In 1996 Damon Hill became the first son of a former world champion, Graham Hill, to have won the F1 world championship himself. The Hills became part of the history of the sport.
Many regarded Hill during his career as a mediocre driver, and put down his success to luck, as he was driving the best car on the grid for four seasons between 1993 and 1996. Though I would agree that Hill most certainly was not on the same level as Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher, I would also say that he was a lot better than many give him credit for, and for me his five best drives prove that.
1996 Brazilian GP
Hill had the perfect start to his 1996 season by winning the first race in Australia. Still, his doubters could point to the fact that his rookie teammate Villeneuve had the better of Hill during qualifying and most of the race, and it was only a slight mistake of Villeneuve that gifted the win to Hill.
Things were a lot different in Brazil. Hill dominated the weekend and took pole position in the qualifying session by nearly a second from Rubens Barrichello.
Hill retained his lead at the start of the race and started to pull immediately away from the field. His teammate Villeneuve was second behind him, but Hill was 2-3 seconds quicker than him during the first 10 laps of the race and built a huge lead for himself. As the track started to dry Villeneuve came under pressure from Jean Alesi, and spun out after a few laps of fight with the Benetton driver.
Alesi started to peg the gap to Hill afterwards, but was unable to close up to the Englishman who went on to win the race. Hill impressively lapped every driver who finished the race, bar second-place man Alesi.
1996 Monaco GP
The father of Damon Hill, Graham Hill, was a real master around the streets of Monte Carlo and won the race on numerous occasions. Damon Hill took a superb pole position in 1995, but was unable to keep up with Michael Schumacher during the race and in the end finished a distant second.
Things were a bit different in 1996. Hill had a stunning start to the 1996 season and was the runaway championship leader coming into Monte Carlo, winning four of the first five races. Michael Schumacher shone in qualifying and took an unexpected pole position for Ferrari.
The race started in wet conditions and Hill passed Schumacher at the start. The Williams driver was quicker than his rival, and pulled away from him. Schumacher struggled in the first lap, and with half a lap gone he hit the barrier and was out of the race.
This left Benetton’s Jean Alesi in second place, but he did not have a prayer of a chance to keep up with Hill, who built a half minute lead. Hill looked in control after 40 laps and was a hot favourite to win the race when disaster struck and an engine failure forced him to retire and robbed him of a well-deserved victory in Monaco.
1994 Australian GP
With 15 races gone out of the 16 -race season Michael Schumacher was leading the championship with one point from Damon Hill.
Hill scored a superb victory in Japan in the previous race and the morale of the Williams team was high.
In the qualifying of the Australian GP it was the returning Nigel Mansell who took pole position from the two championship rival. Schumacher and Hill immediately passed Mansell at the start and the two started to pull away from the rest of the grid.
Hill was able to keep pace with Schumacher, but the German was not under immediate attack either. Things remained so until the first pit stops were done. After the stops, Schumacher pulled a small lead, but seemingly the pace was too hot for him and he made a mistake and hit the wall.
Hill was immedietaly upon Schumacher and tried to pass the German, but the two collided. Schumacher was in the wall after the collision, but the car of Hill was also damaged and the damage was bad enough to force Hill to retire from the race.
It was rotten luck for Hill, who did everything right in the race and pushed his rival into a mistake.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- Damon Hill won his first F1 race in 1993.
1997 Hungarian GP
Despite winning the 1996 title, Frank Williams sacked Hill at the end of the season. Hill remained without a competitive machine for the 1997 season when he only found a drive at Arrows.
The car was very uncompetitive in the beginning of the season and Hill scored a single point in the first 10 races of the season. Hill had been very fast around the Hungaroring in the previous years, but his quick pace in 1997 surprised everyone.
Hill took an impressive third place in qualifying, finishing behind the two championship contenders Michael Schumacher and Jaques Villeneuve.
Hill had a decent start and passed Villeneuve after the lights went out. Hill was able to keep pace with leader Schumacher and even passed him on lap 11. The Ferrari was struggling badly with the Goodyear tyres that were degrading fast in the scorching Hungarian summer. While Schumacher was rapidly dropping back, Hill was comfortable in the lead. The only man who may have had a shot at taking the lead from Hill was Frentzen, who chose a different Goodyear compound from the other top drivers, but he was soon out with a technical problem.
Hill built a massive half a minute lead from second place man Villeneuve during the race and was well on his way to a win when throttle problems forced him to slow down and allowed Villeneuve to catch and pass him on the last lap of the race.
1994 Japanese GP
After the tragic death of Ayrton Senna, every analyst and pundit conceded that the 1994 title would be won by Michael Schumacher. The German looked utterly dominant in the first half of the season, but controversies emerged around Benetton as the season progressed, and disqualifications and race suspensions allowed Hill to catch up to Schumacher in the championship. Still, once Schumacher was back he trounced Hill in Jerez, and most expected the same pattern to continue in the last two races of the season.
Schumacher shone again in the qualifying of the Japanese GP by taking a dominant pole position. Hill took second place but was nearly half a second behind Schumacher.
The race was wet and the conditions were appalling. Numerous drivers crashed out and aquaplaning was a huge problem. At one point the track became more or less undrivable, and the race had to be interrupted. Hill was having an exceptional race and despite his heavier fuel load (in comparison to Schumacher) he became the net leader of the race. After the restart Schumacher was the faster of the two but he was unable to pass Hill on the aggregate timing.
Hill won the race in the most difficult conditions any racing driver could have imagined and closed the gap with Schumacher to one point, as the two arrived at the title decider race at Adelaide.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Andrew Szekler