Remembering Juan Manuel Fangio, Formula One’s first great

24 Jun 2016

Statue of Juan Manuel Fangio at the Catalunya circuit, via Wikimedia Commons

Google has today (24 June) celebrated the life and career of Argentinian Formula One driver Juan Manuel Fangio, the first poster boy of the world’s most extravagant sport.

Before Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel, there was Fernando Alonso. Before Alonso, Michael Schumacher. Prior to the German, there was Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Jackie Stuart and Jack Brabham.

All multiple Formula One World Championship winners, all considered greats, and all following in the footsteps of Juan Manuel Fangio, the sport’s first icon.

Future Human

Picking up five of the first eight World Championship titles back in the 1950s, the Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes and Ferrari driver was a true great.

An accomplished soccer player as a kid, the Argentine Fangio’s driving skills earned him the nickname El Maestro. He originally drove for the military, before shifting into the world of racing, helping to put the sport firmly on the global map.

Not long ago, we ran an infographic that compared modern drivers with those of the past, featuring some trivial data that actually worked quite well as a comparative tool.

What was missing from the content, though, was Fangio.

Senna, when answering a Q&A at a Scottish university a few decades ago, spoke glowingly about the Argentine and that, thankfully, made it to YouTube.

“For me, he’s not only a World Champion on the circuit, but also outside the car, in real life,” said Senna of Fangio, who was still very much alive and well at the time.

Fangio, who died in 1995 at the ripe age of 84, would be 105 today and, to celebrate, Google has marked the occasion with a pretty cool, retro doodle.

Juan Manuel Fangio

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic