Phil Hill  United States

  • Full name Philip Toll Hill jnr
  • Birth date April 20, 1927
  • Birthplace Miami, Florida, United States
  • Date of death August 28, 2008 (81 years 130 days)
  • Place of death Salinas, California, United States
  • Teams A.T.S., Cooper, Eagle, Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Team Lotus
driver portrait
World Championship Career
Year Car Race Start Won Pod Class Best Pole Front Best Lap Hat Pts Pos
1958 Maserati, Ferrari 4 4 0 2 4 3 0 0 5 1 0 9 10
1959 Ferrari 7 7 0 3 5 2 0 1 3 1 0 20 4
1960 Ferrari, Cooper 9 9 1 2 7 1 1 3 1 2 1 16 5
1961 Ferrari 7 7 2 6 7 1 5 5 1 2 0 38 1
1962 Ferrari, Porsche 7 6 0 3 4 2 0 0 4 0 0 14 6
1963 Team Lotus, A.T.S. 6 6 0 0 1 11 0 0 13 0 0 0 -
1964 Cooper 9 9 0 0 5 6 0 0 8 0 0 1 19
1966 Team Lotus, Eagle 2 0 0 0 0 - 0 0 - 0 0 0 -
Total 51 48 3 16 33 1 6 9 1 6 1 98
Race Circuit Date
First race French Grand Prix Reims July 6, 1958 Race results
Last race Italian Grand Prix Monza September 4, 1966 Race results

Few Americans have cracked Formula One, only two have gone on to become world champion, and only one of those was actually born in the USA - Phil Hill.

Unlike many of his rivals, Hill was an introvert who constantly questioned his own abilities. At one stage early in his career he was sidelined with ulcers caused by his worrying about racing. He became increasingly aware of the high mortality rate in motor racing and cast a very nervous figure pre-race, chainsmoking and pacing the grid.

Hill is one of the least-known of all F1 champions, mainly because his one title, which was in 1961, was pretty much his one excellent season. It also came in the year when Ferrari had been quicker than its rivals to embrace new regulations which made its clear far and away the best in the field. Finally, his win was overshadowed by the death of team-mate Wolfgang von Trips, the title favourite, at Monza when he was leading the championship race.

Hill learned to take cars apart as a teenager, and following his parents' death he bought a Ferrari which he raced with great success, and by the mid 1950s he was one of the leading US sports car drivers. On the basis of this Enzo Ferrari invited him to drive at Le Mans, and the terrible scenes that day scarred him for years. Nevertheless, Ferrari signed him for 1956.

He enjoyed success with the team but pushed for a switch from sports cars to Formula One but Ferrari was not keen as he considered him unsuitable temperamentally. Frustrated, Hill privately entered a Maserati in a grand prix but then circumstance forced Ferrari's hand - the deaths of Luigi Musso and Peter Collins forced him to offer Hill a drive, and he did well enough to secure a permanent seat. In his first full season (1959) he was given an old front-engined Dino 246 but still collected a brace of seconds.

The first of his three wins came at Monza in 1960 - a race boycotted by British teams and the last-ever win by a rear-engined car - and in 1961 with Ferrari dominant, Hill, von Trips and Richie Ginther were almost unbeatable. Hill won twice, at Spa and then the ill-fated race at Monza, and the latter ensured he won the title albeit in tragic circumstances. It was a joyless triumph. "The papers reported that I broke down and sobbed, but that was not true," he said. "When you've lived as close to death and danger as long as I have, then your emotional defences are equal to almost anything."

In 1962 he struggled to repeat his form, leaving Ferrari at the end of the year as part of the management walk-out, switching to ATS and then Cooper, but he was not competitive with either team although he contined to enjoy great success in sports and endurance racing. He retired at the end of 1967, albeit in odd circumstances. At the start of 1968, he realised that he had forgotten to renew his international competition licence. In his own words, he found that he "had become a retired racing driver".

He started a classic car restoration business in California, and continued to take part in historic motor racing re-enactments until he was struck down with Parkinsons late in his life.
Martin Williamson

Strengths and weaknesses
Hill was fortunate to be driving for Ferrari at the time he did, but he was nevertheless a good driver who understood his cars and made very few mistakes. In his first season, 1958, his tactical racing was instrumental in team-mate Mike Hawthorn winning the championship, while Tony Brooks said he was an "accomplished and versatile driver". But his insecurity and nerves, which seemed to disappear during races, was most evident in the minutes before a grand prix.

Career high
Not in Formula One, but at Le Mans where he won the 24-Hours three times partnered by Belgian team-mate Olivier Gendebien.

Career low
The hour of his greatest success - winning the world title - was also the saddest. He arrived back at the pits to find out his team-mate von Trips was dead. "I didn't know until I came into the pits at the end," he said. "I said, 'How's Trips?' I knew it was him, because we got an order board soon after the accident and he was missing from it. I saw the way Carlo Chiti evaded my question, and I just knew right then."

"Racing makes me selfish, irritable, defensive. If I could get out of this sport with any ego left I would"

"I'm in the wrong business … I don't want to beat anybody"

Hill's three career wins is, along with Mike Hawthorn, the least recorded by any world champion

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