Juan Manuel Fangio vs Mike Hawthorn

Champion of Champions

Champion of champions: Juan Manuel Fangio vs Mike Hawthorn

Juan Manuel Fangio and Mike Hawthorn were rivals of the 1950s who spent many seasons racing against each other.

But although both won titles with Ferrari they were never paired up at the same team.

Fangio drove seven complete season in which he won five world championship titles before retiring two races into 1958. Hawthorn succeeded him as world champion.

With better reliability, Fangio could have been the first ever world champion instead of Giuseppe Farina. Both drove for Alfa Romeo, but Fangio lost three finishes to car failure while Farina’s only let him down in Reims.

The following year Fangio clinched his first championship but he injured his neck in 1952 and missed the season. He returned in 1953 and finished runner-up to Alberto Ascari.

Hawthorn’s first championship season was in 1952 at the wheel of a Cooper entered by his father Leslie. After several impressive drives he was hired by Ferrari and he won his fourth race with the team, edging Fangio at Reims.

Fangio dominated 1954, winning six of eight races (excluding the Indianapolis 500), starting the season with Maserati before moving on to Mercedes.

In 1955 Hawthorn abandoned a planned switch to Vanwall and returned to Ferrari. Fangio stayed at Mercedes where he won his third title, but the team quit Formula 1 at the end of the year following the Le Mans disaster.

That led Fangio to Ferrari but Hawthorn was no longer there. He’d moved on to BRM, mainly because he wanted to drive the British team’s sports cars. Fangio claimed the title in an ex-Lancia D50, before returning to Maserati.

Hawthorn re-joined Ferrari but couldn’t keep Fangio from title number five: Fangio famously defeated Hawthorn having fallen over a minute behind him at the Nurburgring that year. He retired not long after.

Hawthorn won the title in 1958 despite taking a single Grand Prix victory to Stirling Moss’s four. But he drove consistently, with seven podium finishes from ten starts. He retired after winning the title, but was killed in a road accident the following January.

Which of these drivers should go through to the next round of the Champion of Champions? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Juan Manuel Fangio Mike Hawthorn
Juan Manuel Fangio, 1955 Mike Hawthorn
Titles 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957 1958
Second in title year/s Alberto Ascari, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss Stirling Moss
Teams Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes, Ferrari Cooper, Ferrari, Vanwall, Maserati, BRM
Notable team mates Giuseppe Farina, Peter Collins, Stirling Moss Giuseppe Farina, Alberto Ascari, Peter Collins
Starts 51 45
Wins 24 (47.06%) 3 (6.67%)
Poles 29 (56.86%) 4 (8.89%)
Modern points per start1 17.12 10.40
% car failures2 17.65 22.22
Modern points per finish3 20.79 13.37
Notes Missed 1952 season due to injury Famously beat Fangio at Reims in 1953
Handed 1956 title by team mate Peter Collins Consistent points-scoring brought him the 1958 title, aided by team mate Phil Hill
Record haul of five titles unequalled until 2002 Retired but killed in a road accident in January 1959
Bio Juan Manuel Fangio Mike Hawthorn

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Juan Manuel Fangio (97%)
  • Mike Hawthorn (3%)

Total Voters: 554

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Images ?? Daimler (Fangio), Chris Ilsley (Hawthorn)

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97 comments on Juan Manuel Fangio vs Mike Hawthorn

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  1. Struzak (@struzak) said on 9th January 2011, 15:55

    No doubt on this one.

  2. sennaboy3 said on 9th January 2011, 15:56

    I think Hawthorne is one of the most undeserving champions! ;)

    Love Hawthorne, Voted Fangio…

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 9th January 2011, 16:03

      I would agree with this. Hawthorne was also very ill as far as I remember with a kidney infection and knew he was going to die young so he drove extremely fast. I’ve even seen reports that he drove intoxicated for some races. An underrated champion certainly, although a playboy too. However, despite this, he can’t compare to Fangio.

