Damon Hill

Damon Hill

Expert Analyst

Biography

A former World Champion and BRDC President , Damon Hill is uniquely well-qualified to speak on F1. But it's arguably his 'likeability' which makes him such a valued pundit.

Retiring from the cockpit in 1999, Damon now moves behind the mic and his affable nature has proved an overwhelming hit with viewers.

Damon Hill Links

The high-profile recruit to Sky Sports F1 is that rarest of breed: a former World Champion. Rarer still, he is also a former President of the British Racing Drivers' Club. It is thus hard to imagine anyone being more qualified to speak on F1 matters than Damon.

Yet when Sky Sports F1 celebrated Damon's acquisition as the icing on their multi-layered cake early in 2012, it wasn't simply because of his status and the respect it demands. As a pundit, Damon's value must also be measured in that intangible but substantial matter of 'likeability'. Simply put, there have been few British sportsmen in recent years with Damon's affable, bloke-ish appeal.

That much was highly apparent at the peak of his career during the mid-1990s when his rivalry with Michael Schumacher was encouraged by the tabloid press, who certainly knew a ratings winner when they saw it: in the red corner, a haughty-looking German with a win-at-all-costs attitude; in the blue corner, a modest Englishman who always seemed a bit embarrassed by the attention and success.

An aversion to the spotlight was not something you could ever accuse Damon's father Graham of. The pair are F1's only father-and-son World Champions but Damon's entry into motorsport was hardly the stuff of an Andretti or Stewart.

Tragically denied his father's guiding hand after Graham was killed in a plane crash in 1975, Damon did not race a car until he was 23, having first satisfied his passion for motorcycle racing. That love was fed by jobs such as dispatch riding and a stint on a building site, and finances remained a struggle once Hill made the switch to four wheels.

On the ladder to the top, it seemed at times that the snakes might win out. Hill's climb through Formula Ford, F3 and F3000 was erratic but having shone in the latter category, despite being lumbered with uncompetitive equipment, his luck was about to change.

In 1991, Hill was handed a position as test driver at Williams, just when their own fortunes were on an upward swing. The team won the World Championship the following year with Nigel Mansell but his subsequent departure suddenly and unexpectedly left what was then the most prized seat in F1 up for grabs.

Hill's fellow Sky Sports F1 pundit Martin Brundle was among the candidates but Hill - who had already made his F1 debut in an uncompetitive Brabham - was the chosen to fill the vacancy and, teamed with Alain Prost, he won four races in 1993. A title challenge came the following year but Damon instead lost out to Schumacher in circumstances best described as controversial, with Hill losing out on the World Championship to the German following their collision at the season-ending Australian GP.

Schumacher's dominance was supreme in 1995, but his decision to join a then uncompetitive Ferrari left the track clear the following year for World Championship glory. As it transpired, Hill's biggest rival in 1996 was rookie team-mate Jacques Villeneuve but experience eventually won out, with Damon's unforgettable title-winning success delivered despite Williams already deciding to replace him.

Two more highlights were to follow: a nearly-but-not-quite push for victory in the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix for Arrows, one year before an actual one for Jordan - the team's first - in Belgium. Hill called it a day from F1 driver duties in 1999 but a significant postscript was his served-with-distinction tenure as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, during which Silverstone secured its long-term status as host of the British Grand Prix.

Mission accomplished, Damon stood down from the post in April 2011 - paving the way for his move to Sky Sports F1 and the latest chapter in his remarkable motor-racing career.

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