GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #30 - Mike Hawthorn

14-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #30 - Mike Hawthorn

Hello and welcome back to GPBlog’s countdown of the Top 50 F1 drivers of all time, we’re into the top 30! It’s just 30 days to go until the first race of the season in Australia, when we’ll get our first taste of how F1 is going to shape up this year and this decade! Yesterday we were talking about Damon Hill, but now we’re going back to another British champion, Mike Hawthorn…

Mike Hawthorn is Britain’s first F1 race winner and Britain’s first F1 world champion. The more casual fan may not know this fact, but Hawthorn was Britain’s original great hope on the F1 scene before Stirling Moss came along.

Hawthorn made his debut with the Cooper team in 1952, scoring points with a P4 finish and then just two races later he made his first visit to the podium with third at his home race in Britain.

He attracted the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who gave him a drive at the famous Italian team in 1953 and he took victory in the French Grand Prix, his and Britain’s first. He came out on top in a superb battle with Juan Manuel Fangio, exchanging the lead on several occasions.

Further podiums in Germany and Switzerland helped him to a P4 finish in the standings, and he was retained by Ferrari for 1954.

He was disqualified in the opening race of the season for being push started and retired in France, putting him behind the championship leaders at the time.

His form picked up towards the end of the season, taking three P2 finishes and a win in Spain to lift himself to third in the standings with a bizarre points tally of 24 and nine-fourteenths, due to shared drives and a shared fastest lap with six other drivers!

1955 was more difficult with Hawthorn involved in the tragic crash that killed nearly a hundred spectators at Le Mans that year and he failed to score a world championship point.

Racing with BRM, Maserati and Vanwall in 1956 Hawthorn only started three races before a return to Ferrari in 1957, scoring two podiums as he once against finished fourth in the title race.

1958 was Hawthorn’s year however, but it didn’t start well. After the opening three rounds he trailed Moss by ten points before going on a hot streak, finishing second in Belgium, first in France and second again in Britain.

He held the championship lead heading into the final three races but Hawthorn was clearly affected by the death of his teammate and friend Peter Collins.

Nevertheless, he continued to race but was disqualified from the Portuguese Grand Prix for bump starting his car going the wrong way on the track, but rival Moss defended Hawthorn’s actions and he was re-instated and took P2.

Moss’ gearbox problems at the penultimate race gave Hawthorn the advantage heading into the final round, needing to finish in the top five to secure the title. He did so with another P2 and immediately retired from the sport following fears for his life after Collins’ death.

Hawthorn was killed in a traffic accident early in 1959, but he had left his mark on F1 already. So now you know, when someone asks who the first Brit to win an F1 race or title was, it’s not Stirling Moss, it’s Mike Hawthorn.

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