The Story Behind Grand Prix’s Biggest Starting Grid

#22 – Wolfgang Seidel — Veritas RS – BMW
Grid: 29th / Race: 16th

(Source: Revs)
Born: 4th July 1926
Dresden, Germany
Died: 1st March 1987
Munich, Germany
Appearances: 12


Between the retreat of Mercedes-Benz after 1955 and Rolf Stommelen’s contract with Brabham for 1970, German drivers were quite under-represented in Formula 1. Of course there was Wolfgang von Trips, but even he had done only two and a half seasons for Ferrari before his death in 1961 and in 1961/62 the Porsche team rather relied on the services of two established foreign pilots with a few German drivers only as occasional backups. Wolfgang Seidel was one of only two drivers, Hans Herrmann being the other, who would hold up the German flag and try to get their foot into the Grand Prix circus in those years.

At 25, Seidel was a representative of the young post-war generation of German drivers when he first appeared in a Veritas sports car at the Norisring in 1951. At that time in Germany there was a phenomenon to observe, where local groups of drivers had formed in some ‘hot spot’ areas and travelled jointly to the races. One such center was Düsseldorf, hometown of Ulmen, Peters and Seidel, who for this race was given the cockpit of Ulmen’s second car. Perhaps this had been intended as a test drive, because in 1952 Seidel would somewhat regularly appear in that very car, albeit in slightly modified shape. An early promising result was his second place in the sports car race of the 1952 German Grand Prix weekend, where he finished behind Ulmen, with Peters completing the Düsseldorf city championship in fifth place.

The step into Formula 2 for 1953 was probably by necessity rather than by ambition, as, like for many of his Veritas and BMW colleagues, with the discontinuation of the 2-litre sports car class there was no other possibility left. Consequently, Seidel could not expect to be a front runner in the old, bulky car, but at least he achieved a solid finishing record. However, the great moment of his early career was to come at the Nürburgring 1000km race, in which a 2-litre class was still featured. Co-driving with Peters they brought the old Veritas RS home for a surprise class win (if only quite far behind the winners of the smaller 1.5 litre class), when all of the much faster works Maseratis retired.

In 1954, when Formula 2 had been abandoned, he changed the Veritas for an OSCA to compete in the 1.5 litre sports car class, followed by a Porsche Spyder in 1955. In the following years he had some good results with the outstanding one being the victory at the 1959 Targa Florio together with Edgar Barth.

In the meantime he got occasional Formula 1 drives in Scuderia Centro Sud Maseratis without notable results. In the early 1960s, he tried to set up his own private Formula 1 team, but the effort came to a halt after the events at the German Grand Prix in 1962. There, he had missed the required number of five practise laps due to an engine failure of his Lotus and as a consequence was not allowed to start. When he complained publicly about this – in his opinion – unfairness in a press interview, claiming that he had set better lap times than some of the opponents, the National Motorsport Board reacted with full rigour, announcing that his license would be seized for lifetime. This was later revised into a two years ban, but nevertheless it was the end to his career.

1953 German Grand Prix, Wolfgang Seidel (Source: Revs)

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