The young, mainly English, pretenders to his throne nicknamed Fangio ‘The Old Man’. They did so in awe and respect more than in cheek. These were dangerous times and life expectancy was short, yet Fangio exhibited an aura of calm as well as blistering speed. He, however, was acutely aware that his prowess was not an infinite resource. As such, he took April as a holiday, and lesser men were allowed their moments in lesser events: the non-championship Syracuse, Pau and Naples GPs.
He also elected to miss May’s mentally and physically draining Mille Miglia, a 1,000-mile road race around Italy that he had never won and had little appetite for. He did, however, attend the memorial service for de Portago and his American passenger Ed Nelson, killed, along with nine spectators, five of them children, when their Ferrari crashed 30 miles from the finish. Fangio sat at the back in the dark cool of the small church in Guidizzolo, scene of the accident.
Two days later, at 5.45am, he reported for Monaco GP practice.
Photographs courtesy of LAT Images