Remembering Jose Froilan Gonzalez (1922-2013)

Ferrari 375 F1
Jose Froilan Gonzalez congratulated for winning the 1951 British Grand Prix

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.”

Ferrari 375 F1
Jose Froilan Gonzalez in the Ferrari 375 F1

[Source: Ferrari SpA]

Show Comments (9)

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  1. Froilan’s long existence has always meant a great deal to me, as he was co-driver with Maurice when the two won Le Mans overall in 1954 in a Ferrari 375 Plus that was purchased from Ferrari later that year by my father for La Carrera Panamerican. Froilan was a great driver and one who gave Ferrari so much of himself over the years, and we honor “The Pampas Bull” with our full admiration and respect for what he brought to international motor racing.

  2. On the Thursday of the Monterey Historics in 1991, which was a tribute to Jaun Manal Fangio, Gonzales was present at the autograph signing. While I was photographing, I asked those waiting in line who was the person sitting next to Fangio. Sadly, only one out of ten recognized Gonzalez. The lack of recognition could be a matter of historical timing since many persons getting autographs were pre-teen when Gonzalez was racing and that Gonzalez did not have Fangio’s lasting fame. He does now.

  3. A good friend and sophisticated car guy admitted he did not recognize Gonzalez and wondered if this burly guy was Fangio’s body guard.

  4. I think it was in an old Sports Car Graphic magazine when I saw a picture of him looking down on a period racer of the day, and then looking at a “modern” race car…..with a scowl on his face. The ( joke) caption read…. ” I remember the days when the *tires* were skinny and the *driver*s were fat “.

  5. When you consider the adverse power to weight ratio ‘enjoyed’ by any car he drove, his skill is even more impressive.

    1. I well remember as a very young person that this was a turning point in F1 and was only going to go in one direction

  6. ” El cabezon Gonzales” as he was also called by his close friends,never cared
    how he finished at any race. He just wanted to RACE al FULL SPEED ,and went away the same way.
    All Argentines will never forget him.
    Thank you PEPE