|First race||Spanish Grand Prix||Catalunya||May 3, 1992||Race results|
|Last race||Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka||October 31, 1999||Race results|
While the name may have helped Damon Hill get in to Formula One, it was his ability that won him his world championship. Hill was just two years old when his father Graham won his first title, and following in his footsteps means they remain to this day the only father-son pairing to become the Formula One Drivers' World Champion.
Hill was never overly interested in four-wheeled racing, instead much preferring motorbikes as a child. After the sudden death of his father in a plane crash in 1975, Hill was forced to have to provide for himself financially from a young age. One of his early jobs was as a motorcycle courier, and more time on a bike eventually saw him start racing at the relatively late age of 21. With his mother unhappy at the dangers of racing on two wheels, she persuaded him to take a course at the Winfield Racing School in France. He managed to get drives intermittently until 1985 when he was able to get together enough sponsorship for a season in Formula Ford, and his career in cars had begun.
He made a solid if unspectacular start in a Van Diemen, winning six races. Hill made the same sort of progress in Formula Three, displaying hard work and endeavour but not being rated too highly. He showed enough promise to gain a drive in F3000 though, and although he didn't win a race, he took five pole positions to display his competitiveness. It was enough to impress Frank Williams, who put the fact that he was "a tough bastard" ahead of any racing record, and took him on as a test driver in 1991.
His first opportunity in Formula One came with the declining Brabham team the following year. Although in an uncompetitive car, he managed to qualify for two grands prix, including his home race which Nigel Mansell won in the Williams Hill had helped to develop. Further testing mileage in the Williams meant Hill was given a race seat at the end of the season when Mansell moved to IndyCar.
Three wins in his first full season at the age of 33 showed further promise, and following Ayrton Senna's death at Imola in 1994, Hill took over the role of lead driver. Despite being well over thirty points behind Michael Schumacher, victory at the British Grand Prix coupled with Schumacher's disqualification and subsequent banning meant Hill took the title battle down to the final race after his sixth win in Japan. The Adelaide decider will be remembered for all the wrong reasons though, as Schumacher and Hill collided, handing Schumacher the championship by one point amid accusations that he deliberately caused the incident.
Hill had to make do with runner-up to Schumacher again in 1995, taking only four wins in what was widely regarded as the quickest car on the grid. Under some pressure, Hill responded the following season by winning four of the opening five races. His form dropped off towards the middle of the year though, and rookie team-mate Jacques Villeneuve took the championship all the way to the last round in Suzuka, where Hill comfortably won to finally take his place among the world champions.
Those dips in form had led Williams to lose faith though, and by the time he won his title it was already announced that he was to be replaced. Hill joined Arrows where he suffered a miserable season, failing to start the first race in Melbourne. He had to wait until the British Grand Prix to score his first point, and then pulled out a remarkable drive in Hungary, leading comfortably before getting stuck in second gear and losing the lead on the last lap before salvaging second place.
In 1998 he made the switch to Jordan, and managed to turn the team in to regular points scorers before taking their first ever win as they secured a one-two at Spa. Having finished sixth in the championship hopes were increased for the following year, but a poor campaign followed and Hill retired at the end of the season.
Strengths and Weaknesses
His hard-work ethic, dignity and decency earned him one of the best cars of his era and made him a fantastic team player. But he couldn't always back it up with the types of performances that saw Schumacher beat him to consecutive world titles in 1994 and 1995.
Securing his 1996 world championship at the last race in Suzuka, having already been dropped by his Williams team for the following season.
Losing team-mate Ayrton Senna to a crash at Imola in 1994.
"You should never feel comfortable. There is something wrong if you are. You should always feel under threat, on the edge of your seat and pushing yourself. Win one and you want to win more. It's never-ending."
"Damon has proved himself to have more integrity and dignity in his little finger than most people have got in their whole body." Hill's wife Georgie after Damon was dropped by Williams.
Hill plays a guitar solo in the song "Demolition Man" on the Def Leppard album Euphoria.