This is why Damon Hill left Williams according to Patrick Head

24-08-2021 20:08 | Updated: 25-08-2021 08:57
F1 News
This is why Damon Hill left Williams according to Patrick Head

After four seasons with Williams, the partnership with Damon Hill, who won the world title that very season, came to an abrupt end in 1996. Hill moved to the small Arrows company to finally end his Formula 1 career after two years at Jordan. Patrick Head, co-founder of Williams, explains the sudden departure of Hill at Williams.

Hill made his Formula 1 debut in 1992 with Brabham but was allowed to move to top team Williams a year later. There he immediately won three races and finished third in the championship. In 1994 and 1995 Hill won ten races and finished second in the championship behind Michael Schumacher both seasons. In 1996 he finally won the title by winning eight out of sixteen races. At the end of the season, he unexpectedly left for Arrows.

Arrogant piece of work

There was a lot of speculation at the time about Hill's departure and in the Beyond the Grid-podcast, Head talks about the real reason. "He [Damon Hill] had a habit of employing rather obscure characters and he had a manager of sorts at the time, Michael Breen, and he wasn't the most charming character," Head says. "He put his briefcase on Frank [Williams]'s desk and if he could have put his boots on Frank's desk, he would have."

"He was an arrogant piece of work", Head continues. "He said to Frank, 'Damon won't even consider driving for you if he gets an amount that's less than five times his 1995 salary.' Frank thought, and an uncomfortable silence fell. There must have been one or two minutes of complete silence and then Frank said, 'Michael, I suggest you grab your briefcase from my desk, the door is over there. Please leave.' Breen was so sure they were going to get that amount of money that we saw that Damon wasn't going to be there. That's all, it was a disgrace."

Williams to continue with Villeneuve and Frentzen

With the clash with Breen, Frank Williams was completely done with the situation and so the team decided to look for a replacement for Hill. Eventually, Heinz-Harald Frentzen was contracted as teammate of Jacques Villeneuve who debuted in 1996. In 1997 Villeneuve and Williams won world titles, also the last titles for the team. In retrospect, Head believes Williams and Hill were wrong to part ways. "It was a big mistake and maybe egos and other things got in the way," he said.

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