- April 20, 1927
- August 28, 2008
- United States
- Not Active
- Ferrari Porsche,Cooper Car Co.,ATS,Anglo-American Racers
Phil Hill was an American racing driver who won the 1961 Formula One championship and scored three overall victories at 24 Hours of Le Mans (1958, 1961 and 1962). Up to this day, Phil Hill is the only United States-born driver to have won the F1 title and also the first American to celebrate at Le Mans.
Close battle for the championship title against best friend and team-mate
Every Formula One championship title had some amazing stories behind it, but Hill's journey to his first and only F1 title was one of the most tragic ones. He won the 1961 title by winning the Italian Grand Prix at Monza where his friend, team-mate and rival Wolfgang von Trips was killed.
After six races, Von Trips was the championship leader with two wins, Hill was second with one victory and four podiums. The penultimate race of the season was decisive. They began the race at Monza knowing that one of them was almost certain to be crowned as the world champion at the end.
Von Trips was killed in an accident, Phil Hill became the champion
Two hours later, Hill won the race and became America's first Formula 1 champion, whereas Von Trips ended up dead along with 15 killed spectators when his Ferrari crashed into the crowd.
Hill knew there had been an accident but the race continued. After taking the checkered flag, he heard the grim news about his friend. On the other side, the crowd was waiting for him to celebrate, but it was a bittersweet event.
Monza's victory was the last in Hill's career
Ferrari didn't compete at the last race of the season, US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, and Hill missed the opportunity to participate in his home race as the newly-crowned World Champion.
Although many people asked Hill about his retirement, he continued his career and retired six years later, in 1967. He never won an F1 race again and the season of 1961 remained as the peak of his career.
Three Le Mans victories for Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill
In the same year, he scored his second victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving the Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa together with Olivier Gendebien. They repeated the success in 1962, driving the Ferrari 330 TRI LM Spyder. It was the third overall victory of the duo Hill – Gendebien, they scored their maiden win in 1958.
Phil Hill was a Scuderia Ferrari driver since 1955, when he debuted at Le Mans, driving a Ferrari 121LM. Before that, he drove private Ferraris at various races, while he made his Le Mans debut in 1953 driving an OSCA MT-4 1300.
Hill raced at the famous 1958 Gran Premio de Cuba
Phil Hill (full name Philip Toll Hill Jr.) was born on April 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida. He started his racing career in 1947 with an MG-TC two-seater. In 1949, he moved to England as a Jaguar trainee. After a few years of racing in Europe, Enzo Ferrari hired him in 1955. He competed at some non-championship F1 races, even scored a victory at the 1956 Swedish Grand Prix at Kristianstad. He also participated in the famous 1958 Grand Prix at Cuba, when Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped before the race and the event was stopped after Cifuentes crashed into the crowd, killing seven people.
Formula One debut at the 1958 French Grand Prix
For his Formula One championship debut he waited until 1958. It wasn't with Ferrari, but with Joakim Bonnier's Maserati 250F at the French Grand Prix. In August 1958, he debuted with Ferrari Dino 156 at the German Grand Prix. First successes followed on the last two races of the season, on Italian and Moroccan GP. In both races he finished in third place.
Loss of Musso and Collins opened the gate for Hill
In 1959, he became a full-time Scuderia Ferrari driver, because Ferrari lost two drivers in the previous season (Luigi Musso and Peter Collins). Hill earned three podiums and finished the season fourth in the standings. The season of 1960 was less successful regarding the points, but he scored his first F1 Grand Prix victory at Monza.
The season of 1961 was victorious and tragic, as we mentioned before. When Hill returned for the following season, again with Ferrari, he admitted that he lost his inspiration and didn't want to risk too much fighting for victories. He scored three podiums and finished sixth in the championship.
Hill's Formula 1 attempts with ATS, Cooper and Eagle
After leaving Ferrari, Phil Hill and his fellow driver Giancarlo Baghetti started driving for their new team ATS, but the 1963 season was disappointing. In 1964, Hill participated in nine races driving for Cooper Cars and collected just one single point. His biggest success was fifth place overall at the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans with a factory-prepared Ford GT40 MkI.
In 1965, Hill left Formula One and switched to Tasman Series, driving for Cooper Cars. In 1966, he had one last attempt at Formula One, with Eagle T1G at the Italian Grand Prix, but he hadn't qualified for the race.
The last career's win with Chaparral 2F
From 1966, Hill became the leading driver of Jim Hall's Chaparral Cars. He was fourth in the Can-Am championship, competed in the World Sports-Prototype Championship and recorded one more race at Le Mans. Phil Hill and Joakim Bonnier were driving the Chaparral 2D, but retired after 111 laps.
Victorious end of the career
The following year's Le Mans attempt was again disappointing - Phil Hill and Mike Spence retired after 225 laps driving the Chaparral 2F. Hill's last race was BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch, which was part of the World Sports-Prototype Championship. Driving the Chaparral 2F, Phil won his last race and achieved the best possible ending to a brilliant career.
Peaceful life after racing
Immediately after retirement, Hill built up a classic car restoration business, together with Ken Vaughn. The business remained active for decades. In the meantime, Hill also worked as a television commentator for ABC and a writer for Road & Track magazine.
Phil Hill's son also was a racer
For nearly 40 years, he had been a judge at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance at Monterey. Hill died in August 2008, after a short illness from complications of the Parkinson’s Disease. Since 1971, Hill was married to Alma and had three children: Derek, Vanessa and Jennifer. Derek raced in International Formula 3000 in 2001, 2002 and 2003, but was forced to retire when Hill became ill with Parkinson's Disease.