At the beginning of the 1930s Grand Prix racing was in a mess, the governing body, the A.I.A.C.R. (Association Internationales des Automobiles Clubs Reconnus) introduced formulas that were unpopular with many teams. In 1933 motor racing was a three-cornered struggle between Alfa-Romeo, Bugatti, and Maserati, all these cars being capable of speeds around 150 miles per hour, which were considered dangerously high.
When drawing up the regulations for the 1934-1936 formula, which incidentally was later extended to 1937, the A.I.A.C.R. decided that if a maximum weight limit of 750 kilograms were imposed, then the steady increase in speeds would be checked, as the designers would be unable to use as big an engine as they had done in the past. It was expected that this would limit the engine size to about two and a half litres. How wrong could they be.
In October of 1932 they announced the regulations for the new formula to take effect from 1st January 1934, the main requirements were:
- A minimum distance of 310 miles for a race.
- No limit on the size of the engine.
- A maximum dry weight of 750 kg; not including tyres, fuel, oil, coolant or the driver.
- The cars should have a minimum cross sectional area of 85x25 cm at the driver's seat.
The period of Grand Prix racing between 1934 and 1939 that began under this formula and involved the silver cars from Germany is, by many, regarded to be motor racing's golden age. The name Silver Arrows, for most people, conjures up the thought of the famous Mercedes Benz racing cars of the 1934 to 1939 period (or the modern day West McLaren Mercedes Benz Formula One cars). The Auto Union team; which could be said to have had more impact on the long-term future of what was to become Formula One racing; is often forgotten.
Rumours concerning the new Auto Union were circulating as early as 1933 and the car was unveiled to the public in March 1934 at A.V.U.S. (Automobil Verkehrs und Ubungs Strasse) near Berlin. The car was developed from Ferdinand Porsche's P-Wagen By using light weight materials the Auto Union was able to have a 4.4 litre V16 engine developing 295bhp. It was mounted at the rear of the cockpit with the fuel tank centrally positioned behind the driver. This design meant that the handling of the race car altered very little as the amount of fuel changed.
The first time both the Auto Union and Mercedes teams were to compete together was at the A.V.U.S. GP on 27th May but Mercedes withdrew and week later at the Nurburgring only one team, the Auto Union concern arrived with silver cars. The Mercedes cars were painted white, Germany's national motor sport colour, but when the cars were weighed, to check that they complied with the new formula and were under 750 Kg, the Mercedes car was found to be 1 Kg over the weight limit. Alfred Neubauer the Mercedes team manager could think of nothing that could be removed to save the kilogram until by chance one of the drivers made a remark that solved the problem. The team could remove the white paint. If you consider this would also mean quite large quantities of filler, used to smooth the hand beaten body panels, it makes sense. It worked and next morning when the cars were weighed they were under the 750 Kg limit.