José Froilán González

2021-03-08 23:00

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José Froilán González

José Froilán González was born on 5 October 1922. The Argentinian had the world of motors in his DNA, as he was his son and a car salesman, and it is


José Froilán González was born on 5 October 1922. The Argentinian had the world of motors in his DNA, as he was his son and a car salesman, and it is in his father's salon and making deliveries for a seminar for priests that he discovers his passion for motoring. Those two experiences made him decide to open a transport company. With the profits of his company he enrolled in some car and motorcycle races, also winning several victories. The next step was thanks to a grant from the Argentine government to the Equipo Argentina team, in which he will team up with Fangio.


He will also be a protagonist in Formula 2, and in 1949 in Reims he will drive a Ferrari, that will become his future team a few years later. The performances in the minor categories allow him in 1950 to make two great debuts. In fact, Achille Varzi's team made him make his Formula 1 debut in Monaco at the wheel of a Maserati 4CLT. Although the car of the Italian team will not prove to be competitive, in qualifying he gives the first taste of his immense talent, setting the third time behind the two Alphas of Fangio and Farina, but the day after due to an accident his race will last only three laps.


A month later he races in the 24 Hours of Le Mans which for the occasion reassembles the González-Fangio tandem, but once again a reliability failure at the T15S during the ninety-fifth lap does not make him cross the finish line. While remaining in France, to race the Formula 1 Grand Prix, González has no better luck: after confirming his qualities on the flying lap, closing qualifying eighth, the Reims track will prove to be once again bewitched, as the Argentine will be forced to retire due to engine failure. In 1951 González disputes the first race valid for the Formula 1 World Championship in Switzerland, with a Tablot Lago. The Argentine gets a good thirteenth time in qualifying, but in the race he is forced to abandon during the tenth lap for an oil pump failure.


Despite the many retirements, his performances attract the attention of the public and of Enzo Ferrari, who sees in the driving qualities of the Argentine the right person to beat his former team, Alfa Romeo. Ferrari once again made no mistake in the choice, and the Argentine making his debut on the Red in the French Grand Prix immediately repays his confidence: in the official tests he is sixth accusing a gap of more than five seconds from Fangio, but the next day paired with Ascari climbs on the podium for the first time, crossing the finish line in second place. This takes place on July 1, 1951.


Only thirteen days later, González will forever enter the history of Formula 1, and especially of Ferrari. At Silverstone, on the occasion of the British Grand Prix, he improved in qualifying, to the point that with a time of 1'43"4 he won his first pole, preceding his compatriot Juan Manuel Fangio by a second. The next day between the two Argentines a great duel is staged: the decisive lap will be the 39th, when at the end of a series of overtaking and counter-overtaking, González overtakes Fangio and goes on the run, passing under the checkered flag with fifty-one seconds advantage, winning for himself and for Ferrari the first victory in Formula 1, breaking the dominance of Alfa Romeo.


Fangio is not surprised to have lost, but rather a few days earlier, when he had let González test his car to introduce him to the circuit, seeing him drive he had anticipated what would later happen in the race, that is, that he would have won the Grand Prix Brittany. Obviously, in addition to José, the happiest of all is Enzo Ferrari, who in the Ferrari 80 book will recount the contrasting emotions of that unforgettable day.


"When in 1951 González in a Ferrari for the first time in the history of our direct matches, he left behind the 159 and the entire Alfa team, I cried with joy, but I mixed tears of enthusiasm with tears of pain, because that day I thought: I killed my mother".


The Argentine repeats himself in Germany: Ascari since qualifying is determined to restore the hierarchy at Ferrari, and first scores pole, then wins the victory, but González gets an excellent third place. In Monza, González sees the possibility of becoming World Champion, even if at the end of the official tests Fangio conquers the pole, while the compatriot sets the fourth time behind Ascari. In the race the two Ferrari drivers, thanks to Fangio's retirement, in addition to completing the Ferrari one-two, reduce the gap to two and six points from the Alfa Romeo driver, reopening the race for the title that will be decided in the last Grand Prix in Spain.


The three contenders in the world championship are also the protagonists of the last qualifying of the year, with Ascari taking pole ahead of the two Argentines. González starts well, overtakes Fangio and sets out to hunt for his teammate, but soon both of them pay for Ferrari's wrong choice of tires. Fangio takes the opportunity to overtake the two opponents, win the race and become World Champion, while González, finishing second and winning the fifth consecutive podium, closes the world championship in third place in the drivers' standings. The Argentine also started the 1952 season well. At the wheel of the Ferrari 166 of the Automóvil Club Argentino, in a race not valid for the Formula 1 World Championship, on January 13 he immediately climbed to the lowest step of the podium in the Grand Prix of Interlagos, and the week after he won the Rio de Janeiro Grand Prix.


