Mike Hawthorn was the first British driver to conquer the world of Formula One. He was the hero of the 1955 Le Mans, where he triumphed over tragedy. He was the charismatic leader of the Ferrari team, who battled with his friend and rival Stirling Moss for glory.
Mike Hawthorn was a legend of motorsport who lived fast and died young. Mike Hawthorn was a British racing driver who became the United Kingdom’s first Formula One World Champion in 1958. Even though he won the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, his career and life were marked by tragedy and controversy.
In this article, we will explore his life story, from his humble beginnings in Yorkshire to his fatal crash on a Surrey Road. We will discover his achievements, his controversies, and his legacy in the history of racing. Join us as we celebrate the life of F1 racing driver Mike Hawthorn.
Mike Hawthorne Birthplace and Childhood
Mike Hawthorn was born on 10 April 1929 in Mexborough, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, to Leslie and Winifred Hawthorn.
His father owned the Tourist Trophy Garage in Farnham, Surrey, which supplied and serviced high performance cars, including Jaguar and Ferrari.
Mike inherited his father’s passion for racing and cars, and made his competition debut on 2 September 1950 in his 1934 Riley Ulster Imp.
He won the 1,100-cc sports car class at the Brighton Speed Trials
Where Did Mike Hawthorne Receive His Education?
Mike Hawthorn went to Ardingly College, West Sussex, followed by studies at Chelsea Technical College and an apprenticeship with a commercial vehicle manufacturer.
He also learned a lot from his father’s garage business, where he worked as a mechanic and salesman.
He developed his driving skills on the roads around Farnham, often driving at high speeds and taking risks.
Mike Hawthorne Parents
Mike Hawthorn’s parents were Leslie and Winifred Hawthorn.
Leslie was a successful businessman who ran the Tourist Trophy Garage and also raced motorcycles. He supported his son’s racing career and bought him his first car, a Riley Nine. He died in a road accident in 1954, leaving Mike devastated and inheriting the garage business.
Winifred was a devoted mother who encouraged Mike’s education and interests. She was proud of his achievements but also worried about his safety. She survived him by many years and died in 1990.
Did Mike Hawthorne Have Any Siblings?
Mike Hawthorn was an only child and did not have any siblings. He was very close to his parents and had a privileged upbringing.
He also had many friends in the racing community, such as Peter Collins, Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Roy Salvadori, and Phil Hill.
Mike was known for his outgoing personality, sense of humor, and love of parties.
Was Mike Hawthorne Married?
Mike Hawthorn never married or had any children.
He was engaged to Jean Howarth, a model and actress, but they broke up in 1958 after she discovered he had been unfaithful to her with several other women.
Hawthorne also had a long-term relationship with Peter Collins’ widow Louise King Collins after Collins’ death in 1958. He proposed to her shortly before his own death in 1959, but she declined.
He was also rumored to have had affairs with other famous women, such as Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield.
How Did Mike Hawthorne Get Into Motor Racing?
Mike Hawthorne got into motor racing through his father’s influence and his own talent and ambition.
He started racing in sports cars in 1951, driving a Riley T.T., and won several races at Goodwood, Dundrod, and Wicklow.
His performances caught the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a works drive for Ferrari in Formula One and sports car racing in 1952. He made his Formula One debut at the Belgian Grand Prix that year, finishing fourth.
He also raced for other teams such as Vanwall, BRM, Cooper, and Maserati during his career.
How Did Mike Hawthorne Get Into F1?
Mike Hawthorne got into F1 through his contract with Ferrari, which gave him the opportunity to race in the highest level of motorsport.
He quickly established himself as one of the fastest drivers on the grid, scoring his first podium at the British Grand Prix in 1952 and his first win at the French Grand Prix in 1953. Mike also competed for the World Championship title several times, finishing third in 1953 and fourth in 1954 and 1957.
He finally achieved his dream of becoming World Champion in 1958, beating Stirling Moss by one point after a dramatic season finale at the Moroccan Grand Prix.
He announced his retirement from racing shortly after, citing his health problems and the loss of his friend and teammate Peter Collins.
When Did Mike Hawthorne Win the Formula 1 F1 World Championship
Mike Hawthorne won the Formula 1 F1 World Championship in 1958, becoming the first British driver to do so. He won the title with Ferrari, driving the Ferrari Dino 246.
Hawthorne only won one race that year, the French Grand Prix, but scored consistent points in every race except one. He faced a fierce challenge from Stirling Moss, who won four races but suffered more reliability issues and bad luck.
Hawthorn finished second to Moss at the last race of the season.
Hawthorn needed to finish at least second and set the fastest lap to secure the title by one point, which he did. He also benefited from the sportsmanship of Moss, who defended him from a penalty that could have cost him the championship.
Mike Hawthorne – Formula 1 Statistics
Hawthorne’s Formula 1 statistics are as follows:
- Entries: 47
- Starts: 45
- Wins: 3
- Podiums: 18
- Pole positions: 4
- Fastest laps: 6
- Points: 112 9⁄14 (127 9⁄14)
- Championships: 1 (1958)
Mike Hawthorne – Greatest Achievements
His greatest achievements include:
- Winning the Formula 1 World Championship in 1958 with Ferrari, becoming the first British driver to do so.
- Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1955 with Jaguar, setting a new lap record and surviving the worst disaster in motorsport history.
- Winning three Formula 1 races: the French Grand Prix in 1953 and 1958, and the Spanish Grand Prix in 1954.
- Finishing on the podium in 18 Formula 1 races, including six second places and nine third places.
- Setting four pole positions and six fastest laps in Formula 1.
- Winning several sports car races, such as the Sebring 12 Hours in 1954 and the Reims 12 Hours in 1953 and 1956.
- Being awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1958 for his outstanding contribution to British motorsport.
Mike Hawthorne Death
Mike Hawthorn died on 22 January 1959, three months after retiring from racing. He was driving his Jaguar Mark I on the A3 road near Guildford, Surrey, when he lost control of the car and crashed into a tree. Police pronounced him dead at the scene.
The exact cause of the accident is still disputed, but some possible factors are:
- His kidney disease, which may have affected his vision or concentration.
- His high speed, which may have exceeded 100 mph.
- His racing rivalry with Rob Walker, who was driving a Mercedes-Benz ahead of him and may have provoked him to chase him.
- His faulty brakes, which may have failed or locked up.
- The wet road conditions, which may have reduced his grip or visibility.
His death shocked and saddened the racing world and his fans. He was buried at St John’s Church in Farnham, where thousands of people attended his funeral. He is remembered as one of the greatest and most charismatic drivers of his era.
- British F1 Drivers: From Moss to Hamilton
- Lewis Hamilton
- Johnny Herbert
- Stirling Moss
- Jim Clark
- Jackie Stewart
- John Surtees
- Mike Hawthorne
- Damon Hill
- Graham Hill
- Nigel Mansell
- James Hunt