      • JT19 (@jt19) said on 9th January 2011, 16:15

        yeah! Listening to the stories about Hawthorne, reminds me a bit of Hamilton, was aggressive and would take any chance just to get 1st place. Watched the 1955 Le Mans Documentary and it was between him and Fangio every lap both fighting. We all know how it ended, so sad.

        I voted for Hawthorne but he has no chance.

        • Ratboy (@ratboy) said on 9th January 2011, 16:18

          Im sure its Hawthorn ;)

          • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 9th January 2011, 23:44

            heh I copied the poster above me and I think its stuck!

            @JT19 – that documentary is also mainly what I based my opinion on Hawthorn from – a genuinely fast, if wreckless driver. However, I think he’s up against a particularly difficult champion in Fangio, as he was widely regarded as the best.

    • newnhamlea1 (@newnhamlea1) said on 9th January 2011, 16:21

      I disagree with you, no champion is ‘undeserving.’ In the circumstances of the season they took part in, they came out top, everybody else didnt. If somebody is consistent and has the right people they will win deservingly.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th January 2011, 18:54

      Oh no, another one into that famous line. How many of these “non deserving champions” there were.
      I heard this being said of Hawthorne, Surtees, J.Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg, Alan Jones already in this contest, with Button, Vettel and Hill also being mentioned.

      Does one have to be a multiple WDC to deserve it? Sure, Fangio is miles ahead in this match, but does that have to mean Hawthorn is a non deserving Champion?

      • I’ve never understood the idea of an undeserving champion. You can be the undeserving winner of a race but not a whole championship. If you are first over the course of a season then you have done a better job than everybody else. Perhaps you could say everybody else is even more undeserving than the winner.

        • Daniel said on 9th January 2011, 22:50

          You shouldn’t make sweeping statements.

          Surely Hermann Lang was an undeserving winner of the 1939 European Championship?

          He was declared winner by the German run body after the war broke out, despite not being on top of any of the official points table.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 10th January 2011, 7:01

            Lang was very fast that year and would not have been totally undeserving, but he was not the one winning most races, and even though it is hard to know for certain, but very probably did not score the best (lowest) points.
            Altough it is hard to say, as the points system was pretty obscure and the question what races actually counted towards that Championship is still unclear.

            But being named by the German body was certainly not going to make this convincing.
            A couple of years ago i followed a web tread where people were trying to find out why, based on what points etc. he got that title. Very interesting.

          • Daniel said on 10th January 2011, 8:07

            I went hunting a while back and read up on the same topic. Really interesting. It seems he wasn’t even ahead on the ‘maximum’ scoring system (as published in draft form) either.

            No doubt Lang was a good driver, and he did well that year, but I don’t think you deserve to win if you don’t finish at the top of the scoring system.

          • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 13th January 2011, 11:30

            Very interesting reading about Lang, I guess we could debate the validity of being declared winner given the circumstances, but he at least was fast.

      • bananarama (@bananarama) said on 9th January 2011, 23:22

        Does one have to be a multiple WDC to deserve it?

        Not at all, I’ve heard a couple of people say that Schumacher didn’t deserve his titles either and he is kind of THE multiple WDC. :-P

  3. This is by far the easiest so far! Juan Manuel Fangio! No question, no doubts… just class!

  4. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 9th January 2011, 15:57

    Nobrainer. Fangio.

  5. JCF1 (@jcf1) said on 9th January 2011, 16:00

    Fangio without a shadow of doubt. Average points per availiable finish – 20.79. Thats higher than an average of 2nd place! Astounding!

  6. pseudohendrix (@pseudohendrix) said on 9th January 2011, 16:04

    I don’t rate Fangio as highly as some others do but this one is easy.

