THE myth is almost always more engaging than reality. And so it goes with the story of how the Mercedes racing team earned its nickname.

Legend has it the Silver Arrows were christened when Mercedes racing manager Alfred Neubauer and driver Manfred von Brauchitsch alighted upon an idea that would make the Mercedes-Benz W25 a gram lighter than the 851kg it weighed prior to the Eifelrennen (Eifel race) at Nurburgring in 1934 in line with race stipulations.

Lightening the load would have a two-fold effect: by removing the white-lead based paint from the bodywork to reduce the weight, the pair also revealed a sparkling silver undercoat. As the car flashed through the Eifel mountains on its way to victory that year, a legend was born.

The story was revealed in both Neubauer and Von Brauchitsch’s subsequent autobiographies but the tall tale did not stand up to scrutiny when it became apparent that Mercedes had entered silver-bodied cars in earlier years according to historical accounts of the time.

The truth was much more prosaic: the Mercedes SSKL that Von Brauchitsch raced in on Berlin’s AVUS track had been compared to a Silver Arrow by radio commentators and, henceforth, the name stuck.

A quick delve into history is instructive. The lines shared by Mercedes and the Nurburgring are long and intertwined. There is a symmetry but the Green Hell – the name once given to the track because it was simultaneously the most beautiful and most difficult in the world – has had a purgatorial hold over Mercedes in the formula one era.

Despite early success in the late 1920s and ’30s, when the German marque dominated the sport, its only modern F1 win at Nurburgring came in 1954 courtesy of Juan-Manuel Fangio. Should Lewis Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 grand prix wins in the foothills of northern Germany today perhaps motorsport aficionados 100 years from now will recount the events of 2020 with the same suspicion we now reserve for dubious tales of the past.

One could hardly blame them. We live in barely credible times. So, too, in this sport. Let’s say Hamilton’s car crosses the line first. He will equal the great German’s record on the weekend that his son, Mick, was supposed to make his F1 debut before fog intervened on Friday. In doing so, he would register Mercedes’ second win at this track bridging a gap of 66 years and in a car that doffs a cap to the Silver Arrows of the past. It’s a stark statistic.

Like the bodywork paint story, perhaps fanciful theories will be aggrandised and subsequently rebutted by future historians. Hamilton claimed in the aftermath of his first attempt to equal Schumacher’s record, which ended in a third place in Sochi a fortnight ago, that “they” – that favoured pronoun of the conspiracy theorist – were out to slow him down on his inexorable march to the drivers’ championship.

He had just received two five-second penalties so perhaps his frustration was understandable. This time around, in this year of all years, Hamilton has been living like a “hermit” as an outbreak of Covid has afflicted the Mercedes camp.

It is the stuff of movies and, like him or loathe him, Hamilton is box office. There can be few observers who do not have an opinion on him and the choices he makes whether it is declaring that he fancies a career in the fashion industry when he retires from F1, his model and pop star girlfriends, lending support to the Black Lives Matter movement or being named PETA’s person of the year two years after the animal welfare group lambasted him for posing with white tigers in captivity.

A win in Germany would allow the 35-year-old to close in on another of Schuey’s records – a seventh drivers crown – should he fend off the challenge of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who sits 44 points behind him.

To do so he must block out the tolling bell of history. The track has been more forgiving to Germans in general than it has to Mercedes. Schumacher won five times at Nurburgring, Sebastian Vettel – who last week admitted his spell at Ferrari had been a failure – did so in his Red Bull in 2013, the last time a formula one grand prix was staged here.

Hamilton, too, has just one race win. It came in 2011 for McLaren but there is an explanation that sticks two fingers up at the historians. It speaks to the financial problems that beset Nurburgring and the German grand prix’s subsequent flit to Hockenheim. In short, Hamilton can’t win at a venue that doesn’t have a race.

Covid-19 has brought the track back on to the calendar this year as F1 organisers have sought to meet FIA schedule guidelines and meet television broadcast requirements of a 14-race season. In the interests of democracy, “Eifel” was chosen as the name since the mountain range extends to the west and into parts of Belgium and Luxembourg, the latter of which took the eponymous title of two grands prix in the late ’90s.

It is late in the year for a race at Nurburgring. The weather forecast is for wind and rain – and already two practice sessions have been cancelled. This is where Niki Lauda’s horror crash almost cost the German his life in 1976, an accident that prompted major alterations to safety standards in the design of cockpits and the ease with which drivers could leave them.

The sport has changed beyond all recognition since Lauda’s era but the thrill of the unexpected still excites Hamilton on unpredictable days. In the aftermath of a rain-soaked qualifying for the Styrian grand prix in Austria, he was buzzing – not least because his final qualifying lap had yielded the 89th pole position of his career.

“I mean honestly, it was a fantastic lap, the last one,” he said. “I had one big moment the lap before the last, a big aquaplane which definitely had my heart in my mouth but I was able to improve on the next lap, nice and clean. I love these days.”

If that speaks to the exhibitionist element of Hamilton’s psyche then it also acknowledges his indubitable skill as a driver.

When Rudi Carraciola – himself known for his prowess in wet weather conditions – won the first Eifelrennen – a combination race involving car and motorbike – at Nurburgring in 1927, 85,000 spectators descended on the track, travelling by train, bike or on foot.

They did so in anticipation of witnessing history whereupon they watched a near-mythical beast – the Mercedes-Benz Model S was dubbed the White Elephant because of both its incredible brutish strength and defiant roar – record a one-two finish. It was an ill-fitting monicker. The car dominated motorsport at the end of the 20s and 30s much as Mercedes does today.

Expect a similarly defiant roar from Hamilton – so often a figure of controversy and polarised opinions – should he etch his name into the history books in the bowels of the Green Hell today.