Q and A with José Froilan Gonzalez

Gonzalez: “Ferrari is always in my heart”
Silverstone, 10 June – In four days time there will be an evening in celebration of Pepe Gonzalez, organised in Buenos Aires, by the Ferrari Club of Argentina, in memory of his British Grand Prix win. However, today is also special because the actual car driven by “El Cabezon” to record the first of Scuderia Ferrari’s 215 victories to date in the Formula 1 World Championship, will be back in action at the Silverstone circuit.

We got in touch with Gonzalez in Buenos Aires and asked him some questions which have come in over the past few days from Prancing Horse fans through the site. Here is that exclusive interview.

What do you remember of that day in Silverstone?

“I was very nervous before the start. Fangio told me he felt I could win and I knew I was in with a chance. There were four cars on the front row: the two Alfas of Fangio and Farina, Ascari’s Ferrari and my 375 F1. All four of us got wheelspin at the start and those on the second row passed by easily, so that I found myself fourth at the first corner, with Fangio and Ascari behind me. Then I got past Villoresi, Bonetto and Sanesi and, by the end of the second lap, I was in the lead. But Fangio was right behind me and then he overtook. I did not lose heart, because I knew Juan had to stop sooner or later to refuel whereas maybe I would not need to, so I stayed close for around 30 laps. When Juan pitted, I went by. In the Ferrari pits, they were worried I could run out of petrol so at one point they called me in and stuck 20 litres in the tank: but I still managed to get back on track with more than 50 seconds in hand over Fangio and, in the end I did not have to push so hard to the line and I won the race.”

What does it mean to you to be the first person to win a Grand Prix for Ferrari and therefore be such an important part of the Prancing Horse story?

“I only realised what winning this race really meant on the Wednesday after, when I met Don Enzo at Maranello. In his office hung a big photo of the win right behind his desk! He asked me to sign it and describe the race down to the smallest detail and then he gave me a gold watch with the Prancing Horse on its face. Only three days later did I really understand that it was a special victory.”

What does Ferrari mean to you? Are you still a fan?

“Ferrari is the very top level of motoring. For me, it’s always been a matter of pride to have managed to take this first win, especially when you consider what the marque has done in the past sixty years all over the world.”

Do you like the Formula 1 of today?

“Yes, there are some truly great drivers, even if everything is very different to my day. I always watch every Grand Prix on television.”

Would you change something about this Formula 1?

“It’s hard to say, because I see it from the outside, as part of the general public and I don’t see all the details.”

What difference do you see between the drivers of your era and those of today?

“Back then, we were amateurs! If at the start of your career, you didn’t have a helmet, you raced with something that kept your hair in place but did not protect you at all…Today, a lot of work goes into physical preparation, they all train on the simulator: we had no idea about that sort of thing.”

And comparing the cars?

”Even here there are so many differences: the progress made in terms of car technology is incredible. In my day, we only had the steering wheel, the gearlever, one for the brake and the pedals and nothing else. The most important thing is that today’s cars are much safer…”

What message would you like to send to all fans of the Reds?

“Ferrari is the top: it is always in my heart and it’s a passion that can be felt and experienced around the world.”