Periscope Film, a YouTube channel I subscribe to, recently posted this documentary about Juan Manuel Fangio that was produced by British Petroleum in 1959, soon after Fangio retired from driving. Asking whether any driver is the best of all time is generally counterproductive, but many drivers who raced with him called him the best, and even today his name is among a handful of the genuine greats in any racing series. That he was in his 40s at his peak makes his legacy even more phenomenal. Narrated by the well-known English broadcaster Raymond Baxter, this video shows actual footage of F1 races, the Mille Miglia, Fangio testing in Italy, and even the Carrera Panamericana. At the end, he drives off in a Mercedes 300SL Roadster, showing that Mr. Fangio appreciated driving even on public roads. If you enjoy racing history, you’ll enjoy this film.
Curbside Cinema: “Tribute To Fangio” – The Greatest Driver Ever?
– Posted on May 22, 2022
Thanks for posting this. I just watched it and was moved again by his ability and personality. Truly one of the all-time greats.
A good overview of the European years, though the impression it leaves is that Fangio arrived in Europe at the ripe old age of 39 with little racing experience. In fact, like the American motorcycle racers that took Europe by storm in the mid-seventies, he had a lot of success racing on dirt tracks in his own country, which I suspect taught him superb vehicle control on the skinny tires of the day. Thanks for sharing this, Aaron65.
«Greatest» in any human performance category is a matter of taste, et de gustibus nihil disputandum. Ferdinand Porsche described his mighty thundering rear-engined Auto Union Grand Prix car’s driver Tazio Nuvolari as – I paraphrase in translating – «The greatest driver of the past, the present and the future.»
Nuvolari was MG’s greatest driver in the marque’s great day of technical leadership in small capacity racing (Viz the 1930s “R” & Q-types. He’d also been a brilliant motorcyclist.
Never saw Fangio or any of the great ones race, let alone run with them to really know. But from what I’ve read and can read between the lines, he was the best driver ever. Competing and succeeding against drivers young enough to be his kids, such was his late entry to GP racing.
I greatly enjoyed this little treat, Mr 65. Thankyou.
To think Fangio crashed these crazy jalopies only once in his 10 year GP career, in an era when drivers died at every second gathering, that is a marvel of which I do not think I was aware. Rather quaintly, Raymond Baxter continually refers to drivers as being “on” – as opposed to “in” – their various marques in this commentary, as if they were steeds. Unbelted and unprotected in any way, it is quite apt, really, and gives a stark image of the raw danger. And most horses can’t do 170 mph.
I have never read so much as a hint that this man of other-worldly talent was anything other than the humble and kind person that legend has him to be. Those are qualities we seem not to value much any more, yet I am sure it is essential to Fangio’s civil canonisation as The Greatest. Stirling Moss, for example, was well-known as a very agreeable and unaffected person, but was also known not to suffer fools. In my iconography, the great Englishman falls short of the Argentinian, possibly for this reason. A bit of temper is something we might all suffer from from time to time: it is not, however, something fit for a Saint.
It occurred to me that Moss is arguably most famous for the Greatest Drive in history, that in the ’55 Millie Miglia (I subscribe to this belief also). The second place-getter was none other than Fangio, also in a 300SLR, whose car arrived 32 minutes behind Moss’. In my unreliable maths, that gives an average speed 5 mph below the famous 98-point-something of the winner.
But the thing is, Fangio did have not have a co-driver with notes on a roll: he drove entirely alone. And for the last third or so of the race, his SLR ran on 7 of its cylinders, as the injection pipe to one had failed.
I have never heard mention that he thought his second placing in such circumstances may have equal legendary merit to the winner, which it may very well do. That would not be his way. And please, if anyone knows that he in fact did say so, kindly do not let me know.
Truly, he has to be the greatest doesn’t he? I know I championed Moss last month, and perhaps he had more versatility, but Fangio’s achievements and abilities were held in awe by all his contemporaries, including by Moss, just as Ayrton Senna’s were.
Those in-car shots at Modena are superb and the commentary may be a little dated in language but the reverence is fully justified. The film to me only misses out by not truly accounting the tragic human cost of 1950s motor racing.
And he drove a 300SL, so clearly had great taste as well, and was obviously a gentleman as well.
Thanks for finding and sharing
Watched this in its entirety. It is excellent. I’m an F1 fan today, and the surrounding media and many fans have little to no respect for the drivers who beat their countrymen. I wonder about the relationship between the dignity of Fangio’s time and the tremendous dangers faced by the competitors.