On May 20, 2003, just days before the Monaco Grand Prix, Prof. Jürgen Hubbert – member of the DaimlerChrysler Board of Management – is to unveil a life-size bronze statue of Juan Manuel Fangio. The statue depicts the 5-time Formula One World Champion from the 1950s standing next to his Mercedes-Benz W 196 Grand Prix racer. The sculpture – to be set up after the famous Rascasse bend at the pit-lane entrance – is a memorial to the legendary motor-racing idol. Prof. Jürgen Hubbert, member of the Board of Management of DaimlerChrysler AG and responsible for the Mercedes Car Group: "Juan Manuel Fangio's name stands for motor-racing passion, fair play and sportsmanship far beyond his own day. The statue at this traditional location pays homage to a great racing driver and underlines his importance in the world of sport." Over the years, Prince Rainier III formed a close friendship with the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, who died on July 17, 1995 at the age of 84.
Those in attendance when the memorial is officially unveiled will include artist Joaquim Ros, the President of the "Fangio Foundation" Antonio Mandiola, the president of the Monaco Automobile Club (ACM), Michel Boeri, as well as motor-racing drivers of today and yesteryear, among them Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda and David Coulthard. Famous people from other sporting disciplines – visting Monaco for the "Laureus World Sports Awards" evening gala – will also attend the unveiling ceremony.
Juan Manuel Fangio ranks among the most successful drivers in the history of motor racing and was one of the most outstanding personalities among the drivers not just of his own era in post-war Grand Prix racing. As one of the most popular protagonists in the motor-racing legend that is Mercedes-Benz, his name is inextricably linked with sporting achievement and driving excellence. He was also renowned for having an extremely likeable nature. Fangio competed in four Monaco Grand Prix, winning two of them.
Juan Manuel Fangio, respectfully called "El Chueco" ("bandy-legs") by his friends, was born on June 24, 1911 in Balcarce, 300 km south of Buenos Aires. He competed in his first race in 1936 and, in 1940, scored victory in the Argentinean "Gran Premio Internacionale". In 1950 he drove for Alfa Romeo and clinched his first World Champion's title in 1951. A serious accident briefly curtailed his career in 1952. In 1954, the legendary racing manager Alfred Neubauer signed him on as a member of the Mercedes-Benz racing squad. He was crowned Formula One World Champion in the same year and repeated the feat in 1955. After Daimler-Benz AG withdrew from Grand Prix racing, Fangio clinched his fourth and fifth Formula One world titles in 1956 and 1957, driving a Lancia-Ferrari and Maserati, respectively. He ended his illustrious motorsport career at the age of 47. Fangio retained his links with Mercedes-Benz, becoming President of Mercedes-Benz Argentina. His relationship with the brand remained close right up until his death. DaimlerChrysler AG continues to be committed to the Fangio Foundation in Argentina.
With this posthumous tribute in such a prominent position on the exciting Monaco street circuit, a new, visible expression is given to the memory of this great driver and true gentleman at the wheel. At the same time, the statue testifies to the traditional ties of Mercedes-Benz with both the dynasty and the legendary racing circuit, dating back to 1929. This was the year that Rudolf Caracciola achieved third place in a 250-hp Mercedes-Benz SSK. Luigi Fagioli won in 1935, with Caracciola victorious again in 1936. Both men piloted the Mercedes-Benz W 25 Grand Prix racer, the very first "Silver Arrow".
The bronze work, weighing more than three tons, was created by the Catalan artist Joaquim Ros and commissioned by Sabastiá Salvadó Plandiura, the President of the "Reial Automòbil Club de Catalunya (Catalan Automobile Club)". It is a life-size statue of Fangio standing next to a stylized version of his Mercedes-Benz W 196 racer from the 1950s. Fangio fans can climb into the cockpit of the sculpted racing car and have a souvenir photo taken.
The original statue is set up at the Grand Prix circuit in Barcelona. Five copies were cast by a specialist Spanish foundry, Barberi, at the initiative of DaimlerChrysler Classic and in agreement with the artist, the "Fangio Foundation" in Balcarce, Argentina (Fangio's birthplace and also where his museum is located) and co-sponsor YPF Repsol. The first copy was set up at the Nürburgring, the second is the one to be unveiled at the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco. The other copies of the Fangio statue will then be unveiled in Italy, in Argentina and to mark the opening of the new Mercedes-Benz Museum at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim in 2006.