The 1954 Swiss Grand Prix: Poorly Translated

I’ve decided that things have been too serious around here lately, and it was time to cover a race more casually.  I found some fantastic Mercedes-Benz produced footage; however, it’s in German.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts in a video breakdown of sorts.

I recommend pulling the video into a separate window, so, you the viewer at home, can follow along with my tongue-in-cheek take on, what I presume, to be happening.

0:05 – So, I busted out Google translate on what I think this old-timey German text says.  Unfortunately, I found it difficult to even figure out which letters were which.  So, in the style of bad lip reading, here’s what I came up with: “There was a forward surge toward brunch regulations, in a new era of harmonization with one’s neighbors–on the premises, with a bar.”

0:08 – For those of you with Gran Turismo 5 (GT5) for Playstation 3 (PS3), you can explore modern day Bern, Switzerland in Photo Mode.  It’s pretty cool to see how little it has changed; including the trolley.  From what I can tell, it still has its same romantic character.

0:17 – “Vorverkauf” = “Advance Booking.”

0:21, 0:26 –

Official Playbill/Poster advertising the 1954 Swiss GP showing a race car and motorcycle.

The Official Poster for the 1954 Swiss Grand Prix

0:29 – The weather was terrible that weekend.  Presumably, that is what the announcer is discussing.

0:36 – This is unusual, and a bit weird.  But, at this point, we see an attractive woman turn her head, look at the camera, and smile as she licks her lips.  Normally, I would led this slide.  But, I checked with google translate, which couldn’t come up with the entire phrase, but did definitely catch the word “Husband.”  I’m dying to know what the announcer said!

0:43 – The #4 car was Juan-Manuel Fangio‘s.  The view is obstructed, and I am unable to tell whether or not that is the “Maestro” himself, at the helm.

0:50 – As noted, Karl Kling–who drove for  Mercedes-Benz and would pilot the #8 car.

0:54 – Hans Hermann, Mercedes-Benz, #6 chassis

0:58 – Behra’s car, the #10, is pictured in the foreground.  His Gordini T16 would only complete eight laps before the clutch gave out.  In the background, is the #12.  It was piloted by Clemar Bucci, but completed no laps due to a fuel pump issue.

1:10 – Even though Mercedes-Benz removed the bodywork over the wheels, it looks like they knew there was aerodynamic advantage to keeping the suspension shrouded from the air by bodywork.  The heavy-set and/or morbidly obese gentleman walking in front of the car is Alfred Neubauer, the Mercedes-Benz race boss since well-before the second world war.

2:00 – I absolutely love the fifties production value.  Something about the obtuse line crawling along a map of the track with several languages on it tickles me.  On the other hand, modern day announcers could learn a thing or two from what is occuring in this scene.  Specifically, the announcer seems to be identifying the corner by name, showing it on the map, and then showing the appropriate camera angle at the track.  Often, with modern F1 broadcasting–at least with the former Speed TV crew headed by Bob Varsha–the viewer is left in the dark about what corner looks like what.  In other words, I think this is an excellent way to orient the viewer ahead of time, so they can better identify where on the track a particular camera angle is illustrating.

3:00 – The announcer has just described the track in terms of its mix of many fast corners and a few slow corners.  He goes on to indicate that the average speed around the track is 160 kilometers per hour (roughly 100 miles per hour – definitely on the high side for the day)

3:01 – 3:59 – At this point we see a lot of Fangio in the lead in his #4 Mercedes-Benz W196.

4:11 – The announcer indicates that Gonzalez had a quiet and thoughtful type of personality.

4:16 – The two young Englishmen, including Stirling Moss are no longer in the race.

4:34 – The use “vorsprung” is perhaps referring either to Fangio’s lead projecting him forward to the win, or it is speaking of the leap forward the W196 took, technically.

4:48 – 5:00 – The announcer is discussing Karl Kling’s performance.  He would spin, fall to the back of the pack, recover, and fight through the pack to third place, behind Fangio and Gonzalez.  However, as pictured at around 5:00, his fuel pump failed and he was forced to pull off the track.

5:10 – A hat-maker somewhere asked what this hat needed.  Apparently, rope was his answer to the question.

5:40 – Gonzalez hunting down Fangio.  Though, his chase would ultimately prove unsuccessful.

Final Notes on the 1954 Swiss GP

This would be the last Formula 1 race held within the geographic bounderies of Switzerland.  Following the tragedy at Le Mans, ‘next year’, in 1955, the government banned motor-racing.  I am unclear as to what extent this ban persists today.  But, I know Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear clan avoid Switzerland like the plague on timed challenges through Europe.

Fangio also retook the record for most victories when he won this race.  This was his twelfth victory.  Alberto Ascari held the record during the intervening period.  The record would not be broken until 1968.  This suggests a lack of domination by a single driver between the late fifties and the early sixties.  An inference that the sixties will be pretty exciting is reasonable.