  7. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 9th January 2011, 16:22

    Fangio will win this but im not going to agree.He pretty much single handedly led Jaguar to win the 1955 Le Mans 24 hours against the Fangio and Moss all star Mercedes team. Unlike Fangio he never drove the fastest car of the time compaired to Fangio who jumped in and out of cars almost every season to find the best package, even the 1958 Ferrari wasnt considered as fast as Moss’s Vanwall. Hawthorn despite being a young man had severe health issues from 1955 up to his death with his one rememning Kidney failing. The one case i thought may swing it in Fangio’s favour was the 1957 Nurburg race where after a bad pit stop he clawed back 50 seconds to overtake Hawthorn and Collins in the two ferrari’s however yet again he was driving a Maserati which was the faster car of the time. Although he was lucky with his championship win, only won 1 race to Moss’s 4 and got the title by 1 point. I rate Hawthorn the better driver something i’d have never expected to do when i seen this draw.

    • Hairs (@hairs) said on 9th January 2011, 21:46

      I agree – I refuse to ascribe the title of “best of all time” to Fangio. Why not?

      Rose tinted glasses.
      a) A real champion doesn’t get his teammate to move over so that he can win the race – Fangio went further than that and actually demanded that his teammates retire from the race and hand him their cars. “That was the culture of the time”? Well, that’s a culture that doesn’t make for a great champion, in my book.
      b) The Fastest Car effect. A lot of modern champions (Vettel, Button) have faced criticism for only being “able” to win in the fastest car. As above, Fangio always had the fastest car – and what’s more the “fastest” car in those days wasn’t a difference of a few tenths of a second, as it has been in the past couple of years, it was more like the difference between an F1 car and a Le Mans GT car – this was an era of proper “garage racers”, pay drivers, and teams buying three-year old used chassis to race in F1. When Fangio had the fastest car, it made a much bigger difference than when Button did.
      c) “The limit”. Much is made of drives like Nurburgring 57, or other races where a “legendary” driver carves through the back of the field and makes up astonishing amounts of time on the leaders. People tend to assume that’s because drivers of old were immensely more talented than these lily livered cosseted pansies driving today. What’s ignored is a simple, demonstrable fact: Drivers nowadays drive closer to the limit, all the time, every lap, with no mistakes. Fangio was able to make up 50 seconds in 2 laps not because he was naturally 50 seconds faster – but because the guys in front weren’t going 100% flat out. They were cruising towards a victory. And because they only got timing reports twice a lap, they simply had no idea how fast the guy behind was going. The modern driver simply doesn’t have the luxury of backing off – the team knows where he’s losing time as fast as he does – and they won’t stand for a driver who’s leaving a couple of tenths “on the table” as Webber would say. More to the point, his rivals will know what he’s doing, and will jump down his throat. Yes the drivers of the 50’s and 60’s did longer races, on tougher tracks – but they weren’t racing on the limit, every corner, every lap. The idea of a modern F1 driver having the time to smile and wave at pretty girls as they go around Monaco, as Moss did in the past, is laughable. That’s not to say that modern drivers are inherently better – but it’s true that they work under a much more intensely pressurised and scrutinised environment. So you don’t see modern drivers “suddenly” finding a few seconds a lap and making up huge distances – because you know what that means? All it means is that they *could* have been going a few seconds a lap earlier.

      • Dan83 (@dan83) said on 9th January 2011, 22:09

        You make some good points.

      • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 9th January 2011, 22:43

        but nowadays, even if they are much more prepared. They don’t risk their lives, being f1 so safe.
        Does that take off some points in your book?

        • They don’t risk their lives, being f1 so safe.

          What rubbish, did you not see Schumacher almost get his head knocked to in Abu Dhabi? Do you fail to remember Massa’s crash at hungary? What about Webber’s flying attempt? What about Kubica’s brutal crash in Canada? What about the tyre coming of buemi’s car and bouncing OVER the safety barrier? What about the Marshall who died is Australia? And there are so many more examples…

          Don’t be naive.

          • Mike, You trying compare 50th’s with nowadays ???

