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How Good Was Damon Hill ?


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#1 RaggedyMan

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:10

Now I'm biased. He was and remains my favourite driver. I loved the way he went about his business in a gritty and dignified way with little drama that surrounds some. 

 

As much as I loved following Damon, I'm also realistic to recognise that he had some bad days in the office particularly towards the end of the 1995 season. But then he was resiliant enough to came back focussed and bagged the championship. Many say he only managed that because he had a Newey designed car but............so have many others in recent years.

 

He had some pretty illustrious team mates. I can't think of many other drivers that had so many World Champions as team mates. Something that many in F1 don't have to contend with. But that can be tempered by the fact that they were somewhere in the twilight years of their carears, or in their rookie years. It also seemed that which ever team he drove for, the car appeared to move up the grid due to in part his skills as a test driver. Some went backwards after he left. 

 

So thats my starter for debate. How do we rate him ? 

 

 

 

 



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#2 Beri

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:16

I'd say he was what Daniel Ricciardo is today. He's good and in a good car he will be able to beat everyone. But in a mediocre car, he is just field filling.

#3 thiscocks

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:22

Better than Vettel 



#4 Marklar

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:23

He was an okay driver, but I feel like due to him getting "robbed" of the 1994 title (or at least that's the narrative) he has been massively overrated. None of his seasons stood out, but 1995 and 1999 were garbage.

Granted, that's all not a bad thing considering at what age he entered F1.


Edited by Marklar, 24 March 2020 - 16:26.


#5 garoidb

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:24

I'd say he was what Daniel Ricciardo is today. He's good and in a good car he will be able to beat everyone. But in a mediocre car, he is just field filling.

 

I tend to think perceptions are affected by the fact that he had the good cars first, then the less good ones. He won a race for Jordan and he nearly won one for Arrows. In and of itself, that is not proof of anything but I think it means we can't just absent mindedly attribute everything to the Williams cars. 


Edited by garoidb, 24 March 2020 - 16:27.


#6 jonpollak

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:33

Read his book.

You'll be ever so more impressed.

Jp



#7 Risil

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:38

Not as quick as Senna, Prost or Michael Schumacher, but probably quicker than Coulthard or Ralf Schumacher. Definitely a lot quicker than Pedro Diniz.

 

It's hard to be sure in one's judgements and comparisons because his career trajectory was unique. But he won in a Jordan and almost won in an Arrows.

 

And how good was he? One of the best human beings to ever win a world championship of anything.



#8 Requiem84

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:41

He could drive quite fast while making it look slow. I liked that actually.

#9 Peat

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:41

Intelligent driver. Put the work in the make up for his lack of the last 1/1000th. 

 

1995 was painful to watch, delighted he won in 96. 

 

Crap in go-kart. Thoroughly nice man. 



#10 Risil

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:48

Intelligent driver. Put the work in the make up for his lack of the last 1/1000th.

 

Every car he drove got better the more time he spent in it, right?



#11 Kalmake

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:54

Every car he drove got better the more time he spent in it, right?

The Jordan got undrivable for him.



#12 Anuity

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:55

I think Alesi/Berger were better than him.

He has a sticker of being a “gentleman” but some of his on track antics just don’t follow this narrative.
His blocking of Michael on numerous occasions in 1997/1998 was pretty pathetic.

#13 Risil

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 16:56

By his own admission Hill realized in 1999 that he just wanted to get out in one piece. I suppose in retrospect he probably ought to have retired, Lauda-style, and let Eddie Jordan find someone new to partner Frentzen.



#14 AnttiK

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:10

Like has already been mentioned, probably one of the greatest test drivers of all time. Every team he joined went up in his tenure  and started to go down as soon as he left.  Remember,  he joined Williams already in 1991 as a test driver. Fantastic hardworking gritty attitude and willpower. Not a slouch in terms of pure speed either. On his day capable of some pretty stunning lap times and performances. Quite often shone in the wet (1994 Suzuka, 1995 Imola, 1996 Interlagos, 1996 Monaco, 1998 Spa).
 
The most glaring minus side...often struggled quite bad with wheel to wheel racing. Quite many rather clumsy moments and races come to mind when he had to fight his way through from behind and put some decisive and good overtaking moves in. 1995 Silverstone, 1995 Spa, 1995 Monza, 1995 Nürburgring, 1995 Aida, 1996 Nürburgring and 1997 Imola come to mind immediately straight from the top of my head. His "defence" against Schumacher in 1998 Montreal was probably some of the most dangerous and dirtiest driving that has ever been seen in F1. He just seemed to lack any kind of natural feel for wheel to wheel racing, which then lead to "forced unnatural movements" and occasional wtf moments and incidents. 
 
