Damon Hill is one of the most successful and popular British racing drivers of all time. He is the son of Graham Hill, a two-time Formula One World Champion.
Damon is the only son of a champion to also win the title himself. He competed in Formula One from 1992 to 1999, winning 22 races and the 1996 championship. He also drove for some of the most prestigious teams in the sport, such as Williams, Arrows, and Jordan.
This article will explore each stage of his remarkable racing career, from his humble beginnings on motorbikes to his triumphant farewell at Suzuka.
Damon Hill Birthplace and Childhood
Damon Graham Devereux Hill was born on September 17, 1960 in Hampstead, London, England. His father, Graham Hill, was a racing driver in the international Formula One series.
He won the world Drivers’ Championship in 1962 and 1968 and became a well-known personality in the United Kingdom. His mother, Bette (née Shubrook), was a former rower and medalist at the European Rowing Championships.
Damon grew up around Formula One and was accustomed to visits from family friends such as Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, John Surtees, and Jackie Stewart. He was not very interested in cars as a child, and preferred motorcycles instead.
He received his first bike when he was 11 years old and started racing karts in his teens.
Damon’s childhood was shattered by the death of his father in an airplane crash in 1975, when he was only 15 years old.
The accident also killed several members of his father’s Formula One team. The insurance claims wiped out all the family savings.
This left Damon, his mother, and his two sisters Samantha and Brigitte in drastically reduced circumstances.
Where Did Damon Hill Receive His Education?
Damon attended the independent The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Hertfordshire.
He studied English, history, economics, and business administration. Hill was not very academic and did not enjoy school much. He later said that he felt like an outsider among his classmates.
To help finance his education, Damon worked as a laborer and as a motorcycle courier.
He also played guitar in a band called Sex Hitler and the Hormones3. He left school at the age of 18 without any qualifications.
Damon Hill Parents
Damon’s parents were both very influential in his life and career. His father, Graham Hill, was a racing legend who inspired Damon to follow his footsteps.
Graham had become a champion through dedication, persistence, and hard work. He was also noted for his keen sense of humor and charisma.
He taught Damon how to cope with pressure, adversity, and competition. Graham also gave him the London Rowing Club’s insignia as his helmet design, which Damon used throughout his career.
His mother, Bette Hill, was also a very competitive and single-minded person.
She met Graham at the London Rowing Club, where she also rowed for England. His mum supported Damon’s racing ambitions, even after Graham’s death.
She helped him find sponsors and manage his finances.
Bette was very proud of Damon’s achievements and often attended his races.
Damon Hill Siblings
Damon has two sisters: Samantha and Brigitte. Samantha is older than Damon by two years, while Brigitte is younger by four years.
They were very close as children, especially after their father’s death. They helped each other cope with the loss and the financial difficulties that followed.
Samantha became a journalist and a writer. She wrote a biography of her father called Life at the Limit: Triumph and Tragedy in Formula One.
She also co-wrote Damon’s autobiography called Watching the Wheels: My Autobiography with him.
Brigitte became a photographer and a filmmaker. She made a documentary about her father called Graham Hill: Driven.
She also worked with Damon on some of his projects, such as his music album called At Speed.
Damon Hill Wife and Children
Damon met his wife Georgie at Brands Hatch circuit in 1988. She was working as a secretary for Eddie Jordan Racing at the time. They got married in 1990 and have four children.
Oliver is the oldest son, born in 1991. He is a racing driver, who competed in Formula Renault and Formula 3. He also worked as a test driver for Williams F1 in 2011.
Joshua is the second son, born in 1994. He is also a racing driver, who competed in Formula Ford and Formula Renault. He retired from racing in 2013, citing a lack of passion and funding.
Tabitha is the oldest daughter, born in 1996. She is a singer and a songwriter, who performs under the name Tabytha. She released her debut album called The Journey in 2018.
Rosie is the youngest daughter, born in 1999. She is a student and a model, who has appeared in campaigns for brands such as Burberry and Dior.
How Did Damon Hill Get Into Motor Racing?
