World champion at Ferrari: Memories of Mike Hawthorn / Formula 1

World champion at Ferrari: Memories of Mike Hawthorn / Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton wants to become the world champion of Formula 1 with Ferrari in 2025. To become the first Englishman to become champion with Ferrari, which today’s Mercedes star then erases. Mike Hawthorn already managed that in 1958.

April 10, 2024: On this day 95 years ago, John Michael Hawthorn, the first Formula 1 world champion from England, was born. What Stirling Moss was always denied, Mike blonde managed – in part because of the rightness of Moss.

John Michael Hawthorn was not a racing driver like anyone else. Many people of that time saw him as cold with a cold heart. He was the first British GP winner after the Second World War and in 1958 the first British Formula 1 world champion, already terminally ill with his kidneys at the time.

Hawthorn carried the stigma of being the cause of the worst racing disaster, the fatal crash at Le Mans in 1955.

He was blamed for an unexpected turn to refuel, Lance Macklin, who was driving behind, could not avoid, Pierre Levegh drove behind Macklin’s Austin, Levegh’s Mercedes hit the spectators and killed 83 people.

Hawthorn, of all people who caused accidents, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It did not develop sympathy for Hawthorn that he was close to the victims in the biography.

Even in his homeland, Hawthorn was controversial.

Newspapers accused him of avoiding military service. Mike Hawthorn, a man wearing a green t-shirt and tie, those were his work clothes. That’s why the French called it “papillon”, meaning butterfly.

Hawthorn was known for driving above all odds. Maybe because he knew he wouldn’t age. But Mike also had another side, he could be the heart and soul of the party, for any practical joke.

Eoin Young, author and companion of racing team founder Bruce McLaren, recalled: “In Reims there was a bar where everyone met, it was Brigitte’s Bar. After Mike Hawthorn’s victory in 1958, we stood there and looked at the beautiful Frenchmen women. Enter Mike! First Mike grabbed his friend Peter Collins. The object of their destruction was a statue of a certain noble standing in the garden.”

“They put the beautiful piece in the middle of the dance floor, put makeup on her and put a cloth between her marble lips. However, they realized that something was still missing, so John Cooper had to take off his pants and jacket to wear the kraschlandning properly. John himself did not have problem with it and he used his condition in underwear and stockings as an opportunity to demonstrate a Russian folk dance…”

Bruce McLaren later told Young: “But that was just the beginning. Mike now thought that a large flower pot would certainly make a fun toy. Unfortunately, the bucket tipped over as Mike tried to drag it into the middle of our shenanigans. There was a lot of chaos.”

“Mike picked up a broom and started sweeping up the dirt from the other guests. It only took a few seconds for more than a dozen partygoers to throw dirt at each other. Mike disappeared and returned with a garden hose: ‘So, now we’re cleaning up here…’ And to he made everyone drink from his head to his feet.”

Mike Hawthorn’s friendship with Ferrari teammate Peter Collins was legendary.

They were brothers in spirit, inseparable, they made a pact on the race track and spent their free time together, usually in different companies, because Hawthorn had a keen eye for a beautiful woman.

When Collins crashed to his death at the Nürburgring in 1958, Hawthorn was devastated.

Mike Hawthorn took the 1958 world title with just one win but five second places. Second place in Morocco on October 19, 1958 guaranteed him the championship.

Stirling Moss left empty-handed with one point, a mixture of misunderstanding and justice. At Porto, the race officials wanted to remove Hawthorn from the classification because he had gone round the other way. Moss stood up to Mike.

In Morocco, Moss failed to set the fastest lap of the race because he misinterpreted the pit signals. Either way: Hawthorn was the champion and announced his retirement out of the blue at the London Motor Show.

Stories surround the death of the three-time GP winner. My colleague Helmut Zwickl remembers: “He was in a hurry on January 22, the street was wet with rain. As luck would have it, his Jaguar collided with a Mercedes 300SL driven by Rob Walker, the famous racing team owner for whom Stirling Moss drove.”

“At Kyalami Ranch, during the GP weekend in South Africa, I stayed next to Rob Walker in a thatched cottage. It was on a warm, starry night around the campfire, drink in hand, that Rob told me what happened in January 22, 1959.”

“Walker said: ‘I put the Mercedes in top gear, which usually never happens below 160 kilometers per hour. So I was not slow, but suddenly the jaguar pushed me. I immediately realized that Mike was behind the wheel and he knew who was passing him. I didn’t like it to be overtaken, but he was the reigning world champion. And I also knew that he hated German cars once the luxury battle had burned him, Jaguar against Mercedes.’

“When Mike hit the curb in the corner, I thought he was just playing with me. But when the jaguar hit the curb again, he was thrown into a spin. His bow suddenly pointed against the direction of travel, straight at me with his engine roaring. He missed the truck in the opposite lane and The Jaguar lost control. I could no longer see how it careened into a bus stop and hit a tree. The car was split in half. When I got to the wreckage, Mike was asleep in the back seat. He died just twelve miles from where his father died in a car accident in 1954. “

Inquest revealed: Mike Hawthorn died of severe head injuries.

An autopsy showed that due to his kidney disease he would have less than 18 months to live.