Maserati versus technology, finance and organisation

Racing was in the Maserati brothers’ blood and their cars were highly praised for their build quality. But the arrival of Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz in 1934 rendered them instant also-rans in the major events. And that’s how it would stay pre-war, apart from brief flashes of pace from their 8CTF in 1938-39.

Auto Union’s radical mid-engined A-Type made its debut in the Avusrennen on May 27. But the huge crowd would be doubly disappointed; not only did the new Mercedes cars scratch from the meeting, but the A-Us were beaten by the sensational Guy Moll in Alfa’s latest 3.2-litre Tipo B. Hans Stuck had proved the Auto Union’s potential by leading the first two-thirds of the race, but when his clutch failed, the folly of not employing other top-line drivers worked against the team: neither Prince Hermann zu Leningen nor Ernest Momberger, who finished third, were up to the task.

The Mercedes-Benz W25 made its debut the next weekend at the Nürburgring’s Eifelrennen. It won in the hands of Manfred von Brauchitsch. But the team was not without its problems: number one driver Rudi Caracciola was not yet recovered from his 1933 Monaco injuries and withdrew, while Luigi Fagioli remonstrated with his bosses over orders to let his team-mate win. He even made an unscheduled pitstop to complain before parking up with a ‘rnisfire’l

Barring a defeat by Scuderia Ferrari’s Alfas in July’s French GP at Montlhéry, the German cars won every time they appeared during the remainder of the season. Stuck won the German and Swiss grands prix, and at Brno, and just shaded Fagioli — the winner at Pescara, Monza (with Caracciola) and San Sebastian — as the season’s star driver.