Think you know about the British toff who won the 1938 German Grand Prix? Think again
In a short and spectacularly successful career, Richard Seaman blazed a trail that’s been followed by Stirling Moss and Lewis Hamilton. But after his death in the 1939 Belgian GP (above), he was written out of history. When he’s reappeared, it’s been as a caricatured toff, or Nazi sympathiser, or reckless playboy. In truth he was none of these, as detailed in the new book A Race With Love and Death from Richard Williams. It’s a great read. ‘I thought the only way really to tell his story in a richer way was to immerse myself in every aspect – not just the Mercedes archive, but also visiting the places where he lived, and where he died. The longer I went on, the more the idea of him being a wealthy playboy fell away, and the clearer his real attitude, his seriousness about being a racing driver, came through,’ Williams tells CAR. ‘Only three British drivers have driven for Mercedes-Benz (in F1). Ambition and a professional attitude are qualities all three have in common.’
His most notable success came in the 1938 German GP, a duel between the Audi and Merc ‘Silver Arrows’ – both teams with Hitler’s backing. Seaman’s win would normally be seen as a great achievement for a Brit, but instead people remember his (half-hearted) ‘sieg heil’ podium salute, and the wreath Hitler sent to his funeral. ‘He’s slipped out of the national memory, and there are reasons for that. He needs to be restored to a position that he deserves.’
A Race With Love and Death by Richard Williams is published by Simon & Schuster, and as an audiobook.