Damon Hill started his motor racing career on motorcycles, which he raced from 1981 to 1985. He then switched to single-seater cars, racing in Formula Ford, Formula Three and Formula 3000.
Damon did not achieve much success or support in these categories, but he impressed the Williams team with his hard work and dedication as a test driver.
He made his Formula One debut in 1992 with the struggling Brabham team, where he only qualified for two races out of eight.
Damon Hill – Motorbike Racing (1981-1984)
He started racing on bikes in 1981, at the age of 21, after working as a laborer and a motorcycle courier to finance his education.
He prepared his own bikes and towed them to the races, where he slept in a tent. Damon competed in various categories, such as 350cc and 750cc production classes, and showed some talent and speed.
He also suffered many crashes and injuries. He won his first race in 1983 at Brands Hatch, but decided to switch to cars the following year, after realizing that he had reached his limit on bikes.
Damon Hill – Formula Ford (1985)
In 1985, Hill found enough sponsorship for a season of Formula Ford racing, a popular entry-level category for aspiring single-seater drivers.
He drove for Van Diemen, a leading team in the series, and had a promising debut year. He won two races, at Thruxton and Silverstone, and finished fifth in the championship.
Damon impressed everyone with his determination and work ethic, as he often helped the mechanics with the car maintenance and setup.
He gained some useful media attention for being Graham Hill’s son, although he preferred to be judged on his own merits.
Damon Hill – Formula Three (1986-1988)
In 1986, Hill graduated to Formula Three, a more competitive and prestigious category that was seen as a stepping stone to Formula One.
He drove for Murray Taylor Racing, a small and underfunded team that struggled to match the pace of the frontrunners. Hill had a difficult first season, scoring only one point and finishing 21st in the championship.
He had several accidents and mechanical failures that hampered his progress. However, he did not give up and continued to work hard to improve his driving skills and car setup.
In 1987, Hill switched to Intersport Racing, another low-budget team that offered him more freedom and responsibility.
He had a better season than before, scoring two podiums at Donington Park and Brands Hatch, and finishing ninth in the championship. Damon showed some flashes of brilliance, such as qualifying second at Silverstone and leading the race until he spun off.
In 1988, Hill moved to West Surrey Racing (WSR), one of the top teams in Formula Three. WSR had won the previous two championships with Mauricio Gugelmin and Johnny Herbert.
Hill had high expectations for his third season in the category. He faced stiff competition from his teammates Martin Donnelly and JJ Lehto, as well as other rivals such as Jean Alesi and Mika Hakkinen.
Hill managed to win three races that year.
- Silverstone (where he beat Alesi by 0.01 seconds)
- Thruxton (where he overtook Lehto on the last lap)
- Brands Hatch (where he dominated from pole position).
He also scored six other podiums and finished third in the championship behind Lehto and Alesi.
Damon Hill: His Formula 3000 Journey (1987 – 1991)
Hill started his single-seater career in Formula Ford and Formula Three, but he did not have much success or support in these classes.
He decided to move up to Formula 3000 in 1987, hoping to attract more attention and sponsorship.
Damon joined the Lola team, but he struggled to adapt to the more powerful and complex cars. He scored only one point in his debut season, finishing 18th in the championship.
In 1988, Hill switched to the Middlebridge team, driving a Reynard chassis. He improved his results, scoring three podiums and finishing seventh in the standings.
Damon also made his first appearance in the British Formula 3000 Championship, a new series that ran alongside the international one.
He won the first race at Brands Hatch, beating future F1 rival Michael Schumacher.
Hill stayed with Middlebridge for 1989, but he faced tougher competition from Schumacher and Jean Alesi, who dominated the season. Hill managed to score two more podiums, but he also had several retirements and collisions.
He ended up ninth in the championship, while also competing in six races of the British F3000 series, where he took one pole position and one fastest lap.
GA Motorsport Team
In 1990, Hill joined the GA Motorsport team, hoping for a fresh start. He had a strong season, taking three pole positions and leading five races.
