Fangio retired two races ago, at the 1958 French GP. I did not feel it was fair to let the Masetro fade into the sunset without a proper farewell. Juan-Manuel Fangio may have been the greatest driver of all time. He also believed it important to get out while you were still at the top. Able to do this, he was one of the lucky ones. But, I cannot help but feel there is more to the story: What made Fangio tick?
Let me clear, I have no factual basis for the proposition that Fangio was running from anything, psychologically. But, I also cannot rule it out. Moreover, I feel that some force deep within the Grand Prix driver’s of the 1950’s must have been present to overcome the fear of death. It has been suggested that attitudes toward life and death were different back then. Even accepting this to be true, I do not see how it motivated a particular individual to drive at ‘break-neck’ speeds on a corner-by-corner basis. And so, I have this nagging question as to what made these driver’s tick. But, it also applies to all of our lives. Are we ambitious because we enjoy success or because we are afraid of failure? Using Fangio merely as a lens, I created a quick video to explore this theme:
But, I also wanted to memorialize the career of a champion. Fangio may, very well, have been the greatest driver of all time. Certainly, he was the best driver for his time. It just did not feel right to not give his career a proper showing of respect before letting Fangio’s successes fade into the background. I have spent essentially the last six months studying his every race performance. At first, I thought that a driver from the 1950’s could not possible compete with a modern champion, such as Senna or Schumacher. But, seeing his performances has changed that opinion. His ability to navigate the Nürburgring with inch-perfect precision simply cannot be ignored. Neither can one ignore the frequency with which he was ultimately quickest. The question is not answered, definitively. But for the time being, I cannot rule out the possibility that Fangio was, in fact, the greatest.
Farewell Juan-Manuel. It has been great to study your races, learn your story, and witness your quiet determination. During your time on earth, you were a scholar and gentleman with the soul of a champion.