Juan Manuel Fangio (FANGE-ee-oh; born June 24, 1911 in Balcarce, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina – died July 17, 1995 in Buenos Aires, Argentina), nicknamed El Chueco ("knock-kneed") or El Maestro ("The Master"), was a racing car driver from Argentina, who dominated the first decade of Formula One racing. He won five Formula One World Driver's Championships — a record which stood for 46 years until eventually beaten by Michael Schumacher — with four different teams (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati), a feat that has not been repeated since. Many still consider him to be the greatest driver of all time.
He is the only Argentine driver to have won the Argentine Grand Prix, having won it four times in his career.
Early life and racingEdit
Fangio was born on San Juan's day in 1911 in Balcarce, to Italian immigrants. He began his racing career in Argentina in 1934, driving a 1929 Ford Model A which he had rebuilt. During his time racing in Argentina, he drove Chevrolet cars and was Argentine National Champion in 1940 and 1941. He first came to Europe to race in 1948, funded by the Argentine Automobile Club and the Argentine government.
Formula One racingEdit
Fangio, unlike later Formula One drivers, started his racing career at a mature age and was the oldest driver in many of his races. During his career, drivers raced almost with no protective equipment. Fangio had no compunction about leaving a team, even after a successful year or even during a season, if he thought he would have a better chance with a better car. As was then common, several of his race results were shared with team mates after he took over their car during races when his own had technical problems. His rivals included Alberto Ascari, Giuseppe Farina and Stirling Moss.
Fangio's first entry into Formula One came in the 1948 French Grand Prix at Reims, where he started his Simca Gordini from 11th on the grid but retired. He did not drive in F1 again until the following year at Sanremo, but having upgraded to a Maserati 4CLT/48 sponsored by the Automobile Club of Argentina he dominated the event, winning both heats to take the aggregate win by almost a minute over Prince Bira. Fangio entered a further six F1 races in 1949, winning four of them against top-level opposition.
For the first Formula One World Drivers' Championship in 1950 Fangio was taken on by the Alfa Romeo team alongside Nino Farina and Luigi Fagioli. With competitive racing machinery following the Second World War still in short supply, the pre-war Alfettas proved dominant.
Fangio retired from the first round of the championship at Silverstone whilst running third whilst championship rival and teammate Nino Farina won but he would win in Monaco when whilst Farina retired.
In Monaco Fangio got a better start than Farina and when they approached the Tabac corner for the first time they found that it had flooded. Fangio negotiated the corner whilst Farina spun causing a 10 multi-car pile-up.
Joint leaders of the championship, Farina and Fangio were the class of the field again in Bremgarten for the Swiss GP but Fangio would retire from second and it was status quo at the front of the Belgian GP but this time it was Farina who struck problems and crawled the car home 4th ensuring he kept the championship lead.
The championship moved onto France and Farina looked in impressive form tearing away in the lead from Fangio but this pace damaged his car and he retired from the lead giving Fangio the win and top of the championship. Fangio won each of the three races he finished, but Farina's three wins and a fourth place allowed him to take the title.
As Farina bolted off at the start line at the Italian GP with Alberto Ascari in the improved Ferrari in pursuit, Fangio knew all he had to do was collect good points and drove cautiously but on lap 22 disaster struck for the Argentine driver suffering gearbox problems. Fangio took over the car of Pierro Taruffi and set about charging back through the field but the pace was too much and he retired again on lap 35 leaving Farina to cruise to the title, Fangio second and Fagioli third.
In 1950's non-championship races Fangio took a further four wins and two seconds from eight starts.
1951 and beyond Edit
Fangio won three more championship races for Alfa in 1951 in the Swiss, French and Spanish Grands Prix, and with the improved Ferraris taking points off his team mates, Fangio took the title in the final race, six points ahead of Ascari.
With the 1952 World Championship being run to Formula Two specifications, Alfa Romeo were unable to use their supercharged Alfettas and withdrew. As a result the defending champion found himself without a car for the first race of the championship and remained absent from F1 until June, when he drove the British BRM V16 in non-championship F1 races at Albi and Dundrod. Fangio had agreed to drive for Maserati in a race at Monza the day after the Dundrod race, but having missed a connecting flight he decided to drive through the night from Paris, arriving half an hour before the start. Badly fatigued, Fangio started the race from the back of the grid but lost control on the second lap, crashed into a grass bank, and was thrown out of the car as it flipped end over end. He was taken to hospital with multiple injuries, the most serious being a broken neck, and spent the rest of 1952 recovering in Argentina.
Back to full racing fitness, Fangio began 1953 by winning the Carrera Panamericana in a Lancia D24. Back in Europe he rejoined Maserati for the championship season, and against the dominant Ferraris led by Ascari he took a lucky win at Monza. Fangio qualified second with Bonetto seventh, and Fangio set fastest lap on his way to a 1.4-second victory over Nino Farina while Bonetto retired out of fuel. Along with that win, Fangio secured three second places to finish second in the Championship, and also came third first time out in the Targa Florio.
In 1954 Fangio raced for Maserati until Mercedes-Benz entered competition in mid-season. Winning eight out of twelve races (six out of eight in the championship) in that year, he continued to race with Mercedes—driving the W196 Monoposto—in 1955 in a team that included Stirling Moss. At the end of the second successful season (which was overshadowed by the 1955 Le Mans disaster in which more than 80 spectators were killed) Mercedes withdrew from racing.
