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'Iconic' Silver Arrows comes home

By Greg Duke, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The iconic Silver Arrows Mercedes will take center stage at this weekend's German GP
  • German drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg will be carrying hopes of nation
  • Schumacher has endured a disappointing season on his return to the Formula One grid
  • Rosberg has out-performed his more-illustrious teammate with three podium finishes

(CNN) -- This weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim sees the much-anticipated return of one of the most iconic marques to its home Formula One race.

When the Mercedes Silver Arrows made its comeback in Bahrain in March, steered by Germany's greatest-ever driver, Michael Schumacher, Sunday's race was always going to be a red-letter day for German motorsport fans.

And although the seven-time world champion has found the going tough on his return to the grid -- often out-performed by compatriot Nico Rosberg this season -- there is no doubt that Schumacher will have the hopes of a nation upon his broad shoulders this weekend.

It is 55 long years since Juan Manuel Fangio, still revered by many as the most complete driver that ever lived, steered his Mercedes to victory in the 1955 Formula One championship.

Cut short later that year by the Le Mans tragedy, which saw many innocents die when a Mercedes crashed into the crowd -- resulting in the manufacturer pulling out of motorsport altogether -- the Silver Arrows re-wrote the record books during its short tenure in F1.

The team participated in just 12 races during the 1954 and 1955 seasons and won nine of them.

To complete their total domination they achieved eight pole positions and had nine fastest laps to their credit.

Earlier, the Silver Arrows, a name allegedly given to the cars by the German media when white paint was removed from the chassis to leave the bare silver aluminium casing on display, had dominated pre-war motorsport.

Between 1934 and 1939, German Mercedes Benz and Auto Union cars were unstoppable, with the likes of Rudolf Caracciola, Herman Lang and Richard Seaman going down in history for the daredevil ways they would handle cars which could sometimes reach speeds of up to 200 mph.

But how has the 2010 version compared with its historic predecessors? Don't forget this is effectively the same car that won last year's world title through Jenson Button, then driving under the Brawn GP banner.

Button's championship victory was forged by some superb results early in the season, with the Brawn often looking slow in comparison to its rivals towards the tail-end of the campaign.

And, speaking to Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung newspaper earlier in the season, team chief Norbert Haug admitted that he did not expect miracles from the car.

Driving in front of the Mercedes Grandstand, in front of all the employees, members and friends of Mercedes-Benz will for sure be an emotional moment.
--Michael Schumacher
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"Judging our competitiveness for the first couple of races, my impression is that we are not quite where we want to be and I would not see our team in the role of favorites," said Haug.

"Having said that, I am fully convinced that the whole team, and our drivers Nico and Michael, are fully prepared to get on top of our job and fulfil our targets -- which are winning races and fighting for world titles."

Haug's realism has proved correct. Despite the early euphoria of having Schumi and the Silver Arrows in tandem, the legendary manufacturer has been found wanting against the explosive power of the Red Bull and McLaren cars.

Neither Mercedes driver has yet to secure a victory and -- after 10 races -- Schumacher finds himself a staggering 109 points behind overall leader Lewis Hamilton, banishing any hopes of him collecting a fairytale eighth world title this season.

However, teammate Rosberg has experienced some success, with the 25-year-old securing three podium finishes to find himself lying in sixth place in the standings, 54 points ahead of his compatriot.

But, despite his poor season so far, Schumacher is fired up about producing a good performance in front of his home fans.

"There is one thing for sure -- no matter how long you are around, it is always something different to race in front of your home crowd," Schumacher told his official website. "At Hockenheim I will definitely try my best, also for my fans who give me such great support.

"It is the first time for me to come to Hockenheim as a Mercedes-driver, and I am very much looking forward to it, driving in front of the Mercedes Grandstand, in front of all employees, members and friends of Mercedes-Benz will for sure be an emotional moment."

Rosberg is also geared up for the weekend, telling the official Formula One website: "As a German driver, the German Grand Prix is always a very special weekend, and it will be even better this year to be racing there for Mercedes-Benz.

"I have great memories from Hockenheim as I won there in all the junior categories that I competed in, including my first single-seater race win. "

"Going into one of the team's home weekend's with the podium finish from Silverstone is a real boost for us, and we will be working hard to continue our improvement in performance and have a strong weekend."