However, he was unable to convert any of them into wins, due to bad luck or mechanical failures. He finished fourth in the championship, behind Erik Comas, Luca Badoer and Allan McNish.
Hill’s final season in Formula 3000 was 1991, when he rejoined Lola as their lead driver. He had a disappointing year, scoring only two points and finishing 14th in the standings.
He was overshadowed by his teammate Pedro Chaves, who won two races and finished third in the championship.
Hill’s Formula 3000 career was not very successful, but it was an important step in his development as a driver.
Damon Hill – Formula 1 (1992 – 1999)
Hill made his Formula One debut in 1992 with the struggling Brabham team, where he only qualified for two races out of eight.
The Williams Team
Hill impressed the Williams F1 team with his hard work and dedication as a test driver. He was promoted to their race team in 1993, replacing Nigel Mansell., who had left for IndyCar racing.
Damon took his first win at the Hungarian Grand Prix that year and finished third in the championship behind Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
Damon vs. Schumacker
In 1994, Hill became the main rival of Michael Schumacher for the title, after the death of Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix. The two drivers clashed several times on and off the track.
The most famous incident was at the Australian Grand Prix. Schumacher crashed into a barrier, and when he reentered the track, he collided with Hill. Both drivers retired, but Schumacher had enough points to secure his first championship by a single point.
Hill continued to challenge Schumacher in 1995 but was unable to match the German’s dominance in the Benetton car. He won four races and finished second in the championship again. In 1996, Hill finally achieved his dream of becoming world champion, winning eight races, and beating his teammate Jacques Villeneuve by 19 points.
The Arrows Team
However, Hill was dropped by Williams for 1997, and moved to the less competitive Arrows team. He surprised everyone by almost winning the Hungarian Grand Prix that year but was denied by a mechanical failure on the last lap.
The Jordan Team
He then joined Jordan in 1998, where he gave the team their first win at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Damon Hill’s Retirement
Hill retired from racing after the 1999 season, having scored 360 points and 42 podiums in his career. He is widely regarded as one of the best drivers of his era, and a worthy successor to his father’s legacy.
Damon is also known for his fierce determination, his sense of humor and his sportsmanship.
Hill currently works as a pundit for Sky Sports F1, providing expert analysis during free practice sessions.
He is also a former president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), which owns and operates Silverstone Circuit.
He was awarded an OBE in 1997 for his services to motor racing.
Damon Hill Greatest Achievements
Despite these difficulties, Damon Hill achieved many great things in his Formula One career. Some of his greatest achievements are:
- Winning the Formula One World Championship in 1996.
- Winning the British Grand Prix twice (1994 and 1995), a race his father never won.
- Winning the Japanese Grand Prix twice (1994 and 1996), a race that decided both his title losses and wins.
- Winning the Belgian Grand Prix in 1998 with Jordan, giving them their first ever win.
- Almost winning the Hungarian Grand Prix in 1997 with Arrows, leading until the last lap before a throttle problem slowed him down.
- Becoming one of only five drivers to win races with three different teams (Williams, Arrows and Jordan).
- Becoming one of only two sons of a world champion to win the title himself (the other being Nico Rosberg).
- Becoming one of only three drivers to win races in both Formula One and IndyCar (the others being Mario Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve).
Damon Hill’s Racing Statistics
|360 (3 points per race average)
|1992 Spanish Grand Prix
|1999 Japanese Grand Prix
|1993 Hungarian Grand Prix
|1998 Belgian Grand Prix
Damon Hill’s Formula One career was an amazing story of resilience, dedication and success. He began his racing journey on motorcycles and fought hard to reach the pinnacle of motorsport.
Damon emulated his father Graham Hill, a two-time world champion, and became one himself in 1996. He also won 22 Grand Prix and raced for Brabham, Williams, Arrows and Jordan, giving them some of their best results.
Hill hung up his helmet in 1999, having established himself as one of the greatest British drivers in history.
He also showed his personality, humor and sportsmanship throughout his career. He is a Formula One legend and a role model for many.