Reims ’54 – Mercedes Returns to GP Racing
There are dozens of reasons why this image of the grid of the Grand Prix at Reims in 1954 is astounding. I love how simple, almost bucolic, the facilities appear. In this crop, you can’t see the grandstands or pits crowding the grid; making it almost look like the track is in an otherwise empty field. The grid itself is amazing. That’s Fangio (#18) on pole with Kling in the other Mercedes (#20), with Ascari’s Maser (#10) on the front row.
The thing I like most about it, however, is that this single image captures something fundamental about Formula 1 racing that has been spectacularly lost and is unlikely to return: a unique voice from each manufacturer in the design of their racing car. The variety of the design of the machinery on this grid is obvious. The enclosed wheels of the streamliner Mercedes machines is the most immediate example of that, but the rest of the field shows the personalities of each maker shining through as well. This era when the lines between a Formula car and a sportscar were blurred is sorely missed.
The Mercedes machines ran away with it from the start, marking their spectacular return to Grand Prix racing.
Details on the race at eMercedesBenz.
As much as Brock Yates was and is a blowhard, his desire to turn any form of racing into a “run whatcha brung” event has a whole lot of resonance and pull when you see pics like this.
That said, I’m one who thinks that the ’66-’73 version of Can-Am was the unconquerable acme of racing.
There is a shot of the two W196s on the Reims grid for January’s photo in the Road & Track Vintage Memories 2011 calendar – nice coincidence!
What of the mechanic (Ascari’s?) who seems to have been surprised by the flag fall and barely gets out of the way! The beauty of Reims can be seen in the film “The Racers” –the scenes having been shot at the previous year’s event there.
How does one grab these pictures? They are spectacular.
[…] the changes in the culture of racing and rule making. Reims in ’54 the return of the Mercedes and a grid full of individualistic […]
Unfortunately, F1 just reflects most of modern culture. Essentially amateur drivers who loved it all, and (mostly) small garages providing cars to super-pro drivers making millions in cars that are mostly video games from major manufacturers. Perhaps it is what you saw when you became a fan. Certainly is for me.