Day 10 of Badger’s Advent Calendar and we look at three more of the youngest ever F1 champions…
After three new youngest ever championship drivers in the first three years of the championship, there were no new names at the top until 1958, with Ascari and then Fangio winning year after year. When their domination of the sport ended there was a new youngest ever champion in the shape of…
Mike Hawthorne, 1958, 29 years, 6 months, 9 days.
Mike Hawthorne was born in Yorkshire in 1929 and made his F1 debut in 1952 where he came in 4th and ended the season in 5th place in the championship. In only his 9th GP he got his first win in the 1953 French GP but, after a promising start, his career became involved in controversy when his Jaguar was involved in triggering the 1955 Le Mans crash which killed Pierre Levegh and eighty three spectators. He continued racing and won the race, after the Mercedes team, which had been leading, withdrew its cars as a mark of respect. The celebrations were very subdued and sections of the French press treated the win with contempt. The official enquiry after the race ruled that it was a racing incident and Hawthorne’s Jaguar was not to blame.
There was also some controversy in his championship winning season at the Porto GP in Portugal, where he was initially disqualified for pushing his car during the race on his way to a 2nd place finish. However Stirling Moss, who won the race, interceded on Hawthorne’s behalf and the result was reinstated. Hawthorne went on to beat Moss to the championship by just one point again, coming 2nd to Moss in the Moroccan GP.
Hawthorne had a strong relationship with his friend and fellow British Ferrari driver Peter Collins (hard to imagine in light of recent Ferrari pairings, I know). Straight after winning the championship Hawthorne retired, having been seriously affected by the death of Collins that year at the Nürburgring. He was also suffering from kidney problems, having lost one already; doctors gave him only months to live and he was indeed dead just over three months later, but in a car crash, although it has been suggested that this was caused by him passing out as a result of the kidney infection.
Jim Clark, 1963, 27 years, 6 months, 4 days.
Five years later another British driver became the youngest ever champion, as Scot Jim Clark, born in Fife in 1936, won the title, having won seven out of ten races in the 1963 season, securing the title by the seventh race at Monza.
He started his F1 career in the 1960 Dutch GP where he had to retire due to mechanical problems and claimed to have been ‘scared stiff’ throughout most of his second race at Spa, with some justification given that two drivers lost their lives in that race, but he went on to finish the race in 5th place and gain his first points. He took 10th place in the championship at the end of his first season, then 7th the following year and 2nd in 1962, gradually developing into the man who would win two world championships, twenty five races and thirty three pole positions before his tragically early death at the age of thirty two in a crash at Hockenheim in a Formula 2 race.
Jackie Stewart said of Clark, ‘He was so smooth, he was so clean, he drove with such finesse. He never bullied a racing car, he sort of caressed it into doing the things he wanted it to do.’ With such high praise from another great driver it is hard to think of anything to add. Jim Clark, greatest racing driver of all time.
Emerson Fittipaldi, 1972, 25 years, 8 months, 29 days.
With the sixth youngest ever driver we are starting to get into living memory, well at least as far as I’m concerned. My spelling book at junior school had Emerson Fittipaldi’s name in it as I wrote a story in which I beat him in the last lap at Brands Hatch, despite my car having burst into flames. Probably not one of literature’s lost masterpieces, but the Brazilian was my first favourite F1 driver. It is very difficult to forget your first love in any field and the image of Fittipaldi in his black JPS Lotus is burnt into my memory.
He was born in São Paulo in 1946 and raced motorcycles, hydrofoils (!) and karts in Brazil before moving onto cars. After winning the Brazilian Formula Vee title aged 21, he moved to Europe in 1969 and was racing in Formula One for Team Lotus in 1970, going from third to first driver over the course of the season after the death of Jochen Rindt and the subsequent departure of John Miles. He took his first win that year in the US GP at Watkins Glen. He consolidated his position over the course of the 1971 season and finished in 6th place overall, before his championship winning 1972 campaign, which saw him take eight podiums, five of them on the top step, and saw him claim the championship in race ten at Monza.
In 1974 he took his second world drivers’ championship, this time for McLaren, he followed this with a second place to Nikki Lauda the next season, but then shocked the world of F1 by leaving McLaren to join his older brother’s Fittipaldi Automotive, and in the last five years of his F1 career never finished higher than 10th.
This season he returned to F1 as one of the driver stewards at both the Canadian and the Italian GPs and I for one was pleased to see one of my childhood icons back in the sport again in whatever capacity. At least now I can spell his name without any help.
Tomorrow we’ll have the third and final part..