• French Grand Prix 1958

Hawthorn wins on Fangio's farewell

Martin Williamson July 7, 1958
Juan Manuel Fangio in action during his final grand prix © Getty Images
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Mike Hawthorn won the French Grand Prix, his only win of the season, but it was a race overshadowed by the death of his Ferrari team-mate Luigi Musso and notable as it was the final appearance of the five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio.

While the official announcement did not come until after the Italian Grand Prix in September, his rivals knew. He had grown tired of battling with an underpowered Maserati in a field containing so many young bucks. It was a memorable weekend for him off track as his rivals emptied all his room of its furniture and replaced it with Jean Behra's Citroen, manhandled up the side of the hotel.

The practice session was also memorable because of an accident involving Maurice Trintignant who had to jump out of his Cooper while it was still moving after it caught fire. He suffered burns to his neck and back but was still able to compete the next day. His small place in history came when he was airlifted back to the pits by the helicopter ambulance which had been unveiled as a new safety measure. Sadly, it was not the last time it was called into use over the weekend.

Hawthorn and Musso qualified quickest and raced away from the line in the lead, with Musso battling to keep in touch with his colleague. On the tenth lap he ran wide on a long, fast corner, and he was thrown clear as his Ferrari flipped in a ditch. He was airlifted to hospital with a fractured skull but died later in the day. "He didn't leave himself enough room," Fangio recalled. "His front wheel must have touched [a low barrier] and he went off."

The real battle was for second, with Peter Collins, Fangio and then Jean Behra all taking turns, but when Behra retired with fuel pump problems Stirling Moss surged through and was never challenged. Wolfgang von Trips forged past a fading Fangio to snatch third place in the closing stages; Fangio uncharacteristically spun on the last lap, but he took fourth after Collins' Ferrari ran out of fuel and had to be pushed over the line. Hawthorn, out of respect, opted not to lap him but to savour his skills for a last time.

"I stopped the car in the pits and a decision was made," Fangio said. "I would stop racing. But there was no ceremony for me and no joy for Hawthorn. I then went to the hospital to see poor Musso. But poor Musso was gone."

Meanwhile, Graham Hill in a Lotus had an eventful afternoon. "I took one 160mph corner half standing in the cockpit," he said. "The crowd thought I had gone mad - but the gearbox had got so hot it melted the solder holding the oil-filler cap in place and boiling oil was splashing over my legs." He retired soon after.

The result meant Moss and Hawthorn were tied at the top of the drivers' table with 23 points each.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA

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Martin Williamson is managing editor of digital media ESPN EMEA Martin Williamson, who grew up in the era of James Hunt, Niki Lauda and sideburns, became managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group in 2007 after spells with Sky Sports, Sportal and Cricinfo