Prix, ahead of Stuck (Auto Union) and Lang (Mercedes-Benz). This latest victory made it three in a row for Auto Union, who while working with a smaller budget take the fight to Mercedes.
Jul 25, 1937 – All the stars were back for the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Rudolf Caracciola took the win for Mercedes over von Brauchitsch but the race was marred by the fatal crash of the 25 year-old Ernst von Delius in his Auto Union.
Aug 8, 1937 – Manfred von Brauchitsch beats his Mercedes-Benz teammate Rudolf Caracciola after a tremendous battle at the Monaco Grand Prix. Teammate Christian Kautz makes it a Mercedes sweep.
Aug 22, 1937 – Rudolf Caracciola led a Mercedes-Benz 1-2-3 followed by Lang and von Brauchitsch. On the second lap Rosemeyer locked his brakes and skidded straight of the wet track. The car got bogged in the soaked ground and rather than being later disqualified, as he had received outside assistance, he drove to the pits and retired.
Sep 12, 1937 – Rudolf Caracciola after a race long duel beats his Mercedes-Benz teammate Hermann Lang at the Italian Grand Prix. Bernd Rosemeyer finishes third for Auto UNION.
Sep 26, 1937 – The Masaryk Grand Prix at Brno, Czechoslovakia was won by Rudolf Caracciola driving a Mercedes with his teammate von Brauchitsch coming in second.
Oct 2, 1937 – 50,000 curious spectators turned up for the Donington Grand Prix to see the German Auto Union and Mercedes -Benz teams dominate their local British heroes. The top ERA team qualified 16 seconds of the pace set my the Mercedes of von Brauchitsch. Rosemeyer would go on to win the ra for Auto Union le Earl Howe was the top British finisher for ERA in 7th though he was not official classified.
The day ended with some bad showing from the British. First the British organizers “forgot” to play the German anthem and then the bookmakers fled the field before the Auto Union mechanics could come to collect their wins. The Derby and District Motor Club had to intervene to prevent a scandal and generously paid out the mechanics in full from their own means. The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing by Leif Snellman
The AIACR European Championship (Drivers) for 1937 is won by Rudolf Caracciola with Mercedes drivers taking the first four places.
Jan 1, 1938 – New regulations would come into effect at the beginning of the year changing the basic formula from one based on minimum weight to one based upon engine capacity. The regulations stipulated that:
A minimum engine capacity of 1000cc and a maximum capacity of 4500cc for cars without
A minimum engine capacity of 666cc and a maximum capacity of 3000cc for cars with supercharger
A minimum weight of 400kg to 850 kg on a sliding scale depending on the engine capacity (The weight excluded fuel, engine oil and water)
Choice of fuel was open
Jan 27, 1938 – Bernd Rosemeyer is killed during record attempt. Traveling at over 270 mph a crosswind caught his car and caused the Auto Union to somersault flinging Rosemeyer to his death. SEE MORE
Mar 13, 1938 – Germany incorporates Austria into the Reich (the “Anschluss”). Hitler wanted all German-speaking nations in Europe to be a part of Germany.
April 10, 1938 – On the twisty Pau street circuit the powerful but fuel thirsty Mercedes-Benz of Rudolf Caracciola was beaten by René Dreyfus in a Delahaye. Gianfranco Comotti in the second Delahaye came in third.
Jun 25, 1938 – Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act that guarantees workers 25 cents per hour (rising to 40 cents by 1945) and a maximum 44 hour working week
Jul 1938 – At Evian, France, the U.S. convenes a League of Nations conference with delegates from 32 countries to consider helping Jews fleeing Hitler, but results in inaction as no country will accept them.
Jul 3, 1938 – A reduced field of just 9 cars started this year’s French Grand Prix. Both Auto Unions crashed out while Lang had a disastrous four minute pit stop and Caracciola had engine trouble, leaving von Brauchitsch to claim the first victory of the new 3-litre formula.
July 24, 1938 – Dick Seaman wins the German Grand Prix scoring the first victory for a British driver in a Grand Prix since Sir Henry Segrave. Nuvolari joins Auto Union and makes his race debut but crashes out. SEE MORE
This produced the single occasion when Nazis tried to interfere directly with a race. NSKK-Obergruppen-führer (Lieutenant-General) Erwin Kraus claimed that Nuvolari had got oil on his goggles from a Mercedes car and ordered Neubauer to take all his cars in for oil leak checks. Neubauer refused the order as it would destroy Mercedes’ chances of a victory whereupon Krauss asked if Neubauer accused him for favoring Auto Union. It appears no further action was taken. The Golden Era of Grand Prix Racing by Leif Snellman
Aug 14, 1938 – Only four cars finished the Coppa Acerbo with Rudolf Caracciola driving a Mercedes taking the win over the Alfa Romeos of Giuseppe Farina and Vittorio Belmondo.
