62 – 1931 German GP


Grand Prix motor racing could not afford to be picky in financially straitened times, hence its ‘adoption’ of Formule Libre. As a consequence, the monstrous 7.1-litre Mercedes-Benz SSKL dwarfed Bugatti’s 2.3-litre Type 51. 

All the machines entered were two-seaters – but some were more ‘sports car’ than others. Studiously stripping its extraneous equipment and copiously drilling its girder chassis could not hide the fact that the Merc was a bit of a bus. Its number one driver Rudi Caracciola practised assiduously – on the track and in the pits swapping tyres – and hoped for rain.

He got his wish and, despite the presence of a legion of top drivers – among them Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi at Bugatti, Alfa Romeo’s Tazio Nuvolari and Maserati’s Luigi Fagioli – the German ‘Rain Master’ romped into an early lead. The minute’s advantage he required to change his Continentals was achieved after just five of the 22 laps.

View this race on the Database

The heavy SSKL was certainly happier in such conditions – and easier on its otherwise tortured rubber – but none of the other Stuttgart machines made any impression on their lighter, more nimble opposition. 

It was Caracciola who was the difference, which is why Mercedes-Benz favoured him with its best equipment. 

Although the track began to dry after 14 laps, it wasn’t until four laps later that Chiron was able to make any inroads into Caracciola’s lead. Rain or shine, ‘Caratsch’ had it under control. He was a match for anybody in terms of speed prior to his crash at Monaco in 1933. Only after it would he have to rely more on his superior strategic grasp. PF

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

Welcome to this special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Then there were those races of prominence, attached to a certain time or place that made them hugely significant. I’m thinking specifically of Belgrade, 1939. Only five entries took the start of a race that didn’t sound particularly scintillating. But as it happened to take place on the very day WWII broke out, we felt it worthy of inclusion. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable maiden GP win at Monza in 2008, for lowly Scuderia Toro Rosso, was left on the cutting room floor. Is that fair? You decide. We also opted to include a few races that weren’t Grands Prix, leastways in name, although the strength of entry was such that they might as well have been…

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

So turn the page, delve in – and whatever you do, don’t take it too seriously.

You may also like