It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when the Mercedes Formula 1 team wasn’t a record-breaking, race-dominating force to be reckoned with. The team, based in Brackley in the UK, has gone through many different incarnations on its way to becoming the squad it is today.
But, how many of the team’s various names can you remember?
To refresh your Formula 1 history, we’re working through all the teams on the current grid and the journeys they’ve been on to get there. Sure, teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Haas remain pretty much unchanged, but others have some pretty fascinating histories.
After diving into the origins of Alpine and Red Bull, we’re now taking a look at the backstory of one of the most successful sports teams in history: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team.
So dig out your favorite racing merch and flick through the following slides to uncover how this Formula 1 powerhouse was born.
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It started back in 1968 with the Matra Ford Formula 1 team.
Having entered the odd race here and there in the preceding years, Matra became a full-time entrant in the F1 championship in 1968 when it fielded British racer Jackie Stewart alongside French driver Jean-Pierre Beltoise.
The squad got off to a strong start, with Stewart ending the year second in the drivers’ standings.
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From 1970, the team became known as Tyrrell Racing and began running cars developed by March, a racing outfit founded by Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Coaker and Robin Herd. But, the cars proved uncompetitive so team boss and founder Ken Tyrrell set about designing his own machines.
It proved a successful move and the team won its first constructor’s title in 1971 with the Tyrrell 001.
This period in the team’s history will always be remembered for the iconic Tyrrell P34, which raced on six wheels instead of the usual four.
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As with all F1 teams, a change in engine supplier meant a change in team names. Out went the Ford Cosworth V8s and in came the Renault V6… half way through the 1985 season.
Sadly, it didn’t prove to be a match made in heaven, and the Tyrrell team scrapped its French power units after just a season and a half.
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And that meant it was time for a new name! Well, an old one.
Between 1987 and the end of 1990, the returning Tyrrell Ford squad struggled with changing driver lineups and an uncompetitive car. Its best results in this period came in 1990, when French driver Jean Alesi scored two second place finishes at the U.S. and Monaco grands prix.
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A new year, another new engine supplier. For the 1991 season, Tyrrell opted for the Honda V10 engine, which gave the team its new title as Tyrrell Honda.
The deal lasted just one year, and saw the squad field Japanese driver Satoru Nakajima alongside Italian racer Stefano Modena, who scored its best result of second at that year’s Canadian Grand Prix.
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You know the drill by now, a switch to power units from British company Ilmor Engineering meant the team had to changes its name, yet again.
But by this point, the squad was a shadow of its former self, and reliability issues saw at least one of its drivers retire from every race bar two. By the end of the year, the once-championship-winning team had amassed just eight points between its two drivers.
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Sadly, the worst was yet to come for Tyrrell and its next incarnation was a real stinker. With a Yamaha V10 in the back of the car, the team was plagued with reliability issues from an engine that was underpowered compared to the competitors.
This meant that in 1993 it was unclassified in the constructors’ standings and it failed to finish higher than seventh over the following three seasons.
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Then, the inevitable happened, and Tyrrell withdrew from Formula 1.
The final race for Tyrrell was the 1998 Japanese Grand Prix, where one of its drivers failed to qualify for the race and the other retired after just 28 laps.
Founder Ken Tyrrell sold the team to businessman Craig Pollock, who was in the process of funding a new entry into the sport.
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And that new entry was the wacky-liveried British American Racing, which entered the 1999 season with Jacques Villeneuve and Ricardo Zonta at the wheel.
Sadly, the new team picked up where the old Tyrrell had left off, and had a pretty shocking inaugural season. It’s best results were a trio of eighth-place finishes in Italy, Spain and Germany.
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From 2000, title sponsor Lucky Strike cigarettes came on board with the hope that a whole heap of cash could help transform the team’s fortunes. It was a slow process, but it kind of did!
The team returned to the podium in 2001, then by 2004 was stringing together enough second and third-place finishes to end the year second in the constructors’ standings.
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In 2005, Honda announced that it would purchase the BAR team and change its name to the Honda Racing F1 Team from 2006. This also coincided with a ban on cigarette advertising in the sport.
Between 2006 and 2008, the team stuck with the driver pairing of Rubens Barrichello and British driver Jenson Button, who would get his first F1 win at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.
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When the financial crisis hit, Honda announced it would pull out of the sport. In what seemed like a crazy move at the time, team principal Ross Brawn purchased the ailing team for just one pound.
The change in name coincided with a change in regulation, which the team dominated from the outset. Jenson Button won six out of the first seven races in 2009 and went on to win his first F1 world title.
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After an incredible season for Brawn GP, German car maker Mercedes announced it would swoop in and buy the team. The move was enough to coax Michael Schumacher back to F1 following is retirement from the sport in 2006.
At first, the team failed to set the F1 world alight and claimed just a handful of podiums here and there. But, with the switch to hybrid power in 2014, the squad’s dominance of the sport began. Since then, it has gone on to win 112 out of 171 races.
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