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Jose Froilan Gonzalez

5th October 1922
Arrecifes, Buenos Aires Province
15th June 2013 (Aged 90)
Buenos Aires
Most recent race (in database):

The "Pampas Bull" was an unmistakable figure on the Grand Prix circuit during the early 1950s. His oversized frame seemed to squeeze uncomfortably into even the ample cockpits of the time. But looks proved deceptive for José Froilán González was a formidable racing driver and keen all-round sportsman. He notched one of the most significant landmarks in Formula 1 history with victory in the 1951 British GP in what was Ferrari’s first world championship success. He won that race again in 1954 just a month after adding victory at Le Mans to his F1 achievements.

Formula 1 breakthrough with Ferrari

González arrived in Europe in 1950 as a raw and unrefined talent. The continent was already all too aware of his countryman Juan Manuel Fangio and the large, chubby newcomer’s untidy early laps in Scuderia Argentina’s Maserati 4CLT/48 were fast and ragged. He qualified third (and on the front row) for his world championship debut in Monaco that year but was eliminated in the first-lap pile-up at Tabac. He then won a heat at Albi when second on aggregate in that non-championship event.

The 1951 season began with González’s Ferrari 166 twice defeating the visiting Mercedes-Benz W163s in Argentina’s Temporada season. He then drove an elderly Lago-Talbot T26GS in the Swiss GP before replacing the ill Piero Taruffi in a works Ferrari 375 for the French GP. That was the break that he needed. González qualified sixth and was up to second when he handed his car to team leader Alberto Ascari who brought the car home in that position despite brake problems.

González was retained for the British GP and, having qualified on pole position, battled Fangio’s Alfa Romeo to score Ferrari’s maiden GP victory at Silverstone. Third in Germany, second in Italy and in Spain and the winner of the non-championship Pescara GP – a new star had arrived and he finished third in the world championship.

The Maserati years

His Ferrari 166 won the Formule Libre Rio de Janeiro GP but González joined Maserati for the 1952 World Championship. However, he only made one GP start that year although he led the Italian GP for the first 36 laps before finishing second behind Ascari after a long fuel stop.

A fuller campaign with the team in 1953 included third place finishes in the Argentine, Dutch and French GPs. However, his season was ended by back injuries suffered when he crashed into an official’s car during practice for the sports car Portuguese GP.

Return to Ferrari

González returned to Ferrari for 1954 and it proved to be his most successful campaign. Early non-championship F1 success included the International Trophy at Silverstone and he then combined with Maurice Trintignant to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with a Ferrari 375 Plus. He also won the British GP for a second time when he defeated overwhelming pre-race favourites Mercedes-Benz.

But González crashed at Dundrod’s Tornagrough Corner during evening practice for that year’s Tourist Trophy. He was thrown into the road and his shoulder and leg injuries effectively ended his top-flight career. He had already scored enough points to finish as runner-up in the world championship but González only raced intermittently thereafter.

He shared the second placed Ferrari 625 in the 1955 Argentine GP and was fifth in the 1957 race after being relieved by Alfonso de Portago. His last championship start was in that home race at the beginning of the 1960 season.