Fangio is my biggest hero – Stewart

Jackie Stewart, Grand Prix of South Africa, Kyalami, March 3, 1973. (Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images)

Sir Jackie Stewart has participated in a special event which moved the remains of 5-time Formula 1 World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio to a new mausoleum located at the Fangio museum in Balcarce, his hometown located in Argentina.

“[Fangio] is my biggest hero,” Stewart said during the homage. “I’m here for a man which was the best driver of all times. Someone I tried to imitate, but he had an incomparable style and dignity.”

Stewart reflected on the day Fangio passed away, stating that being present at his funeral and putting him to rest was “one of the most important things I’ve done in my life.”

“When Juan died 26 years ago, I was playing golf in England for a charity event,” he explained, “and someone had informed me.

“I left the field, I ran home and immediately found a plane to come to Argentina. After a very complicated trip, because the plane had to land in Brazil due to a technical problem, I arrived just in time, together with Stirling Moss, to put Fangio in his final resting place.

It was one of the most important things I’ve done in my life.”

The Scottish driver continued to praise the Argentinian legend, as he said no other driver deserves to have the level of recognition Fangio has reached.

“Fangio’s behavior was fantastic both in and out of the track. Today, in the modern motorsports era, there are too few people that can show something similar. I don’t believe any other driver in history deserves recognition like this.”

Beyond the limits

“What place does Fangio have in F1’s history?” Stewart said. “I think all of us who have won a championship after him, we’d like to think we’ve done as good a job as Fangio has.

“But the limits Fangio could push, like in the 1957 Nürburgring race, in the most difficult and dangerous track, beating Collins and Hawthorn, that was next level. It was an extraordinary race.

“One of my most memorable moments was when I won the Formula 3 Monaco Grand Prix in 1964. When I came back to the pits and stopped the car, I saw a hand waiting for me: It was Fangio!

“I simply couldn’t believe what was happening to me… But he took the effort to do it. That’s the man you [the Argentinian crowd] should be proud of. I don’t think anyone has, or anyone will do what Fangio did for motorsports.”

Fangio, the good friend

“I enjoyed my relationship with him a lot,” Stewart said. “I remember we were in Rome and he went with me to the north of Italy because I was receiving an award. He drove us there, and then I drove in the way back… And I can assure you I was very nervous to be driving next to the great Fangio, and I had two world titles! That shows you the profound admiration I had for Juan Manuel.

Our friendship had no language, because I didn’t speak his, and he didn’t speak mines; but that didn’t matter, because Juan was so special that when he explained something to me, I could understand beyond the language barrier. I think he was the man I had the best friendship with in the world of motorsports, and I had many good friends like Jim Clark.

“Unfortunately, most of them died racing; but Juan didn’t, and I was extremely lucky to have survived too. It [his friendship with Fangio] will always be a very important relationship in my life. For me, he’s still alive and he’s a great example of a person. If Stirling Moss was here today, I know he’d say the same.”

The mastermind

Stewart said Fangio had a remarkable state of mind when it came to racing, saying he could keep calm compared to today’s driving standards.

“The majority of today’s drivers are very exaggerated when driving, which is not good for them and for the car.

“When Fangio still raced, I asked for an autograph at Silverstone when I was a kid, and I was shocked at how calm he was; and he was the same while racing.

“Fangio had everything in his mind. I believe he also let Stirling Moss win a British Grand Prix in front of his home crowd when they bot raced for Mercedes.”

“Fangio drove for Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, and Mercedes looking for the best car. There’s nothing good in being a great driver in a bad car. Fangio was very intelligent and talented, but the mind control he had made him the biggest of all times.”

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