Today marks 55 years since the sudden death of 1958 World Champion Mike Hawthorn, who crashed fatally on the roads near Guildford mere months after winning the World Championship and announcing his retirement.
Blonde and debonair, Hawthorn formed part of the new wave of British talent to hit F1 in the 1950s, although he was equally famous more his more traditional habits such as wearing a bow-tie while racing!
A true enigma, Mike could be brilliant on day, disinterested on the next. But when he was on the money, he proved extremely difficult to beat, with a sensational win over Juan-Manuel Fangio at Reims proving one of the best races of that era, when Hawthorn had been hired by Ferrari to beat the wily Argentinean.
Hawthorn courted headlines throughout his F1 career. Quite the party animal and raconteur, he also created displeasure in the British press when it emerged he avoided national service, although it would later turn out that a rare kidney condition would almost certainly have disqualified him anyway.
The 1957 and 1958 seasons saw him paired with compatriot and close friend Peter Collins at Ferrari, and the two enjoyed considerable success until Collins’ tragic death at the 1958 German Grand Prix. Hawthorn would take the title with second place at the Moroccan Grand Prix – which itself was blighted by the death of Stuart Lewis-Evans – and he immediately announced his retirement.
Planning to marry his long-time girlfriend and expand his garage business, Hawthorn fatally crashed his Jaguar on the A3 bypass, losing control of the luxury sports car and wrapping it around a tree.