Phil Hill

Phil Hill was the first American driver to win the F1 world championship, and one of the most respected and admired drivers of his era.

He was also a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a renowned sports car driver. He was known for his smooth and precise driving style, his technical knowledge, and his gentlemanly demeanor.

Hill was born in Miami, Florida, on April 20, 1927, but grew up in Santa Monica, California. He developed a passion for cars and mechanics at an early age and learned to drive in a Model T Ford.

Phil Hill: Ferrari

He dropped out of college to work as a mechanic and a racing driver, competing in various local events with his own MG-TC. In 1951, he bought a Ferrari and started to win races across the US.

In 1955, he was invited by Ferrari to join their endurance racing team at Le Mans, where he witnessed the worst disaster in motorsport history that killed over 80 people.

He was deeply affected by the tragedy but continued to race for Ferrari in sports cars and F1. He scored his first F1 podium at the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, and his first F1 win at the 1960 Italian Grand Prix.

Phil Hill Was the First American to Win an F1 Championship

Phil Hill

In 1961, Hill became the first American driver to win the F1 world championship, driving for Ferrari. He won two races and scored six podiums, beating his teammate Wolfgang von Trips by one point.

He also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second time with Olivier Gendebien, becoming the first driver to win both titles in the same year.

Hill stayed with Ferrari until 1962, when he won his third Le Mans with Gendebien, but lost the F1 title to Graham Hill.

Phil Hill: ATS

He then moved to ATS, a breakaway team formed by former Ferrari engineers and drivers. However, the team was uncompetitive and unreliable, and Hill scored no points in 1963. He then joined Cooper for 1964, where he scored two podiums and finished sixth in the championship.

Phil Hill: Cooper, Lotus, and Eagle.

Hill’s final F1 season was 1966, when he drove for three different teams:

  • Cooper
  • Lotus
  • Eagle.

He scored one point with Cooper at Monaco, but retired from all other races. Phildecided to focus on sports car racing, where he had more success and enjoyment.

He won several races in the US and Europe with Ford, Chaparral, and Lola.

Phil Hill: Retirement

Hill retired from racing in 1967, after suffering a serious crash at Brands Hatch that left him with facial injuries. He then became a motoring journalist and a vintage car collector and restorer.

Phil also served as a race steward and a commentator for F1 broadcasts.

He died on August 28, 2008, in Monterey, California, at the age of 81.


Hill was widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers of his generation, and one of the most influential figures in American motorsport.

He was inducted into various halls of fame, including the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Philwas also awarded the Legion of Honor by France for his achievements in racing. He was a true pioneer and a legend of F1.



By Jonny Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Jonny Noble I’m a dedicated F1 Writer – and I’ve Been One for Over Four Decades, I’ve been intimately immersed in the world of Formula One for more than 44 years. That’s longer than most professional commentators can boast! As an independent writer, I offer a unique perspective on the entire F1 landscape, free from biases that might cloud the discussion. We dive deep into the exhilarating, frustrating, and captivating facets of the F1 universe. So, regardless of my amateur status, one thing is undeniable: four decades of dedicated F1 fandom have forged strong opinions worth exploring!