Froilan Gonzalez (1922 - 2013)


Froilan Gonzalez, the first driver to win a world championship Grand Prix in a Ferrari, has died aged 90.

The Argentine, nicknamed The Pampas Bull, made his Formula One debut with Scuderia Achille Varzi in the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix driving a Maserati.

In a Formula One career that spanned eight seasons, he drove Maseratis, Talbot-Lagos and Vanwalls, however it was his exploits with Ferrari for which he will always be remembered.

His win at Silverstone in a Ferrari 375, coming two weeks after he finished second to Luigi Fagioli and Juan Manuel Fangio's Alfa Romeo at Reims, marked a milestone in the history of Ferrari as it was the first world championship victory for the Italian marque, coming in only the second season of the discipline.

Finishing third in the Drivers' Championship that season, the Argentine went one better in 1954 when he finished runner-up to Fangio, courtesy of another win at Silverstone and podium results in Buenos Aires, the Nurburgring, Bremgarten and Monza.

In just twenty-six races he scored two wins, thirteen further podium finishes, three pole positions and six fastest laps.

As was the way back them, in addition to Formula One Gonzalez contested the Sportscar Championship, winning the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours with Maurice Trintignant.

Speaking about that historic Silverstone win in 2011, Gozalez said: "I was very nervous before the start. Fangio told me he felt I could win and I knew I was in with a chance. There were four cars on the front row: the two Alfas of Fangio and Farina, Ascari’s Ferrari and my 375 F1. All four of us got wheelspin at the start and those on the second row passed by easily, so that I found myself fourth at the first corner, with Fangio and Ascari behind me. Then I got past Villoresi, Bonetto and Sanesi and, by the end of the second lap, I was in the lead. But Fangio was right behind me and then he overtook.

"I did not lose heart, because I knew Juan had to stop sooner or later to refuel whereas maybe I would not need to, so I stayed close for around 30 laps. When Juan pitted, I went by. In the Ferrari pits, they were worried I could run out of petrol so at one point they called me in and stuck 20 litres in the tank: but I still managed to get back on track with more than 50 seconds in hand over Fangio and, in the end I did not have to push so hard to the line and I won the race.

"I only realised what winning this race really meant on the Wednesday after," he continued, "when I met Don Enzo (Ferrari) at Maranello. In his office hung a big photo of the win right behind his desk! He asked me to sign it and describe the race down to the smallest detail and then he gave me a gold watch with the Prancing Horse on its face. Only three days later did I really understand that it was a special victory."

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Published: 15/06/2013
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