Ferrari’s first ever Grand Prix winner, the one and only José Froilán González, will be celebrating his 89th birthday.
Gonzalez achieved the milestone way back in 1951 at Silverstone, and the Argentine still enjoys a cult following some 60 years later!
A contemporary of his compatriot Juan Manuel Fangio, González was a top-shelf all-round sportsman in spite of his incredibly bulky frame. Known as ‘The Pampas Bull’ by his English fans and the rather more crude ‘El Cabazon’ (which translates to ‘Fat Head’) among his fellow drivers, González was identifiable due to his enormous bulk overhanging the side of his F1 cockpit as he furiously wrestled his car around the circuit.
Having made a couple of appearances in 1950-1 in a Maserati and a Talbot, so impressed was Enzo Ferrari – after González beat the almighty Mercedes W163s on Buenos Aires’ Costanera street circuit in 1951 – that he signed the Argentine up to his F1 outfit, and González promptly delivered, finishing second on his Ferrari debut at France, and taking the marque’s first win at the following round at Silverstone.
By the end of the 1951 season, González had finished an impressive third in the championship, finishing on the podium in every race he contested. In doing so, González achieved a host of ‘youngest driver’ records, including the being the youngest to start a race, achieve a pole position, a podium finish, a fastest lap, and a race win.
The remainder of González’s career was spent in F1 sporadically, and he again was a frequent podium finisher in 1954 – winning at Silverstone again with Ferrari – en route to second overall in the championship.
Thereafter, he contested one F1 race a year – typically his home race – with his final podium finish coming at Buenos Aires in 1955 in front of his adoring fans.
Still active in motor racing circles, González is a frequent visitor to the F1 paddock, ever-smiling and ever-willing to demonstrate one of the veteran cars that he piloted with such verve.
[Image via The Cahier Archive]