            This is madness

          • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 10th January 2011, 7:41

            naive!!!! in the 50’s at least 3 drivers used to die every season. What kind of argument is that? schumacher. That would be considered a minor incident then, and not being even mentioned in the newspapers.
            Next time measure your words better young man.

        • short, good point. mr Kowalsky
          full agree

          • bigdaddydog (@bigdaddydog) said on 10th January 2011, 8:43

            it may have been far more dangerous in the past but f1 probably should not be described as safe

          • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 10th January 2011, 13:08

            alex wurth won the le mans 24 hours in 2009, and he said that when he drove there for practice the first time, was very aware of the dangers at some parts of the track. He needed to get used to it, coming from f1 that’s “so safe”.
            I also heard it’s too safe by some drivers and journalists. And i fully agree.
            bigdaddydog, i agree with you on f1 not being regarded as safe. classic dancing is safer than current f1.

          • F1 in those days is safe, more then that, is sily safe. If you know what I mean.
            No innovation, no visionares, just stupid ideas… bleh

            Last TRUE racing cars was used in CART Series series, by guys like Gil de Ferran, or Greg Moore [rip].

            To create perfect racing, Is only one way Fear and Danger

            Gil said:
            “..we’ve gone too slow with the new generation of cars, or whether it’s necessary in today’s world, I don’t know…
            …The faster the car, the more challenging it is to a driver, essentially because you have less time to perform the same maneuvers. That’s really the bottom line. Whether the speed comes from the cornering speed or from having more power, the more challenging it is for the driver.
            …I always thought that what defined an Indy car was this slightly insane combination. It’s not for everyone. Not quite everyone can get ahold of it. I think when fifty percent of the people think this is a bit crazy, that is an Indy car. Then you are getting close to the right mix for an Indy car. That was one of the key differentiations in my mind between a Formula 1 car and an Indy car. To me, an Indy car was always a slightly insane car to drive….
            I remember hearing stories about the Formula 1 drivers who came and tested Indy cars and said, ‘I can’t do this. This is too much for me.’
            …And that’s what you want. You need to get to the point where it’s not for everyone. The public that’s watching Indy car racing needs to realize that they’re watching a select few drivers that not only are able, but are also willing to drive these cars.”

            Auto Racing ~ Gordon Kirby

            no enough ?
            http://ow.ly/3BfwI

      • Daniel said on 9th January 2011, 23:50

        Fangio was winning as an old man whilst his competitors were dying young. His philosophy was always drive as slowly as you can to still win. Hawthorn on the other hand knew he was going to die young and raced like he had nothing to lose. The fact that Fangio won more championships under these circumstances I think counters some of your points.

      • Kenny (@kenny) said on 10th January 2011, 4:57

        a) That’s the way it was done in the 50s. Moss did it all the time. I don’t recall any instance of Fangio “demanding” these things…it was just done. Interestingly, in 1956 when Collins handed his car to Fangio, giving up his chance to win the WDC, Musso had earlier refused to do so. So, on that team at that time at least, the driver had the option of refusal.

        b) In 1957 the Ferrari’s were faster than any other car except (sometimes) one- the Maserati that Fangio was driving.

        c) Good point. However, at Nurburgring in 1957 Collins knew where Fangio was for most of those ten (not two) famous laps, and kept Hawthorn informed with hand signals. I think they were both going as fast as the could, but Fangio was on a new set of tires and drove superbly…nothing they could do.

        • Burnout said on 10th January 2011, 6:02

          To add to that, in ’57 Fangio was driving a six year old Maserati. Hardly what anyone would call the Fastest Car.

          • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 10th January 2011, 12:54

            Ah but that Maserati was still one of the best cars at the time. That chassis was used for ages!

            Its an interesting question about Fangio being overrated. I wasn’t around to see him racing so its very difficult to make statements like that and to be justified. On the surface, i’d agree, but because I don’t know the specific circumstances, to come to a conclusion based on a gut feeling would be wrong. He must have been doing something right to have won 5 championships…! Hawthorn was great too, but as i’m basing my opinion on the only fair way that I personally can, Fangio has to get it.

