Argentine racing driver Jose Froilan Gonzalez passed away June 15th, 2013 at the age of ninety in his native Buenos Aires. Born October 5th, 1922, Gonzalez will be forever linked to capturing Ferrari’s first victory in a Grand Prix counting towards the Formula 1 World Championship, coming at the 1951 British Grand Prix held at Silverstone.
Gonzalez made his Formula One debut driving a Maserati 4CLT for Scuderia Achille Varzi in the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix. In total, he competed in 26 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix over nine seasons (1950–1957 and 1960) and numerous non-Championship events. In addition to his 1951 British Grand Prix win, he also won the 1954 British Grand Prix for Ferrari in the 625 F1. He also tallied seven second place finishes, six third place finishes, three pole positions, six fastest laps and 72 points. His last Grand Prix was the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix. Another major victory for Gonzalez was his overall win at the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours, shared with Maurice Trintignant in a Ferrari 375 Plus.
The last meeting between “El Cabezon” and Ferrari took place on July 10, 2011 at Silverstone. On that day, Fernando Alonso drove the 375 F1 that Gonzalez took to victory in 1951 in the British Grand Prix, an exhibition that had previously taken place back in 2001, when the Argentine driver was there in person to share the pleasure of the moment with Michael Schumacher. A few hours after the more recent demonstration, Fernando won the race to give the Scuderia its only victory in 2011.
Gonzalez commented on the sixtieth anniversary of the Silverstone win, “I only realised what it meant to have won this race on the following Wednesday when I met Don Enzo at Maranello. In his office there was a big photo of the victory right behind his desk! 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. Only three days later did I really understand that it was a special win. Ferrari is the top in the world of motoring. For me, 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 sixty years all over the world.”
“The news of the death of Gonzalez saddened me greatly,” said Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo. “We had spoken not that long ago, talking about cars and racing, the topics he was most enthusiastic about. 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.”