Juan Manuel Fangio
Juan Manuel Fangio born in Argentina 1911, was one of the world’s most successful F1 drivers, his record of 5 F1 World Titles only being surpassed by Michael Schumacher.
He was born to Italian parents in the Italian quarter of Balcarce, Argentina. He began racing in 1934, becoming Argentinean national champion in 1940 and 1941 driving a Chevrolet.
Fangio joined Formula One relatively late, and was a mature driver in his years. He often left teams after a World Championship winning season to find the best cars, and reprimanded team-mates cars if his had issues. He joined Alfa Romeo for the first F1 championship in 1950, winning the 3 races in which he finished. However his team mate Nino Farina just pipped him to the title. Fangio managed to win the title in 1951, despite the Alfa Romeo being slower than the Ferrari’s late in the season.
With Alfa Romeo withdrawing before 1952, Fangio was left without a drive. He raced a BRM V16 in non-championship events, and was selected by Maserati for one race. However he missed his flight and drove from Paris to Italy through the night to compete. He was fatigued and crashed on the second lap breaking his neck. He missed the rest of 1952 season.
Fangio won the Carrera Panamerica in a Lancia in 1953 to show his dominance to rivals on return to fitness. He would win the 1953 title in the Maserati ahead of the better Ferrari’s. He also finished 3rd in his first Targa Florio.
For 1954 he joined Mercedes Benz mid-season leaving Maserati, winning 8 of 12 races, 6 of which being Championship events. He easily won another title. Sticking with Benz for 1955, he won another title despite Benz being overshadowed by the 1955 Le Mans disaster where 80 fans were killed.
In 1956 Mercedes left F1, and Fangio joined Ferrari where he won the World Title yet again. He borrowed team mates cars in 3 events, most notably at the Italian Grand Prix where Peter Collins gave Fangio his Ferrai despite being able to win the Championship himself.
For 1957 he joined Maserati again driving the legendary 250F, where he won the title easily. He retired in 1958 after the French Grand Prix.
After Formula One he sold Mercedes Benz cars, and was in 1958 kidnapped by Cuban rebels who later released him and remained good friends. There are statues with racing cars to Fangio in Monaco and outside the new Mercedes museum in Stuttgart. Fangio died aged 84 in 1995 in Argentina.