Hermann Lang

Born:
6th April 1909
Bad Cannstatt, Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg
Died:
19th October 1987 (Aged 78)
Bad Cannstatt, Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg
Nationality:
German
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

If anyone’s Grand Prix career was harmed most by the outbreak of World War II it was that of 30 year old Hermann Lang. 1939 had been his year – the season when Rudolf Caracciola and the old guard had to give way to a new generation and this former mechanic in particular.

Lang did not like the spotlight that fame brought and the atmosphere within the Mercedes-Benz team was also far from ideal. The aristocratic Manfred von Brauchitsch and legendary team leader Caracciola treated Lang with distrust and distain due in part to his modest origins.

Motorcycle Champion

German Hillclimb Champion for motorcycle sidecars in 1931, Lang’s was a humble upbringing. Unemployed during the 1932 recession, he started to work at Mercedes-Benz as an engine fitter as the company prepared to rejoin GP racing in 1934. He soon transferred to the race department and with it caught the eye of Team Manager Alfred Neubauer.

Mercedes-Benz junior driver

He was chief mechanic on Luigi Fagioli’s car that 1934 season and Lang tested for the team at Monza in early 1935. Selected as a junior in the squad, he made his car racing debut in the Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring which he finished in fifth position despite spinning in the rain.

Lang’s potential was clear and he briefly led the 1936 German GP before fracturing his little finger while changing gear. Caracciola took over at a pitstop much to the public’s displeasure for the former mechanic had led the national race despite his injury.

Fulltime works driver

He signed as a fulltime Mercedes driver in 1937 and beat Bernd Rosemeyer’s Auto Union in the opening race of the year on Tripoli’s ultra-quick Mellaha desert track. He thrived on fast tracks where bravery was all as illustrated by his 162.62mph win at Avus with a streamlined Mercedes-Benz W125.

Lang added second place finishes in the Swiss and Italian GPs of 1937 as he emerged as a talent to match the Titans – Caracciola, Rosemeyer and Nuvolari. However, the year ended with the worst accident of his career when Lang rolled out of the lead at Brno. He was thrown clear and escaped serious injury although two spectators were killed and another 12 injured when hit by the car. He was spirited out of the country for fear of arrest or the angry reaction of the Czechoslovakian spectators.

His progress on the track continued in 1938 with victory at Tripoli and in the Coppa Ciano on Livorno’s Montenero course after von Brauchitsch had been disqualified from the latter. He survived a high-speed fire at Pescara and his goggles shattered by a stone in the Swiss GP – racing in the 1930s had its challenges.

Declared 1939 European Champion

He proved his worth behind the wheel in 1939 – starting with a third consecutive victory at Tripoli driving the previously secret Mercedes-Benz W165 voiturette. It was the prelude to his finest season that included victories in the wet Belgian and Swiss GPs. Previously unhappy racing the rain, his win at Bremgarten by beating the previous "Rainmaster" Caracciola was a passing of the baton within the team and GP racing as a whole.

With Europe at war, the German authorities announced Lang as 1939 European Champion but a later recalculation of the points suggests that Auto Union’s Hermann Müller was the true winner. Despite that debate there was no doubt of Lang’s place among the GP stars of the time.

Post-war career and Le Mans victory

He continued to work for Daimler-Benz and was interned at Ludwigsburg for 10 months at the end of World War II. However, he won the first post-war event to be held in Germany (a hillclimb at Ruhestein in 1946). His Veritas retired from the non-championship 1950 German GP and he raced for Mercedes again in the Argentinian races of 1951 – finishing in second and third positions.

He hit the headlines again in the 1952 Le Mans 24 Hours by sharing the winning Mercedes-Benz 300SL with Fritz Riess. Lang also won at the Nürburgring and was second in the Carrera Panamericana behind team-mate Karl Kling.

Lang then returned to GP racing with two starts in the new world championship. Fifth in the 1953 Swiss GP with the works Maserati A6GCM normally driven by José Froilán González, he returned to Mercedes-Benz for the following season’s German GP. Lang’s W196 ran in a strong second position before he spun out of the race.

That was his last race but Lang remained a Mercedes employee until retirement age.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1954 F1 World Championship
Daimler-Benz
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1953 F1 World Championship
Officine Alfieri Maserati
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
13th 2
1939 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
4 3 2 2
50% win rate
1st 0
1938 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
4 2 2 0
0% win rate
0
1937 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
4 0 3 0
0% win rate
0
1936 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
2 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1935 European Championship
Daimler-Benz
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0