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Mike Hawthorn legacy continues to inspire new generations of drivers

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Mike Hawthorn legacy continues to inspire new generations of drivers

Mike Hawthorn was a British racing driver, who won the Formula One World Championship in 1958, becoming the first British driver to do so.

On 22nd January 1959, Mike Hawthorn died in a car accident while driving on the Guildford by-pass in Surrey, England.

On this day, the first British driver to become Formula One World Champion passed away, shortly after winning the title and breaking the dominance of Nino Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari.

Many people of a certain age, when asked who was the first British driver to win a Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix, will often say Sir Stirling Moss.

Sir Stirling Moss, often referred to as “Mr Motor Racing,” was instrumental in shaping Britain’s interest in the early days of the Formula 1 World Championship.

Although Sir Stirling Moss is often associated with being the first British driver to win a Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix, it was actually Mike Hawthorn who achieved this milestone by winning the 1953 French Grand Prix.

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Mike Hawthorn, who won the Formula One World Championship in 1958, became the first British driver to do so, by winning the Morocco finale on 11 October 1958, five years after his first Grand Prix win. Sadly, just a few months later, on January 22, 1959, Hawthorn died in a car accident.

Mike Hawthorn’s 1958 World Championship win was unique in that he secured it with only one Grand Prix win, while his rival Sir Stirling Moss had four Grand Prix wins that year. However, Moss’ sportsmanship played a role in Hawthorn’s victory. Moss successfully lobbied for the reinstatement of Hawthorn’s second-place finish in the Portugal Grand Prix, after his Ferrari had been disqualified for a push-start. This ultimately helped Hawthorn to win the championship by a single point.

Mike Hawthorn legacy continues to inspire new generations of drivers

It is unlikely to see today’s Formula One drivers, such as Max Verstappen or Lewis Hamilton, going out of their way to help their main championship rival, but that is exactly what Sir Stirling Moss did in 1958. He successfully lobbied for the reinstatement of Mike Hawthorn’s second-place finish in the Portugal Grand Prix, which ultimately helped Hawthorn to win the championship by a single point. Moss later explained that he did it because Hawthorn was in a dangerous position.

After winning the Formula One World Championship in 1958, Mike Hawthorn immediately retired from the sport, which might have been influenced by the two deaths in the season.

Mike Hawthorn’s decision to retire from Formula One may have been influenced by the death of his close friend and fellow driver Peter Collins, who was killed at the Nurburgring, weeks after the death of Luigi Musso in France.

Another factor that played a role in Mike Hawthorn’s decision to retire from Formula One was his diagnosis of kidney disease. At the time, transplants were not yet possible and he knew that his condition was terminal. He retired from racing to spend more time with his family before his death.

Mike Hawthorn legacy continues to inspire new generations of drivers

Mike Hawthorn’s decision to retire from racing after winning the 1958 Formula One World Championship made him the first reigning World Champion not to defend his title. This would later be followed by other drivers such as Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost.

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After retiring from racing, Mike Hawthorn took over the family business in Fareham, Surrey that he inherited from his father.

On the morning of January 22, 1959, Mike Hawthorn was on his way to London, when he saw Rob Walker, a privateer team owner and competitor, traveling in the same direction.

Mike Hawthorn, who was driving a Jaguar 3.4 litre Mark 1, saw Rob Walker in his car and decided to follow him, as they were approaching Guildford.

On a wet day, for an unknown reason, Hawthorn lost control of his Jaguar, struck a lorry and collided with a tree on the side of the road, which was the only one on that side of the carriageway.

Hawthorn was found dead in the car from head injuries, the cause of the accident remains unclear and several reasons have been proposed such as driver error, mechanical failure or a blackout, as the cause for losing control of the car.

Mike Hawthorn’s death in 1959 was the second death of a Formula One World Champion, the first being Alberto Ascari, who died in 1955 while testing at Monza.

Read also : Why did General Motors choose Formula 1?

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