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Stirling Moss and Lewis Hamilton compare Fangio’s 1954 Formula 1 Grand Prix car for auction at Bonhams with Hamilton’s modern Silver Arrow

A meeting of motorsport greats: Ahead of the 2013 FORMULA 1 SANTANDER BRITISH GRAND PRIX (28-30 June), two past British winners from two very different eras of Formula 1 met at Silverstone to compare Silver Arrows…

Two-time British Grand Prix winner, ex-Mercedes-Benz driver Sir Stirling Moss, lent his support to fellow Brit Lewis Hamilton’s bid for success at this year’s Silverstone event, as the pair compared their Mercedes cars.
While Hamilton showed Sir Stirling around the modern Silver Arrow, similar to the car he hopes will steer him to his second British GP victory later this month, his companion presided over the double grand-prix-winning 1954 W196 in which Juan Manuel Fangio won the second of his five World Drivers’ Championships, and which Bonhams is to sell at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday 12th July.

The latter is the same model of car raced by Moss when he won his first British Grand Prix in 1955 – his first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix victory.
Sir Stirling said: “Winning the British Grand Prix meant a lot to me. I won in a Mercedes-Benz W196 in 1955, just before the very last corner. It really was a very special day. I remember it quite well; I’d caught up with Fangio and overtaken him in traffic. As we went round the last corner I put my foot flat on the floor and took the checkered flag. I finished literally half a car length in front.

“Taking a look at Lewis’s car today, there’s no way would I get in it, but then he said the same thing about mine! He asked where the seatbelts were – we didn’t wear seatbelts!”

The car Bonhams is to sell – the 2½-liter straight-eight single-seater, chassis number 00006/54 – won the 1954 German and Swiss Grands Prix in Fangio’s hands, the first successive victories achieved by the factory Mercedes-Benz team in its post-war racing comeback.

As well as becoming the first open-wheeled ‘slipper’-bodied post-war Mercedes to win an F1 Grand Prix, the car’s innovative design marked the introduction to the sport of the fuel-injected engine, Mercedes-Benz all-independent suspension, multi-tubular spaceframe lightweight chassis design and all-round inboard-mounted brakes. The car also pioneered an in-line or straight-8 engine lay-down configuration to minimize overall height, and power take-off from the center of the engine’s long eight-cylinder crankshaft to minimize vibration.

The Mercedes-Benz team missed the first two rounds of the 1954 championship in Argentina and Belgium, but made its debut in the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux, where the all-new W196 cars set new performance standards as Fangio and his team-mate Karl Kling finished first and second in both qualifying and the race.

But after the enclosed-wheel cars struggled to place at the following round of the British Grand Prix at the more twisty Silverstone Circuit, Fangio requested a ‘slipper’-bodied, open-wheeled variant of the W196 in time for the next grand prix in Germany. The two new cars were ‘00005’ and ‘00006’.

In Fangio’s hands, ‘00006’ dominated the German and Swiss Grands Prix – winning the latter by 58.7 seconds from his nearest rival, Jose Froilan Gonzalez in his Ferrari. The latter was Fangio’s third victory in four Grands Prix, and assured him of that year’s title.