Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Writer Pays Tribute To The Maestro

While watching Lewis HAMILTON winning the British Grand Prix last week, I kept wondering when will be the time before an Argentine grace the world of motor sport. By the way, does anyone here might know the last driver to ever race in Formula 1 from Argentina?

But for now, I would like to pay my tribute to the man that took Argentina to sporting glorious way before Mario KEMPES and his band of brothers delivered Argentina’s first Cup of Life.

As it was also mentioned in the sports official website, "Many consider him to be the greatest driver of all time. Several highly successful later drivers, such as Jim CLARK, Alain PROST, Ayrton SENNA and Michael SCHUMACHER, have been compared with him. It is generally acknowledged that such comparisons are not realistic, as the qualities required for success, the levels of competition, and the rules have changed over time”.

He is non other than Juan Manuel “El Maestro” FANGIO, a winner of five Formula One World Driver’s Championship (with four different teams, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati), a record which stood for 46 years.
His superlative track record was achieved by some of the greatest displays of skill and daring ever seen. After all, he came from an era where in Formula One, taking big risks might just be putting your own life on the line and safety issues wasn’t much of a concern (over 30 of his peers died during his career). But FANGIO survived them all and did it all with style, grace, nobility and a sense of honour never seen before or since.

However he did have his own close call. In 1952, after driving all night long through the Alps to race in a pre-season non championship event in Monza, he lost control of his Maserati on the second lap and crashed heavily, suffering a broken neck that left him with a permanently stiff upper torso. As a result, he was out of the 1952 Championship season altogether in order to recover fully.

Balding, short, stocky and he was also nicknamed 'El Chueco' (bow-legged), his unprepossessing physique belied a personal magnetism that together with his driving exploits made him a figure of worldwide adulation. In 1958 he became even more of an international celebrity when he was kidnapped in Cuba by members of Fidel CASTRO's revolutionary movement to draw attention to their cause. As was the case with everyone who met him, his captors were charmed by FANGIO and they released him unharmed.

He was a true gentleman, generosity of spirit, sense of fair play, invariable courtesy, surprising humility and sheer humanity were universally praised and appreciated, especially by his peers. He always befriended his mechanics and even provides practical contributions (he often wielded wrenches himself).

His most epic race would arguably be the 1957 German Grand Prix in Nurburgring. After losing nearly a minute to the Ferraris of Mike HAWTHORN and Peter COLLINS while during a pit stop, he went to smash the lap record to smithereens around the mother and father of all tracks, and beating the British youngsters into second and third. That race turned out to secure his fifth driving title and was his last victory.

Right from the moment in his first grand prix, 1950 British Grand Prix until his last race at the 1958 French Grand Prix, FANGIO’s has won 24 Grand Prix from 51 starts.

FANGIO received numerous of accolades and awards during and after his time as a racing driver. The most notable one was the “Fangio XXI” brand launched by Repsol YPF, as homage to him.
Even Michael SCHUMACHER who won his sixth title in 2003 said “FANGIO is on a level much higher than I see myself. What he did stands alone and what we have achieved is also unique. I have such respect for what he achieved. You can't take a personality like FANGIO and compare him with what has happened today. There is not even the slightest comparison."

On July 17th will be the 13th anniversary on the passing of one of Argentina’s truly greatest ever sportsmen. He may not be around in terms of flesh and body, but his genuine spirit and strengths will remain in the minds of millions of his supporters.



allan ng said...

Hi, I am an F1 fan also and I think the last Argentines to drive in F1 was Gaston Mazzacane. But he wasn't very good.

Actually I thought Norberto Fontana would have better chance, since he won the 1995 German F3 championship. But he turned out to be not so hot.

In 1998 there was Esteban Tuero, but he wasn't very impressive either.

Currently I am not aware of any upcoming Argentine drivers. Maybe because I am not following very closely like before.

Anonymous said...

John, could i ask you a favour, when you write something on the Argentina World Cup Blog could you please distinguish yourself from the other john who writes derogatory comments so that we know which one is which, as i would not like to cause any disrespect towards yourself.



John said...

Hi Alan, thanks for the sharing with all of us here. I admire you're knowledge on F1.

Yes!!! I did remember Gaston MAZZACANE back in year 2000 I believe.

Day1star, thanks for letting there is another person that goes by the moniker John. I'll be sure to remember that.