Return of the slick Silver Arrows
Mercedes look on track to dominate F1 once again as they did in the 1930s, but Red Bull and Ferrari may stand in their way
It looks like a new dynasty has just been born. Formula One, like most sports, experiences periods of dominance by one team or another.
Now the Germans are coming. And the Brits. For while Mercedes is a German company, the Formula One outfit is based in Brackley, England. The Silver Arrows have had a purple patch before, but you have to go back to the 1930s.
In those days, it was the cash of the Third Reich that produced the dominance of Mercedes-Benz and their German rivals Auto Union. However questionable the financial backing, there was no doubt about the beauty of the burly cars or the thrill of the racing.
Mercedes returned to racing in 1954, and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio arrived mid-season. He won the F1 title that year and again in 1955. It was a brief renaissance, though. That year's disaster at Le Mans, when Pierre Levegh's Mercedes was launched into the crowd killing scores, prompted the company to withdraw from motor racing.
It took until 2010 for Mercedes to return as a team to F1, taking over the victorious Brawn outfit. Anyone expecting immediate results was disappointed as the factory experienced upheaval, while Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were unable to lift the team out of Red Bull's shadow. But Mercedes held their nerve and have been rewarded.
They got out of the blocks quickly this year. The 1-2 finish of Lewis Hamilton and Rosberg was the first Mercedes shutout since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. It has been pretty much more of the same for the rest of the season, of course. Luckily, unlike the dominant era of Schumacher and Ferrari, we have two evenly matched drivers and a team willing to let them race. Spain was not the only time we had a grandstand finish.
It is a story of success borne of commitment and rule changes. When things were not working out in the face of Red Bull's onslaught over the last few years, they concentrated their efforts on this season, when so much has changed. Being an engine manufacturer gave them a big boost, but as Ferrari will attest, that is only half the story.
They embraced the sweeping rule changes, leaving others in their trail. It has helped that their two drivers have matured at the right time. Hamilton is no longer that moody, callow youth in his later years at McLaren. Rosberg has been on an upward trend of form for many years.
Is it serendipity or careful planning for Mercedes? Probably a bit of both. If the planning continues then the Germans could rule for several seasons.
But Red Bull and Ferrari will be looking to get back to at least parity in double quick time. This weekend's grand prix in Monaco has often made a mockery of form, and Fernando Alonso feels Red Bull may have a good weekend.
Alonso will be interested in what is going on at Ferrari. They are pursuing Red Bull's brilliant designer Adrian Newey, who may be the magic key to unlock the potential at Maranello.
For now though the spotlight is on Mercedes. The company that was responsible for the birth of the first real car is about to write a new chapter in motor sport history.