Teams José Froilán González
Races: 26Jose Froilan Gonzalez: The Forgotten FigureheadBy Jeremy McMullenPage: 1
Career Points: 72
While not a name recalled with much immediacy amongst the casual Formula One fan, the name Jose Froilan Gonzalez must command a special place of importance in the heart and mind of every Ferrari fanatic. And, sadly, as of the 15th of June all that is left is the name of that other famous Argentinean.
Not including the Indianapolis 500, which counted toward the World Championship during the 1950s, Gonzalez would be just the fourth different driver to win a round of the new Formula One World Championship. But, it would be who he was driving for that would forever cement him in the lore of Formula One.
Born in Arrecifes, Argentina in October of 1922, Gonzalez would grow up not far removed from the world of automobiles. The son of a Chevrolet dealer, Gonzalez would grow up in and around the automotive industry but would certainly be a talented individual in many other sporting endeavors. In spite of his stout size, Jose would be quite adept as a swimmer and very good as a shooter. What perhaps is most intriguing, given his size, is that he was also an avid cyclist.
Prior to the 1950s, Gonzalez's father would help him set up a business of his own and he would use this business to fund his dream of motor racing. It was a successful endeavor and it would have been enough for most people.
But it would be automobile racing that Gonzalez longed for and that would really attract his attention. Enthusiastic about cars and racing, Gonzalez would finally earn enough money to focus just on motor racing and would actually join his fellow compatriot, one Juan Manuel Fangio, to Europe in 1950. Fangio had already made his first trip to Europe and had immediately begun to make his mark. It wouldn't be too long before Gonzalez would do the same.Arriving in Europe, Gonzalez's style of driving would quickly earn him the nickname 'The Pampas bull'. Pushing hard no matter what he drove, Gonzalez would be fast. Unfortunately, the cars of the period didn't necessarily stand for being pushed as Gonzalez liked and there would be more than a few early retirements. But, when Gonzalez managed to earn a 2nd place result in a grand prix in Albi, France in 1950 Europeans finally would get to see the talent that many of his peers, especially Fangio, believed him to possess.
When Gonzalez had made his Formula One debut in 1950 he would do so with Scuderia Achille Varzi driving a Maserati 4CLT/48. As usual, he had proven to be fast starting the Monaco Grand Prix from the front row alongside Giuseppe Farina and Fangio. Unfortunately, an accident on the first lap would reduce the field by a significant number. Gonzalez would be one of the few to make it through, but, an accident on the very next lap would end his Formula One debut.
|Then, at the French Grand Prix held in Reims in July, Gonzalez would find himself starting the race from the third row of the grid. Unfortunately, after making a good start to the race engine problems would result in yet another early retirement.|
After taking part in sporadic events throughout the 1950 season, Gonzalez would be back in Europe for the following season and would prepare for a much busier season of driving, a season of destiny.
He would begin his Formula One World Championship season with a privately-entered Talbot-Lago T26C-GS. Unfortunately, oil problems would cause him to fail to finish his third-straight World Championship event. More unfortunate results were to come until he managed a 2nd place finish in the non-championship Grand Prix de Paris held at Bois de Boulogne at the end of May. It seemed clear that if Gonzalez had a car capable of lasting a whole race he had the talent to make the most of it.
Back in South America in between the 1950 and 1951 seasons Gonzalez would get a chance to drive prewar Mercedes-Benz W163 in a couple of Formula Libre events. In these races he would shine and would impress many showing he truly did have the talent as long as he had the car.Those with Scuderia Ferrari realized this, and, after his failed attempt in the Talbot-Lago and a failed attempt at the Belgian Grand Prix with Enrico Plate, Gonzalez would earn a drive with Scuderia Ferrari. Gonzalez would waste no time proving the fact that with the right car he could contend for, in the French Grand Prix, he would start from the third row of the grid and would run as high as 2nd before he would turn his car over to Alberto Ascari for the remainder of the race. Dueling with Fangio, Ascari would have the lead at points but would end up 2nd when it was all said and done. This shared drive would earn Gonzalez his first podium, but it would also set up a very interesting dynamic heading into the very next round of the World Championship.
Gonzalez had shown his talent at the French Grand Prix coming up from 6th place on the grid to enjoy a shared 2nd place result with Alberto Ascari. Unfortunately for Gonzalez, he had also had his first experience of handing over his car to another driver and having to take a back seat. Alberto Ascari was certainly Ferrari's leading driver and this would play on Gonzalez's subconscious during the momentous British Grand Prix.
Heading into the British Grand Prix in 1951 Gonzalez would be casually told by his good friend and countryman Fangio that 'I think this time you'll win'. And, as practice got underway it soon seemed clear that Fangio certainly could have been on to something as Gonzalez would take the pole by a whole second over Fangio. This was the first pole position for Ferrari, let alone Gonzalez. But it would only get better during the race.
There was a reason as to why Fangio believed Gonzalez had an opportunity for victory at Silverstone. The thirsty supercharged Alfa Romeos would need to stop more often to cover the race distance while Gonzalez would need to stop just once.
Gonzalez would lead early on but would soon battle with his fellow Argentinean for the lead. Gonzalez would look strong throughout and would have a rather comfortable margin in hand before he made his one stop.
But there would be a problem plaguing Gonzalez. Ascari had retired from the race. He was leading it. Would he be tapped on the shoulder and told to give up his car to Ascari so that he could take the win? He would make his way into the pits for his stop, and then, sure enough, there would be a tap on his shoulder. There stood Ascari. But instead of asking him to remove himself from the car, something he was about to do, Ascari would tell him to go on. Certainly a little surprised, but no doubt happy, Gonzalez would roar back into the race and would go on to win that truly historic race for Ferrari, their first of many.
It would be a truly remarkable season for Gonzalez. After the momentous victory at Silverstone, Jose would end the season with three 2nd place results and a 3rd to finish the second World Championship 3rd in the standings. When it came to non-championship events he would score victory in the Circuito di Pescara and a 2nd place in the Gran Premio di Bari. He was certainly showing his talent.
The 1952 season held a lot of promise but would be a very difficult one for Gonzalez. In spite of a victory in the Easter Monday races in a Ferrari 375, the majority of the 1952 season would be absent of Gonzalez's presence. The Argentinean would earn support from his friend and compatriot and would end up joining him at BRM. Again, he would show his speed having the 16-cylinder BRM 15 at his command, however, the troublesome car would routinely let him down and he would be left without any kind of result for the length of the season.
Sportscar racing held very little in the way of positive results for Gonzalez as well. Therefore, the 1952 season would be winding down with just the forth winner in Formula One World Championship history without a ride. This would change just in time for the Italian Grand Prix at the end of the year, but it would not be a truly happy affair.Page: 1 Sources:
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Henry, Alan. 'Jose Froilan Gonzalez Obituary', (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/jun/16/jose-froilan-gonzalez). The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/jun/16/jose-froilan-gonzalez. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
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'Drivers: Foilan Gonzalez', (http://www.racingsportscars.com/driver/Froilan-Gonzalez-RA.html). Racing Sports Cars. http://www.racingsportscars.com/driver/Froilan-Gonzalez-RA.html. Retrieved 25 June 2013.