This Friday, 24th June, Juan Manuel Fangio would have been celebrating his 100th birthday. The five-time world champion won two of his world titles (1954 and 1955) in a Silver Arrow, and his achievements are remembered to this day.
For Michael and Nico too, the name Fangio has considerable resonance. “It’s quite something to see the pictures from his era and to recall his accomplishments,” said Michael who broke Fangio’s record for total number of world championship titles in 2003. “The drivers in Fangio’s time were all very courageous; it makes you realise how fortunate we are today with the build of our cars and the high safety standards.”
In the early 90s, Michael even met Fangio in person at the Norisring on the occasion of a DTM race. “I was struck by how youthful he still looked, even though he was already into his eighties. But from his physical coordination and the alertness of his eyes, you could see what a great racing driver he was.”
Vice-President Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug even remembers several joint appearances with Fangio in the context of the DTM series: “At Singen in 1991, he got into a 1955 racing car and set off at a cracking pace. At one point, he slid across the track. He was obviously having great fun.”
He remembers another anecdote from the same year: “Fangio watched the DTM race from the grandstand, which only gave him a view of the main straight. Even so, he asked me: ‘Who’s that in the black car? He’s a very special driver.’ Well he was right, because that driver turned out to be the DTM record winner Bernd Schneider.”
Nico regrets that he never had the good fortune to get to know Fangio
personally: “But I’m interested in the history of the sport. I look through old books and watch old videos, so I definitely know about the great performances that he put in at the
Fangio’s record in Formula One is more than impressive: in 51 Grands Prix, the Argentinean driver mounted the podium 35 times, started from the front row on 48 occasions (29 of these from pole position), won 24 races and set 23 fastest race laps.
With a victory rate of 47%, Fangio won almost every other race of his Formula One career and started from the front row in 94% of them. Fangio notched up eight of his 24 GP wins in a Silver Arrow Type W196, including the first ever victory in F1 history for the Silver Arrows in the 1954 French GP.
“The fact that Michael even matched his record, let alone surpassed it, is quite remarkable,” said Ross Brawn. “There are few iconic figures in Formula 1, but Fangio is certainly one of them. From our modern perspective, it’s difficult to grasp the challenges which the drivers of that time had to rise to, but for everyone on our team, it’s a major source of inspiration to try to repeat what Fangio achieved with Mercedes in the 1950s.”