Mike Hawthorn was the first British driver to win the world championship, claiming the title for Ferrari in 1958, narrowly beating Stirling Moss.
Hawthorn cut his teeth on motorbikes but quickly switched to four-wheeled competition. After a debut season at the wheel of a Cooper in 1952 Hawthorn joined Ferrari for 1953, with whom he would spend most of his career.
In 1953 he took his first win at Reims in France, edging out Juan Manuel Fangio in a thrilling finish. He ended the season fourth overall with 19 points. Hawthorn won in Spain the following year placed third in that year’s championship.
Two appearances for Vanwall in 1955 ended in retirement and, following the death of his father, only did three more races that year, all for Ferrari. He won Le Mans in a Jaguar with Ivor Bueb, but in tragic circumstances after being involved in the accident that killed Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh and 80 spectators.
The 1957 season marked his return to Ferrari but he was denied a win at Germany by the inspired Fangio, who scored a final, incredible victory at the expense of Hawthorn and team mate Peter Collins.
In 1958, of the ten world championship rounds (excluding the Indianapolis 500) Hawthorn took one win and five second places, while Moss won four times and suffered five car failures, making Hawthorn champion. Moss famously helped Hawthorn by intervening on his behalf in a dispute over a penalty, securing several extra points for Hawthorn, which proved enough to give him the title.
Both suffered terrible losses that year: Collins died in that year’s German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, and Moss’s friend Stuart Lewis-Evans suffered burns in a crash in the Moroccan Grand Prix from which he would later die.
Hawthorn spurned Enzo Ferrari’s offer to name a price for a drive to defend his title – and announced his retirement. But a final tragedy struck. Hawthorn was killed in a road accident near Guildford that winter.
Image ?é?® Chris Ilsley