- Full name Otto Wilhelm Rudolf Caracciola
- Nickname Caratsch, Regenmeister (Rainmaster)
- Birth date January 30, 1901
- Birthplace Remagen, Germany
- Date of death September 28, 0 (114 years 157 days)
- Place of death Kassel, Germany
- Teams Mercedes
Rudolf Caracciola was one of the leading drivers of the 1930s and a key part of the Mercedes team which helped German dominance of motor racing before the war. He won the European Drivers' Championship, the forerunner of the FIA World Championship, an unsurpassed three times. He also won the European Hillclimbing Championship three times: twice in sports cars, and once in Grand Prix cars. Caracciola raced for Mercedes-Benz during their original dominating Silver Arrows period, named after the silver colour of the cars, and set speed records for the firm.
Caracciola began racing while he was working as apprentice at the Fafnir automobile factory in Aachen during the early 1920s, first on motorcycles and then in cars. Racing for Mercedes-Benz, he won his first two Hillclimbing Championships in 1930 and 1931, and moved to Alfa Romeo for 1932, where he won the Hillclimbing Championship for the third time.
In 1933, he established the privateer team Scuderi CC with his fellow driver Louis Chiron, but a crash in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix left him with multiple fractures of his right thigh, which ruled him out of racing for more than a year. He returned to the newly reformed Mercedes-Benz racing team in 1934, with whom he won three European Championships, in 1935, 1937 and 1938. Like most German racing drivers in the 1930s, Caracciola was a member of the Nazi paramilitary group NSKK, but never a member of the Nazi Party.
He returned to racing after the Second World War, but crashed in qualifying for the 1946 Indianapolis 500. A second comeback in 1952 was halted by another crash, in a sports car race in Switzerland.
After he retired Caracciola worked as a Mercedes-Benz salesman targeting NATO troops stationed in Europe. He died in the German city of Kassel, after suffering liver failure. He was buried in Switzerland, where he had lived since the early 1930s.
He is remembered as one of the greatest pre-1939 Grand Prix drivers, a perfectionist who excelled in all conditions. His record of six German Grand Prix wins remains unbeaten as of 2010.