Peter John Collins was a Formula 1 driver from England. Born to the owner of a garage in Kidderminster on November 6, 1931, Collins started racing in the 500cc category, in his Cooper 500. He got his Formula One break in 1952, when he replaced Stirling Moss at HVM Motors.
His first season in the sport, which was dominated by the Ferrari driving Ascari, yielded zero points, and only one race finish, in the six races he participated in. He stayed on with the underperforming team for another year. It was almost like a replay of the previous season. Again, Ascari and his Ferrari won practically everything, and the Englishman came away with nothing, from the four races he started.
In 1954, Collins raced for G.A.Vandervell’s VanWall Special for two grands prix, which saw him retiring in one and finishing 7th in the other. In 1955 he again raced in only two races in a Maserati, and retired from both. Until then, his Formula One career spanning four years could only be described as woeful. In 1956 he got the chance to race alongside the three time World champion Juan Manuel Fangio. That was the year he came the closest to becoming champion, and was his best season in Formula One in his entire career. Winning back-to-back races in Belgium and France, he went into the final race of the season in Italy with a mathematical chance of winning the title. Upon being requested to share his car with Fangio, who needed a single point to win the title, a request he gave into without hesitation, he effectively gave up the title, which he would have won, had he got all six points for his 2nd place finish.
In 1957 and 1958 he continued racing with Ferrari, a team that held him in very high regard, thanks to his gesture at the 1956 Italian Grand Prix, which saw his teammate win the title. He finished on the podium three times and secured his last race win at the British Grand Prix in 1958, in which, after taking the race lead from Stirling Moss, he stayed at the number one spot for the entire race, to finish ahead of his friend and teammate Mike Hawthorn, to complete one of his more famous victories. The following grand prix at Germany was to be his last. Chasing down the Vanwall of Tony Brooks, Collins’ car spun of the track, and he was thrown clear of his Ferrari. Sustaining severe head injuries, he lost his life later in the day.
Peter Collins’ death shocked the entire racing fraternity, as he was not only a gentleman of a racing driver, he was also considered to be one of the safest. And if giving up the championship to his teammate wasn’t enough, fate decided to inflict more tragedy on the Englishman, cutting short a promising racing career, and taking away a gallant life.