- September 17, 1960
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Damon Graham Deveraux Hill is a former racing driver from the United Kingdom. He is the only son who managed to repeat the success of his father and became Formula 1 World champion.
Happy days ended after tragedy
He was born in Hampstead, London, on 17th of September 1960 and as the son of legendary Graham Hill, Damon was involved in the racing world since his childhood. Damon attended one of the best schools in England, The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys School, but after the death of his father, living circumstances in Hill family were changed drastically and Damon had to start work early to continued his education.
Late start of racing career
Damon started his racing career relatively late. It was in 1981 when he entered motorcycle races and won the 350cc class at Brands Hatch. Short of money and without too many ambitions, Damon Hill was a real enthusiast without too many ambitions to make his name in the motorsports world. Later he attended Winfield Racing School in France and showed considerable talent over the years, competing in the British Formula Ford and achieving very good results.
In 1986, Hill was close to secure a place in the British Formula 3 Championship with West Surrey Racing team, but the deal fell through after Hill lost his sponsorship. Anyway, Damon desperately wanted to prove himself in the national championship, so with a borrowed money raced 1986 season for full-time with Murray Taylor Racing and drove pretty well before moving to Intersport with which he finished 3rd overall in 1988.
Lack of sponsorship deals slowed Hill's progress
Lack of financial backing slowed Damon’s progress through the ranks and later he said he was happy with a possibility to drive anything. Hill appeared as a guest in the various racing series like British Touring Car Championship, British Formula 3000 Championship and even in 24 Hours of Le Mans. During 1990, Hill got a chance to drive for Middlebridge Racing in Formula 3000 and despite driving well, winning a couple of pole positions and leading in many races but failing to win.
Test driver in Williams and first F1 race with Brabham
Thanks to a solid driving but also to his famous family name, in 1991 Damon was hired by championship-winning team Williams as a test driver. At the same time, Hill competed in Formula 3000, finally establishing himself as a quality driver, capable of competing in Formula 1.
After three races in 1992, struggling Brabham F1 team offered him a contract to replace Giovanna Amati. Damon qualified only for two Grand Prix races that year before the team retired from the competition due to lack of money. Anyway, Hill continued as a Williams’ test driver before he was offered a full-time contract in 1993, replacing reigning champion Nigel Mansell.
Damon made immediate impact in Formula 1
Driving alongside one of the best F1 drivers Alain Prost was an invaluable experience for Damon. Hill finally had a competitive car and he took an opportunity to show what he has. The start of the season was marked by ups and downs. He finished 2nd Interlagos and Donington Park but retired from three races.
Later in the season he scored two podiums before scoring three consecutive wins – at Hungaroring, when he became the first son of a Formula One Grand Prix winner to take victory himself, at Spa and Monza. At the end of the season, Hill was 3rd, behind his teammate Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Missing the 1994 title after controversial battle with Schumacher
In 1994, Hill again had a chance to drive alongside one of the best Formula 1 drivers ever. Ayrton Senna arrived in Williams to replace Prost and, sadly, that year the Brazilian was killed in the fatal crash at Imola. Due to circumstances, Hill became the team’s first driver and title contender. Despite being well behind Michael Schumacher in the standings at the midpoint of the season, Damon Hill managed to fight back.
Victory at the British Grand Prix, the race which his father never won, was a great boost for Damon. In the second half of the season, he again managed to win three races in a row (Belgium, Italy, Portugal), later also won in Japan, but still that wasn’t enough for the title. He was just a point behind Schumacher at the end of the year which was marked by controversial accident between the two at Australian Grand Prix. Many were thinking that the German racer intentionally caused the accident to kick Hill out of the race. Both cars were out of the race and Schumacher won the title. Many years after that accident, Hill also publicly accused Michael of making a collision deliberately.
Video - Damon Hill in his championship winning Williams
Formula 1 runner-up for the second year in a row
Rightfully, Hill was considered as the main title contender for 1995 Formula 1 World Championship. Unlike the previous two seasons, Hill better drove in the first half of the year. He won the races in Argentina and at Imola but three retirements in the mid-season eliminated Damon from the race for the throne. Until the end of the year, he won the races in Hungary and Australia to finish the season as a vice-champion, 33 points behind Michael Schumacher who defended his crown.
Third time lucky in 1996
After finishing twice as a championship runner-up, Damon Hill in 1996 finally won the F1 title. In his last year with Williams, British driver had the best season in his career. The start of 1996 was perfect after Hill won opening three races in Australia, Brazil, and Argentina. Until the end of the year, he also won Grand Prix races of San Marino, Canada, France, Germany and Japan, and also finished 2nd in the races in Hungary and Portugal.
Damon’s domination has resulted with 97 points, 19 ahead of vice-champion an, his teammate Jacques Villeneuve. Hill’s success was even bigger knowing that he failed to complete four races that year. Hill left the team after the end of the campaign as the second most successful driver considering a number of victories in the history of Williams team.
Disappointing year with Arrows
As a reigning champion without a team, Hill had an opportunity to choose where he will go but due to his high demands, not so many teams could afford his services. Surprisingly, Damon signed with Arrows team, one of the evergreen outsiders. Driving an uncompetitive car he surprised when he took 2nd place at Hungaroring what was one of the very rare Top 3 finishes in the history of Arrows. With only seven points on his account, Hill took 13th place overall in 1997.
Two years with Jordan
After a disappointing year with Arrows, Hill moved to Jordan team. The first half of 1998 was really poor because of the slow and unreliable car, but after improvements and modifications were made, the results have arrived. Damon scored points in four races and even won one Grand Prix, in Belgium, what was his last victory in Formula 1.
He stayed with the team in 1999, his last season in Formula 1, but it was obvious that Hill lacks passion and motivation. He had some notable performances, but couldn’t score any podium finish, so he earned just seven points to take 12th position overall. His last race was in Japan and ended infamously, with retiring after spun off the track.
Still active in motorsport
Despite many speculations, Damon’s racing career was ended, but he stayed involved in motorsports through various engagements. He appeared as a guest at many events, like Goodwood Festival of Speed but also acted as a president of British Racing Drivers’ Club. He was also very active as a TV commentator and wrote many articles, mainly for the F1 Racing magazine.
Interestingly, before he took the role of BRDC president in 2006, Damon Hill was active in music. He was playing guitar since his school days and later, as an F1 driver, he regularly played cover versions with other racers-musicians during British Grand Prix. After retiring from racing Hill appeared a couple of times in the various celebrity music bands.