Phil Hill, America’s first Formula One world champion and the only American-born driver ever to win the title, has died in California, aged 81.
The Florida-born driver’s early success came in sportscar racing; he won the Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours in 1958. But when Mike Hawthorn retired at the end of 1958, Hill stepped into Ferrari’s F1 team on a full-time basis. He won his first GP at Monza in 1960, then secured the world title at the same circuit a year later.
His glory came in sad circumstances, though; team-mate Wolfgang Von Trips was killed after a collision with Jim Clark, and 15 spectators were also killed in the accident.
Hill, who had won his first ever motor race in 1949, duly won his last, the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch in 1967. After retiring from motorsport he turned his attention to a classic car restoration business, but he remained a regular visitor to the F1 paddock; his personable nature made him a fine host for Grand Prix Tours, and he also worked for Road & Track magazine.
Fittingly, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo led tributes to Hill, saying:“I, as well as all employees of Ferrari, am extremely saddened by the news of the passing of Phil Hill, a man and a champion who gave so much to Ferrari and who has always greatly represented the company's values inside and outside the racing track.”