In April he finished sixth at the Goodwood Easter, and then took part in the only race of the Formula 1 world championship in Monza, on September 7, 1952, aboard a Maserati of the official team: in qualifying González obtained the fifth time, and in the race he second behind his former teammate Ascari. In the following season the Argentine returns to participate in almost the entire world championship. In the opening race of the championship, run in Buenos Aires, González obtained an encouraging third place again with a car from the Maserati factory team. He repeats himself in the Netherlands, completing the Grand Prix again in third position, behind Ascari and Taruffi. The good moment ends at Le Mans, as at the wheel of a Lancia, and paired with Biondetti, he is forced to retire again. Same ending in Belgium, as his race lasts only three laps, before a problem with the accelerator forces him to retire.


The redemption arrives in France: started from the fifth position on the starting grid, the Argentine returns to the podium by crossing the finish line in third position, very close to the winner Hawthoorn and his compatriot Fangio. At Silverstone he manages to do better by conquering the second time in qualifying, but in the race he is not confirmed and is fourth behind Ascari, Fangio and Farina. González will not take part in the last three rounds of the championship, finishing the world championship in sixth place in the drivers' standings. At the beginning of 1954 the Argentine left Maserati to return to Ferrari; the second adventure with the Red team starts immediately on the right foot, and in the inaugural Grand Prix for only one tenth he does not get the pole conquered by Farina, and in the race ends in third place.


During the long break of the World Championship, González engages in the dispute of racing with sports cars, and at Silverstone International, in addition to winning the first victory of the season with Ferrari, he begins to do general tests in view of the dispute of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Paired with Trintignant, from the early stages of the French race the two drivers are protagonists of the race, and at midnight they are in the lead with two hours ahead of their rivals. Just when the first place now seems safe, a problem complicates Ferrari's plans a few hours from the end: when he gets back in the car to take over from his teammate, González is unable to leave. The Ferrari 375 Plus has a wiring problem; when he returns to the track, the driver in front has only three minutes to recover.


An advantage that González manages to keep up to the checkered flag, winning one of the most prestigious races in the world. At the resumption of the World Championship, he is fourth in Belgium, while in France he is forced to retire. The redemption comes right on the track where three years earlier he had achieved his first success with Ferrari. Just like in 1951, in qualifying he loses the duel with Fangio for a second, but dominates the race by inflicting a gap of one minute and ten to teammate Hawthorn, and a lap to all the others, and wins his second race.


In Germany the Argentine manages to stay in the race for the title thanks to the second place obtained behind Fangio, and by obtaining the pole in the official tests of the Swiss Grand Prix, it seems he can reopen the speech relating to winning the World Championship. But Fangio wins the race and becomes World Champion, while González has to settle for second place. In the last Grand Prix of the season, while the compatriot makes another show of his, the Argentine conquers the fifth podium of the season, and the second place in the drivers' standings with 25.14 points. From 1955 González diminished his commitments, and disputed only two races.


If in the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires he has no luck and retires, in the qualifications of the Argentine Grand Prix González wins the pole by trimming a half second gap to Ascari and Fangio, and in the race, taking over with Trintignant and Farina, he wins the second final position. At the end of the season, the new divorce with Ferrari takes place. For the 1956 season González will drive for Maserati, and exactly the opposite of the year before, he finished third in the 1000 kilometers of Buenos Aires and did not complete the Argentine Grand Prix due to an engine problem. The same situation is repeated in the British Grand Prix that he disputes with Vanwall: another technical problem, this time in the transmission, forces him to retire.


The following year González took part in the Argentine Grand Prix with Ferrari, proving that his age did not affect his talent: at the end of qualifying he was tenth, but in the race, paired with De Portago, he recovered five positions and they finish the race in fifth place. In 1958 and 1959 the Argentine only disputed the 500 mile Rafaela, which he won on both occasions. In January 1960, after three years of absence, he returned to Formula 1 to compete in the Argentine Grand Prix. Despite the long absence from the circus, on his debut he marks the eleventh time in qualifying, and in the race he passes under the checkered flag in tenth place. This Grand Prix will be remembered as that of greeting the fans, before his final retirement. On June 15, 2003, in his hometown of Arrecifes, at the age of ninety, González died, but his exploits and victories still remain in the minds of Formula 1 fans, and in the hearts of Ferrari fans. that 1951 victory captured at Silverstone, which sent a deep emotion to Enzo Ferrari.


Massimiliano Amato



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