In 1956 Fangio moved to Ferrari, replacing Ascari, who had been killed in an accident, to win his fourth title. Enzo Ferrari and Fangio did not have a very warm relationship, despite their shared success. Fangio took over his team-mate's cars after his suffered mechanical problems in three races, the Argentine, Monaco and Italian Grands Prix. In each case the points were shared between the two drivers. At the season-ending Italian Grand Prix, Fangio's Ferrari team mate Peter Collins, who was in a position to win the World Championship with just 15 laps to go, handed over his car to Fangio. They shared the six points won for second place, giving Fangio the World title.
Saving the best until lastEdit
In 1957 Fangio returned to Maserati, who were still using the same iconic 250F which Fangio had driven at the start of 1954. Fangio started the season with a hat-trick of wins in Argentina, Monaco and France, before retiring with engine problems in Britain. At the next race, the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring circuit, Fangio needed to extend his lead by six points to claim the title with two races to spare. From pole position Fangio dropped to third behind the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Collins but managed to get past both by the end of the third lap. Fangio had started with half-full tanks since he expected that he would need new tyres half-way through the race. In the event Fangio pitted on lap 13 with a 30-second lead, but a disastrous stop left him back in third place and 50 seconds behind Collins and Hawthorn. Fangio came into his own, setting one fastest lap after another, culminating in a record-breaking time on lap 20 a full eleven seconds faster than the best the Ferraris could do. On the penultimate lap Fangio got back past both Collins and Hawthorn, and held on to take the win by just over three seconds. With Musso finishing down in fourth place, Fangio claimed his fifth title. This performance is often regarded as the greatest drive in Formula One history, but it was to be Fangio's last win.
After his series of back-to-back championships he retired in 1958, following the French Grand Prix. Such was the respect for Fangio, that during that final race, race leader Hawthorn had lapped Fangio and as Hawthorn was about to cross the line, he braked and allowed Fangio through so he could complete the 50-lap distance in his final race. He would cross the line over two minutes down on Hawthorn. He won 24 World Championship Grands Prix from 51 starts - a winning percentage of 47.06%, the best winning percentage in the sport's history.
Later life and deathEdit
During the rest of his life after retiring from racing Fangio sold Mercedes-Benz cars, often driving his former race cars in demonstration laps. Even before he joined the Mercedes Formula One team, in the early 1950s, Fangio had acquired the Argentine Mercedes concession. He was appointed President of Mercedes-Benz Argentina in 1974, and its Honorary President for Life in 1987.
Cuban rebels kidnapped him on February 23, 1958, but he was later released, and remained a good friend of his captors afterwards. The incident was dramatized in a 1999 Argentine film directed by Alberto Lecchi, Operación Fangio.
Following his retirement, Fangio was active in assembling automotive memorabila associated with his racing career. This led to the creation of the Museo Juan Manuel Fangio, which opened in Balcarce in 1986.
Fangio was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990. He returned to the spotlight in 1994, when he publicly opposed a new Province of Buenos Aires law denying driver's licences to those over 80 (which included Fangio). Denied a renewal of his card, Fangio reportedly challenged Traffic Bureau personnel to a race between Buenos Aires and seaside Mar del Plata, a 400 km (250 mi) distance, in two hours or less, following which an exception was made for the five-time Grand Prix winner.
Formula One Statistical OverviewEdit
F1 Career RecordEdit
Note: Italics indicates non-championship events only.
|Year||Entrant||Team||WDC Points||WDC Pos.||Report|
|1949||Automovil Club Argentina||Maserati||Pre-championship||Report|
|Scuderia Achille Varzi||Simca-Gordini|
|1950||Alfa Romeo SpA||Alfa Romeo||27||2nd||Report|
|Scuderia Achille Varzi||Maserati|
|1951||Alfa Romeo SpA||Alfa Romeo||31 (37)||1st||Report|
|1952||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||0||NC||Report|
|Juan Manuel Fangio|
|1953||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||28 (29 1⁄2)||2nd||Report|
|1954||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||42 (57 1⁄7)||1st||Report|
|Diamler Benz AG||Mercedes|
|1955||Diamler Benz AG||Mercedes||40 (41)||1st||Report|
|1956||Scuderia Ferrari||Ferrari||30 (33)||1st||Report|
|1957||Officine Alfieri Maserati||Maserati||40 (46)||1st||Report|
|1958||Scuderia Sud Americana||Maserati||7||14th||Report|
|Juan Manuel Fangio|
|Novi Auto Air Condition||Kurtis Kraft-Novi|
|Front Row Starts||48|
|Distance Raced||20439.566 km|
|Distance Led||9315.967 km|
* Shared drive.
|Complete Formula One results|
|3rd||DNQ||Did not qualify|
|5th||Points finish||DNPQ||Did not pre-qualify|
|14th||Non-points finish||TD||Test driver|
|NC||Non-classified finish (<90% race distance)||DNS||Did not start|
|[+] More Symbols|
- ↑ The Official Formula 1 Website
- ↑ F1 Fanatics: Juan Manuel Fangio
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Rendall, Ivan (1995) . The Chequered Flag: 100 years of motor racing. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 166. ISBN 0-297-83550-5.
- ↑ "MASERATI AND FANGIO F1 WORLD CHAMPIONS IN 1957". www.greatcarstv.com. http://www.greatcarstv.com/history/maserati-and-fangio-f1-world-champions-in-1957.html. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- ↑ Although technically beaten by Lee Wallard, who competed in only two Indianapolis events counting towards the World Championship
- ↑ Cine Nacional: Operación Fangio Template:Es
- ↑ "Op bezoek bij Juan Manuel Fangio: de mythe". Autovisie 1991 nr 1: Page 44–51. date 5 January 1991.
- ↑ La Nación: Cuándo los mayores no deben manejar
|v·d·e||Nominate this page for Featured Article|