The day after the Turkish Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton tried a different kind of racing car on Mercedes-Benz’s Stuttgart-Unterturkheim test track. To mark the 75th anniversary of its great ‘Silver Arrows’ team’s debut in 1934, the German manufacturer gave the reigning World Champion a drive in its newly-restored Typ W25 GP car.
Earlier that afternoon, Lewis had watched as his 2008 title-clinching McLaren-Mercedes MP4/23 took pride of place in the Mercedes-Benz Museum’s racing car display. Then on the test track he slithered into the seat of the 75-year-old W25, jaw dropping as he looked down at the exhaust pipe tight beside his left elbow, tall gearchange lever in its right-side gate, and the centre throttle pedal, right-side brake. He fielded TV crew questions while subconsciously fingering the wooden steering wheel. British journalist Mick Walsh offered him a linen helmet and goggles, sparking a grinned, “Whoa man; no way!”
In early development the 1934 W25s used 3.3- to 3.7-litre 32-valve straight-eight supercharged engines, giving anything up to 380bhp. The druckvergaser supercharger system emitted a distinctive wail. As the remote electric starter whirred and the W25 fired, Hamilton caught it first time on the throttle, whooped on some revs and eased away.
In several three-lap sessions he found the car – as expected – entirely foreign but glowed with respect for his predecessors. “What they did in these cars – and where they raced them – is amazing. Lot of power, no grip, heavy steering… and absolutely no brakes! It was a different world.”