Juan Manuel Fangio
Win a Formula 1 title with one team? Drivers have often done that. Two titles with two different teams? That’s very rare. But five titles with four teams? To this day, only one man has managed that. His name? Juan Manuel Fangio!
Late start but immediate success
Where the usual road to Formula 1 in the years after Fangio would go via Formula 3 and Formula 3000, the Argentinean himself was forced to take a different road. He was drafted into the army and became a chauffeur for commanding officers. In the early ‘30s, Fangio started his racing career, winning national championships in the early ‘40s.
The Argentine motorsport federation (and the government!) financed Fangio to go to Europe to participate in Formula 1 after World War 2. It was only in 1950 that the F1 championship was officially resumed; in the years before that individual Grands Prixs were already being held, however.
In the comeback season, Fangio’s Alfa Romeo teammate Giuseppe Farina won the title, staying just ahead of Fangio.
Dominant decade for Fangio
On behalf of Alfa Romeo, Fangio did take the title in 1951, but the Argentinean had to watch the '52 season from the sidelines as Alfa Romeo’s car didn’t comply with the new regulations introduced that season.
Fangio did take place during a number of unofficial races, but he would come to regret this as he had a severe crash at Monza, forcing the Argentinean to take the rest of the year off to regain his strength.
He switched to Maserati prior to the 1953 season, but Ferrari was utterly dominant that year. However, there would be trips to events such as the Carrera Panamericana and the Mille Miglia. These are cars that are ludicrously unsafe - looking at them the wrong way would almost cause them to fold in half - and Fangio was going flat-out in these cars on unpaved roads. It is a miracle that the Argentinean survived these events.
The Silver Arrows on the grid
With Mercedes currently dominating Formula 1, it is hard to believe the German team only returned to the grid in 2010 after an absence of several decades. Who dominated with the Silver Arrows in the last years prior to the departure? Yes, Fangio!
In 1954 and 1955, the Argentine ace won titles in the Mercedes, but '55 marks the last year in which the Silver Arrows appear at the start. Not only does force Fangio to switch teams again, but it also meant it would be his last entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race which he never managed to finish.
Return to Maserati after year at Ferrari
No Mercedes on the grid, but Fangio was in high demand at other teams. Ferrari offered him a seat and although Enzo Ferrari and Fangio wouldn’t be best of friends, the combination would be successful. In 1956, Fangio won his fourth title with his third team.
Maserati managed to put an almost identical car on the grid in 1957 as in 1954 when Fangio also drove for the Italian team, but this time the Argentine manages to get off to a good start and he won his fifth title, a record which wouldn’t be equalled until 2002. In 10 years time, Fangio not only took five titles but did so at four different teams. It’s unlikely this will ever happen again. His record of winning a title at 46 years old will never be broken either.
After the 1958 French Grand Prix, Fangio retired from F1, but not before the Argentine gets involved in a kidnapping in Cuba. The racer was kidnapped by revolutionaries in an attempt to put pressure on the regime of Cuba (under Batista's rule). Fangio himself has always dismissed the kidnapping as trivial, but the outcome would have major consequences in the course of Cuba's history.
Juan Manuel Fangio died in his native Argetnina at the age of 84.