Aug 21, 1938 – Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union entered four cars each in the Swiss Grand Prix which was run in heavy rain. Pole position man Seaman took the lead only to be passed by Caracciola when he was trapped behind backmarkers. Der Regenmeister would lead a Mercedes 1-2-3 finish.
Sep 11, 1938 – At the Italian Grand Prix Nuvolari worked his way up to second and on lap 8 he took the lead from Lang and held on to the finish giving Auto Union its first victory since Rosemeyer’s death.
Sep 28 1938 – Because of the Munich crisis the two German teams in England for the Donington race, are ordered by the German embassy to leave England as soon as possible and to destroy their cars rather than hand them over to the “enemy”. Chamberlain heads to Germany to meet with Hitler.
Sep 30, 1938 – Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany and proclaimed: “We, the German Führer and Chancellor, and the British Prime Minister, have had a further meeting today and are agreed in recognizing that the question of Anglo-German relations is of the first importance for our two countries and for Europe. Later at 10 Downing street he remarked, “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time…”
Nov 9-10, 1938 – Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass” — rioters burned over 1,000 synagogues, vandalized and looted 7,000 Jewish businesses and homes, and killed dozens of Jews in an assault instigated by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
Dec 14, 1938 – Hermann Göring takes charge of resolving the “Jewish Question”, beyond mere economic oppression and to one of genocide.
The AIACR European Championship (Drivers) for 1938 is won by Rudolf Caracciola for the third time with Mercedes drivers again taking the first four places.
Feb 28 1939 – The erroneous word “Dord” is discovered in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, prompting an investigation.
Mar 13, 1939 – German troops march into Czechoslovakia – a nation sacrificed on the altar of the Munich Pact, which was a vain attempt to prevent Germany’s imperial aims.
May 7, 1939 – When this year’s race in Tripoli was run under Voiturette rules nobody expected serious competition from the German teams but Mercedes shocked everyone by preparing two new cars, the W165 in eight months time. The cars would finish 1-2 with Lang taking the win over Caracciola.
Apr 2, 1939 – Neither the Alfa Romeo and Auto Union teams attend the race and it was left to the three Mercedes team drivers to battle amongst themselves as Hermann Lang wins the Grand Prix of Pau with Manfred von Brauchitsch, second and Philippe Etancelin third in a Talbot. Caracciola was forced to retire with a broken oil line.
May 21, 1939 – Hermann Lang in a Mercedes wins the Eifelrennen after a wheel to wheel duel with Tazio Nuvolari’s Auto Union. Rudolf Caracciola and Manfred von Brauchitsch are third and fourth in the other Mercedes.
Jun 25, 1939 – Hermann Lang wins the Belgian Grand Prix for Mercedes but the race is marred by the death of English driver Richard Seaman who was only 26 at the time and leading the race..
Jul 9, 1939 – Hermann Müller wins the Grand Prix l’Automobile Club de France for his first and only Grand Prix win when the Mercedes of Caracciola and Lang failed to make it to the finish.
July 23, 1939 – 250,000 – 300,000 spectators turned up to watch Caracciola take the flag to win the German Grand Prix for the sixth time. The Auto Union of Herman Müller finishes second followed by the Maserati of Paul Pietsch in third.
Aug 11,1939 – Jean Bugatti, the 27 year old son of Ettore Bugatti dies in a 200 km/h crash on the Molsheim-Strasbourg highway.
Aug 20, 1939 – This year’s Swiss Grand Prix included two heats, one for voiturettes and the other for gp cars, with the best going to a combined final. The leading voiturettes were the Alfas of Farina and Biondetti. At the start and Farina shot into 2nd place from row three, only to be overhauled by the faster German cars to finish 7th. Lang was able to hold on for the win.
Sep 1, 1939 – German forces bombard Poland on land and from the air, as Adolf Hitler seeks to regain lost territory and ultimately rule Poland. World War II had begun.
Sep 3, 1939 – The Belgrade Grand Prix held on the Kalemegdan Park race track was the last Grand Prix to be raced until the end of the war. It was won by Tazio Nuvolari.
Sep 3, 1939 – In response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, England and France declare war on Germany. Britain would begin bombing German ships the following day.
Oct 2, 1939 – Birdbaths are installed in Union Square, San Francisco, a decision that was quickly regretted when hordes of flying rats, otherwise known as pigeons descended on the populace.
The AIACR European Championship (Drivers) for 1939 was not officially recognized because of the war especially when the recipient would have been a German. However, Hermann Lang is generally credited with winning the title.
This website would not be possible without the wonderful work of others. I have used the following website extensively with regards to the dates and results used in this timeline: The Golden Era of GP Racing by Leif Snellman