GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #17 - Graham Hill

27-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
General
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #17 - Graham Hill

Welcome back again to the next instalment in our countdown to the Australian Grand Prix with our top 50 F1 drivers of all time. It’s just 17 days until the race at Albert Park! Yesterday we looked at double champion Emerson Fittipaldi and today we’re going to talk about another double champion, Graham Hill.

Father of our number 31, Graham Hill trumps Damon in our list and comes in at number 17. The two time champion made his debut at Monaco in 1958 and by the time he stopped racing he was known as the master of the circuit.

It was retirement on that day though as he began his career with Lotus, and he failed to score a point in his first two F1 seasons. A move to BRM saw him take third in the 1960 Dutch Grand Prix and then two points finishes in 1961.

BRM came into their own in 1962 and Hill took victory in the first race of the season at Zandvoort. The Lotus of Jim Clark proved competitive but unreliable and with four rounds to go Hill found himself one point clear of the Scot.

Hill then took victories at the Nürburgring and Monza, putting himself within touching distance of the title. Clark fought back with a win in the US Grand Prix but was an outsider for the title as the F1 circus travelled to South Africa.

Clark took pole with Hill second, and it stayed that way for 62 laps before Lotus’ reliability struck again and Clark was out, making Hill world champion. He capped it off with a victory, making it four wins from nine for the season.

Hill began the following season with his first Monaco victory, but Clark soon found incredible form and ran away with the title, the Lotus in a different league to anything else on the grid.

1964 was one of the most incredibly close seasons ever, with Hill going head to head with Clark and Ferrari’s John Surtees for the title.

He took victory in Monaco again and three consecutive P2 finishes saw him take the championship lead with four races remaining.

He retired from the next two races but benefitted from the misfortune of his rivals, and retained the lead following a win in the US, giving him a five point lead over Surtees and a nine point lead over outsider Clark.

After running third for a while, Hill fell back and could only finish 11th, allowing second place Surtees to snatch the title by a single point as his teammate Lorenzo Bandini allowed him to pass after Clark retired on the final lap.

1965 saw another Monaco win but a distant second placed finish in the standings to the once again dominant Clark and when BRM fell down the grid in 1966 he made the move to Lotus, joining Clark.

It was a frustrating, winless season for Hill, who was plagued by retirement at the majority of the events whilst Clark picked up four wins and finished third in the standings.

Hill finished second to Clark in 1968’s season opener, but when his teammate was killed in an accident in a Formula Two race, Hill had to take the mantle as team leader.

He won the next two events in Spain and of course, Monaco and in a crazy season where seven drivers scored race wins, Hill found himself needing a result at the final round in Mexico to fend off the charge of Jackie Stewart.

He did so with a victory and claimed his second title. Hill wasn’t as competitive the following season, but did pick up his fifth Monaco win, which would prove to be his last in F1.

Brabham was Hill’s next destination and after a couple of difficult seasons he set up his own team, Embassy Racing. Hill continued to drive for the team but retired midway through the 1975 season to concentrate on Tony Brise’s fledgling career.

Tragically later that year, Hill and the main members of the team, including Brise, were killed when the light aircraft Hill was piloting crashed in thick fog.

Hill’s death was a huge loss to motorsport, one of F1’s most determined racers and greatest champions. His legacy lived on with son Damon, who won the world title in 1996.  

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