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First Ferrari F1 winner dies at 90

2013-06-17 09:36

WHEN WEIGHT DIDN'T COUNT: Jose Froilan Gonzalez, the 'Pampas Bull' and Ferrari's first F1 winner, has died aged 90. Image: Ferrari


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Jose Froilan Gonzalez, the stocky 'Pampas Bull' who in 1951 delivered Ferrari's first Formula 1 World championship race win, has died in a Buenos Aires hospital at the age of 90.

Gonzalez beat compatriot and five-times World champion Juan Manuel Fangio, driving for Alfa Romeo, to win the 1951 British GP at Silverstone after making his championship debut with Maserati in Monaco a year earlier.

He was the son of a Chevrolet dealer from Arrecifes, near Buenos Aires. He also won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Frenchman Maurice Trintignant in a works Ferrari in 1954. The Argentine's F1 career lasted for a decade and included 26 grands prix. His last appearance for Ferrari was in his home GP in 1960.


Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said he was saddened by the news. "We had spoken not that long ago, talking about cars and racing, the topics he was most enthusiastic about," Montezemolo said on the Ferrari website in a tribute to the man nicknamed 'El Cabezon' (Fat Head) by his friends at the Italian team.

"Over all these years he was always very attached to Ferrari and, as a driver and a man, he played an integral part in our history. His death means we have lost a true friend."

Gonzalez' two wins (the second was in 1954) were at Silverstone for Ferrari; the second win helped him to second place in that year’s championship which was won by Fangio. Mike Hawthorn, also driving for Maserati, was third in the title race by only half a point.

Gonzalez recalled in 2011 that it was only when he met up with Enzo Ferrari, who rarely went to races, days later at Maranello that he realised just how much the victory meant. "In his office there was a big photo of the victory right behind his desk," the Argentine said. "He asked me to sign it and to tell him every last detail about the race, and then he gave me a gold watch with the Prancing Horse on the face.

"It has always been a cause of pride that I managed to take this first win, especially given what the marque went on to achieve in the past 60 years all over the world."


Ferrari is F1’s most glamorous and successful team, winner of 218 races and 16 Constructors' and 15 Drivers' championships. The team is the only one to have competed in every year of the championship since 1950.

Gonzalez - short, bullish and more corpulent than the lean racers who now populate the sport - was a muscular, arms-out racer who finished second on seven occasions and was third six times in an era when driver deaths were common.

In 2011 he was honoured by Ferrari on the 60th anniversary of his first win, with Fernando Alonso driving the 1950s Ferrari 375 race car around the Silverstone circuit. The Spaniard went on to win the GP for Ferrari later that day.

Gonzalez's death leaves Australian triple World champion Jack Brabham, now 87, as the oldest surviving F1 race winner.


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