GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #31 - Damon Hill

13-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
General
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #31 - Damon Hill

Hello and welcome back to GPBlog’s countdown to the Australian Grand Prix on March 15. We’re getting closer and closer to the return of F1 and it’s just 31 days away now! The cars are being revealed and everybody at GPBlog.com is excited for the season to get underway. SO let’s continue with our countdown, yesterday was a focus on Nico Rosberg, but today is another son of a champion who became a champion himself, Damon Hill.

Son of 1962 and 1968 world champion Graham Hill, Damon took the long way to F1, through motorcycles originally and then a lengthy time in feeder series before finally making his debut in 1992 aged 32.

This was with the Brabham team, with the once title-winning squad in the latter stages of its time in F1 and nowhere near competitive enough.

Hill only managed to qualify for two races, but he was surprisingly called up to replace Nigel Mansell at Williams for the following season after impressing in his duties as test driver.

He started the season well, finishing on the podium in most races, but retirements in three of the first six saw him trail teammate Alain Prost in the championship fight.

Reliability cost him his first victory in both Britain and Germany, but he took P1 in Hungary to grab his first race win. Victories in Belgium and Italy made it three on the bounce, but the title was too far as he finished third, behind Prost and Ayrton Senna.

Hill was joined by Senna in 1994, but after the Brazilian’s death at Imola Hill was made team leader and given the responsibility of taking on Benetton and Michael Schumacher.

By this time, Schumacher already had a healthy championship lead, but ten top two finishes in 11 races left Hill trailing Schumacher by just one point going into the title decider.

Unfortunately Hill lost out to Schumacher’s dirty play in Australia and the German took the title, although Hill had won over plenty of fans.

1995 was tougher for Williams and Hill, with accidents and reliability allowing Schumacher to take the title once again.

Now aged 35, Hill had to get on with it to become champion and that’s exactly what he did in 1996.

Taking advantage of the superior Williams car, Hill qualified on the front row for every race and won eight of them. He was challenged throughout the season by new teammate Jacques Villeneuve and it went down to the final race, but Hill took a nerveless victory to claim the championship.

Bizarrely, Williams opted to sign Heinz-Harald Frentzen for 1997, so Hill was left looking for a drive. He signed for backmarkers Arrows and nearly took a famous victory in Hungary.

He was leading until a hydraulic problem slowed his car down, being caught and overtaken by Villeneuve on the final lap.

Hill moved back up the grid to Jordan for 1998 and took one final win at the Belgian Grand Prix that season in a rain-affected race, the first victory for the Jordan team.

1999 was not so good for Hill, who admitted his heart wasn’t in it anymore and was comfortably outperformed by Frentzen.

In his final race in Japan, Hill pulled into the pits after 21 laps, ending his F1 career.

Hill came to F1 later in his life than most, but still managed to leave a lasting impression on the sport. His determination to succeed was evident and his title was one of the most celebrated in Britain.

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