            However, I also can’t imagine Fangio as being a greater driver as those who race nowadays. Thats because the sport has changed – and as someone else said, racing on the limit is what F1 is all about now, whereas then it was about getting to the end. In my opinion – stressed MY – being on the limit the entire race is more difficult, even if less dangerous. Modern drivers are incredible in the amount of information they have to process, and drivers in the 50’s and 60’s had other priorities.

      • TommyB89 said on 10th January 2011, 13:39

        Hairs, this EXACTLY what I wanted to say and put across.

        Great comment.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 13th January 2011, 11:36

      Very interesting thread, and good points being made.

      I obviously haven’t seen either of them driving. I have to give credit to someone who managed to stay on top for so long, and got himself into a good car for a large slice of that time, gaining 5 championships in the process; no matter what, it does say something about persistence, courage, speed and resourcefulness. I am late to the vote and it is clear who is winning,, but I’m giving my vote to Hawthorn after this thread.

  8. kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 9th January 2011, 16:26

    we have two drivers here that are in a diferent league. And in a sense we are going to find some of the same dificulties between voting through the heart, or using the head. Mostly for the british fans.
    I go for “el maestro” without a doubt. He is a top five in anybody’s list.

  9. jihelle (@jihelle) said on 9th January 2011, 16:35

    Poor Hawthorn didn’t deserve to be trounced. Fangio hands down.

  10. Rob G (@rob-g) said on 9th January 2011, 17:03

    I wish Stirling could be in one of these showdowns…

  11. Fangio but of all of the Ferrari drivers Mike’s always been one of my favourites. Mike will probably get trounced this round but he could be incredibly quick on his day and anyone who can see off Fangio in style such as at Le Mans and the reportedly epic 1953 French GP gets my admiration plus his wore a bowtie which I liked. He’s also helped me in arguments against my friends who say I’m not patriotic by supporting Ferrari but he was the first Brit world champ which he got in the Scuderia :P

    Moss did help Mike to his championship but I don’t feel that makes him any less deserving. Moss did what he thought was right and knew that it could eventually wind up with him losing the title but it was ultimately his choice. Hawthorn also lost one of his closest friends that year his teammate Collins and he could have easily packed it all in that year but he carried on.

    Fangio has to win and will be a big contender for the Champion of Champions but although Hawthorn will go out in the first round his title shouldn’t be dismissed as quickly. It’s a bit of a shame actually that he’s not going up against someone like Jody, Jacques or the Hills as I’d like to see how he’d do against someone a bit more obscure but I am loving this series so I’m happy :P

  12. jonnyw360f1 (@jonnyw360f1) said on 9th January 2011, 17:15

    Fangio, without a shadow of a doubt. I think he could go far in this one. Making sure they don’t meet in the lower categories, I reckon the final four will be Fangio, Schumacher, Senna and Clark. And for those who’ve never seen this, here’s some footage of the master at work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7Ifcgl789E

  13. Damon (@damon) said on 9th January 2011, 17:16

    The comments section here is going to be crazy if/when Fangio meets Schumacher. Hmm.

  14. alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 9th January 2011, 17:20

    I think that the 16 that are knocked out could be put in a new draw to determine 17th to 32nd place – could someone work out the best way to do this?

    Also this should apply to the other rounds, where all of the “losers” are placed in a new draw after each round.

    • Why 17 to 32? I find it quite likely that some driver who got kicked out in the first round would defeat some of the drivers who survived the first round by a lucky draw.

      The only reasonable way to get a complete ranking is to do all possible face-offs, that is, the standard league format. However, for that we would need an F1 break lasting a few years, so I am definitely not suggesting it :-), just commenting.

  15. Scribe (@scribe) said on 9th January 2011, 17:43

    I’m torn on this one, too close to call.

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