In the life of Juan Manuel Fangio, everything fell into place to produce perfection - a parable of how far a man can go. He was born in 1911 in Balcarce in Argentina, 400 kilometres south of Buenos Aires. Both parents came from Italy. It was equally in Balcarce that Fangio was laid to rest in July 1995.
At the advanced age of 37, he drove his first Grand Prix in Reims in 1948. He competed in his last Grand Prix in 1958, 37 years before his death, once again at Reims whose long finishing straight gave a driver ample opportunity to think. It was there that he made up his mind to call it a day.
During the intervening decade he was busy building his own legend. With 24 victories in 51 Grand Prix races, Fangio attained a success rate of almost 50 percent. In 48 Grand Prix races he started from the front row. His five world championships, in 1951 for Alfa Romeo, in 1954 and 1955 for Mercedes-Benz, in 1956 in a Ferrari and a year later at the wheel of a Maserati, bestowed an aura of invincibility on him.
He was forty when he notched up his first title - at an age at which modern Formula One has completely worn out its heroes. On 16 January 1955, he won his home race, the Argentinean Grand Prix, for Mercedes-Benz. In the Mille Miglia in May 1955, he contested without a navigator, all alone with the 300 SLR sports racer for 1000 miles and ten hours and a half. He finished as runner-up behind his team-mate Stirling Moss.
Unlike other Mercedes-Benz stalwarts such as Rudolf Caracciola, the great Argentinean's years with Mercedes-Benz were only an episode. Juan Manuel Fangio's dowry was a victory in Reims, on 4 July 1954, and he bowed out with his tenth win for the brand in Monza on 11 September 1955. Because of that alone the names of Juan Manuel Fangio and Mercedes-Benz are bound up inseparably forever.