Passion

12 - 1956: the brief era of Fangio

12 - 1956: the brief era of Fangio

The magnificent season of Juan Manuel Fangio marred by a difficult relationship with the Prancing Horse

Juan Manuel Fangio's personality was as strong as his performance on the track. He was his own manager who always knew what he wanted and the fact that he was no longer young was a contributing factor. His cantankerous personality kept him far away from Enzo Ferrari, just like the same poles of a magnet.

Fangio won three Formula 1 World Championship titles, proving that he was the best driver in the first half of the 1950s. He won these without competing in even one Grand Prix race with Ferrari during the first five World Championship seasons, even though the Maranello-based manufacturer was the team to beat in 1952 and 1953.

Juan Manuel Fangio and Peter Collins in a Ferrari D50 at the German Grand Prix in Nürburgring, 1956  <em>Photo: Getty Images</em>
Juan Manuel Fangio and Peter Collins in a Ferrari D50 at the German Grand Prix in Nürburgring, 1956 Photo: Getty Images

Fangio had crossed paths with Ferrari only indirectly: he had participated in a couple of races in Brazil with Automobile Club Argentino's 166, but Juan Manuel and Enzo never really got along. Even when the driver pulled out from Mercedes at the end of the 1955 season, he and Ferrari still couldn't find a solution to form a bond.

Then in 1956, they reached an agreement. Ferrari put a host of young, talented drivers at his side. Sceptical and diffident, Fangio found being integrated into Scuderia Ferrari difficult, not the least because Maranello didn't mince their words: Ferrari comes before all else, even before a champion like Fangio.

Enzo Ferrari and Juan Manuel Fangio at the Italian Gran Prix held in Monza in 1956. They shared a tempestuous relationship<em> Photo: Getty Images</em>
Enzo Ferrari and Juan Manuel Fangio at the Italian Gran Prix held in Monza in 1956. They shared a tempestuous relationship Photo: Getty Images

The season began in January with the Argentine Grand Prix followed by a series of races that resulted in victories. The Fangio-Ferrari agreement was paying off. The driver and the team continued to win, but a duet won't work for long when a man is used to going solo. Scuderia Ferrari continued to make significant sacrifices in spite of ongoing controversy, but Fangio's tension was felt both inside and outside the circuits.

Bad luck and mechanical problems flanked him up until the double Silverstone and Nürburgring victory. Winning the World Drivers' Champion title was not guaranteed until the race at Monza on 2 September, the last race of the season, when the results of the driver from Argentina also secured the World Constructors' Title for Ferrari. The season ended on a high note, but this was also the end of the challenging relationship between the champion from Balcarce and the Prancing Horse.

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