John Michael Hawthorn (10 April 1929 – 22 January 1959) was a British racing driver of the 1950’s. He became the United Kingdom's rst Formula One World Champion in 1958, whereupon he immediately announced his retirement. He had been profoundly affected by the death (two months earlier in the 1958 German Grand Prix) of his friend and teammate Peter Collins.
Hawthorn was born in Mexborough, West Riding, England. His father, Leslie, who was a keen racing motorcyclist and actively supported his son's racing career, owned the Tourist Trophy Garage in Farnham, which was authorized to supply and service a number of high performance makes, including Jaguar and Ferrari.
Hawthorn made his competition debut in 1950 in his 1934 Riley Ulster Imp, winning its class at the Brighton Speed Trials. By 1952, he had switched to single-seaters and during that season won his rst Formula Two race in a Cooper-Bristol T20 at Goodwood. Further successes followed which brought him to the attention of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a works drive. At Scuderia Ferrari for the 1953 season, Hawthorn showed his worth with victory, at his ninth attempt, in the French Grand Prix at Reims. In 1954, following the death of his father, Hawthorn left Ferrari to race for Tony Vandervell's Vanwall team, as he needed to spend more time at the family garage which he had now inherited (it was the Ferrari dealer for England), but after only two races he returned to Ferrari. In January 1955, Hawthorn joined the Jaguar racing team, replacing Stirling Moss, who had left for Mercedes. He won the 1955 les 24 Heures du Mans setting a lap record of 4 minutes and 6.6 seconds during a three-hour duel with Fangio in the early stages of the race. However, the event was marred by the worst disaster in motor racing history, a crash which killed 83 spectators and Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh. After overtaking Lance Macklin's Healey, Hawthorn braked suddenly in response to an order to enter the pits to refuel, this caused Macklin to swerve into the path of Levegh's Mercedes. Later, the of cial inquiry into the accident ruled that Hawthorn was not responsible for the crash. Another change of team for 1956 – this time to BRM - was a failure and he rejoined the Ferrari factory team in 1957, he soon became friends with Peter Collins, a fellow Englishman and Ferrari team driver. During the 1957 and 1958 racing seasons, the two Englishmen engaged in a erce rivalry with Luigi Musso, another Ferrari driver. Hawthorn won the 1958 Formula One Championship despite only one win, compared to four by Moss.
After winning the title, Hawthorn immediately announced his retirement from Formula One. He was noted for wearing a bow tie when racing and, for this reason, the French nicknamed him 'Le Papillon' (The Butter y). On 22 January 1959, only three months into his retirement, Hawthorn died in a car crash while driving his modi ed 1958 Jaguar 3.4-litre saloon. Although the circumstances of the accident are well documented, the precise cause remains unknown. Driving at speed, Hawthorn overtook a Mercedes-Benz 300SL 'gull-wing' sports car being driven by an acquaintance of his, the motor racing team manager Rob Walker. Hawthorn lost control of his car and the subsequent impact caused fatal head injuries. There was inevitable speculation that Hawthorn and Walker had been racing.
Possible causes of the accident include driver error, a blackout, or mechanical failure. There is, in fact, some evidence that Hawthorn had recently suffered blackouts, perhaps because of a known kidney condition, at the time, his doctor’s had given him only three years to live.
Every year since 1959 the Hawthorn Memorial Trophy has been awarded to the most successful British or Commonwealth Formula 1 driver.
We'll publish a biography on him on the occasion of his anniversary or when it will be reached a sufficient number of cars.
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1953 Ferrari 340 MM Spyder
- Coachbuilder: Carrozzeria Scaglietti
- Chassis n°: 0294AM
- Engine n°: 0294AM
1954 Ferrari 250 Europa
- Coachbuilder: Pinin Farina
- Chassis n°: 0303/EU
- Engine n°: 0303EU