Hawthorn’s Ferrari leads the pack during the first lap of the legendary 1957 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.
Photo: Ed McDonough Collection
John Michael “Mike” Hawthorn won the Formula One World Championship in 1958, and in doing so became the first British driver ever to win it. He first appeared at Goodwood in 1952 as a comparatively unknown and amazed everyone by driving this very, very quick Cooper-Bristol, and became a star almost overnight. People hadn’t realized that Hawthorn had been around driving Rileys at Brooklands and things like that—he hadn’t really been noticed. Now, here he was out there, really making a reputation for himself, and he got better everywhere he went. I remember seeing him at Silverstone at the International Trophy race in brilliant form—had the gear lever not broken, he would have won the race. He competed at various Grands Prix during the 1952 season, invariably finishing in 3rd or 4th place, usually behind the Ferraris. Hawthorn’s car was very well prepared by his father, Leslie Hawthorn. The use of nitromethane in the fuel gave them more power and made their Cooper-Bristol quicker than any other around.
Ferrari became very interested in Hawthorn, and he signed a contract to drive for them for the 1953 season. At the end of 1952, he tested a Ferrari at Monza—and was very quick. The next race was at Modena where it was thought he would make his premature debut for Ferrari. Mike’s Cooper-Bristol had been taken to Modena, too, although there was a possibility of it being redundant. Leslie Hawthorn, not wishing to lose out financially, saw Roy Salvadori in the paddock. He thought Roy could replace Mike in the car, as they were of similar build. Realizing Salvadori might use his Cooper-Bristol, Mike decided to take the car out for a couple of laps, even though he had just got out of the Ferrari; as a result he had a horrendous crash and that was the end of his season.
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