Anyway, deserved World Champion for all his qualities.

Edited by AnttiK, 24 March 2020 - 17:14.


#15 Disgrace

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:11

I always wonder how he good he would have been had he not started in his 30s.



#16 PayasYouRace

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:16

Read his book.

You'll be ever so more impressed.

Jp

 

That is the best advice that can be given.

 

----------------------To all------------------------

 

Damon was a thoroughly excellent Grand Prix driver, especially considering that if he had the typical racing upbringing of his generation he'd have got to F1 a decade earlier than he did. But he had the misfortune of being up against Michael Schumacher. Even if we ignore the shenanigans of 1994, very few drivers would have looked good against Michael.

 

Damon's qualities as a driver came from his work ethic and technical ability rather than so-called "natural talent". Certainly from 1994 to 1998 he was in the top 5 drivers in F1.



#17 Luca Pacchiarini

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:22

You know what, it's always been difficult for me:
I really want to like him.
His family story. His committment. His honesty. He was a likeable loser and a gracious winner.

But then, I can't ignore all the "I don't remember" at the Senna process...

Still, a quick driver!

#18 Blundle

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:33

I don't agree with the notion that Hill lacked natural talent and made up for it with dedication. If he lacked pure talent there's no way he would have made it to F1 having started at 24 with zero karting experience. 



#19 cpbell

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:38

Not as quick as Senna, Prost or Michael Schumacher, but probably quicker than Coulthard or Ralf Schumacher. Definitely a lot quicker than Pedro Diniz.

 

It's hard to be sure in one's judgements and comparisons because his career trajectory was unique. But he won in a Jordan and almost won in an Arrows.

 

And how good was he? One of the best human beings to ever win a world championship of anything.

Well said.  One of the most pleasant people in F1 for many years, IMO, probably excessively so, which cost him.  I felt that 1995 showed his weakness - when he tried to push a reasonable car beyond what it would normally do, he made mistakes (crashing at the Nurburgring after hitting damp patch and divebombing Schumacher at Silverstone), but, when he felt confident, he was very good (you only have to consider how he drove in the 1995 Australian GP when he decided to reset for the next season).



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#20 aportinga

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:39

Another driver - another victim of Frank Williams in ability to dedicate himself to a solid driver.



#21 Ivanhoe

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:43

I don't agree with the notion that Hill lacked natural talent and made up for it with dedication. If he lacked pure talent there's no way he would have made it to F1 having started at 24 with zero karting experience.

Don’t think anyone said he lacked natural talent, just that he maybe had to work a little bit harder than the the super once-in-a-generation talents like his dad, Clark, Prost, Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton to name a few. Damon had the bad luck to be in F1 in an era when one of those super talents was dominating F1.


Edited by Ivanhoe, 24 March 2020 - 17:45.


#22 pacificquay

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:45

His qualifying advantage over Villeneuve in 1996 was often massive - more than a second per lap.



#23 RaggedyMan

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:48

Don’t think anyone said he lacked natural talent, just that he maybe had to work a little bit harder than the the super once-in-a-generation talents like his dad, Clark, Prost, Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton to name a few. Damon had the bad luck to be in F1 in an era when one of those super talents was dominating F1.

 

Was his Dad not put in a similar group though ? I've often read that Graham Hill didn't have the natural talent of Jimmy Clark but had to "work a little harder". 



#24 Ivanhoe

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 17:56

Was his Dad not put in a similar group though ? I've often read that Graham Hill didn't have the natural talent of Jimmy Clark but had to "work a little harder". 

Was a little before my time, but I’ve always considered Graham Hill as one of the greats in motorsports, if it was alone for winning the triple crown.


Edited by Ivanhoe, 24 March 2020 - 17:57.


#25 wj_gibson

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:05

He maximised what he had and achieved his goal. All without becoming a complete arse.

Which is a lot more than can be said for a welter of more naturally gifted drivers who squandered their talents (Montoya, Fisichella, R. Schumacher to name but three).

#26 B Squared

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:10

He could drive quite fast while making it look slow. I liked that actually.

Sounds Lauda-like when I saw Niki at Watkins in the Ferrari.

#27 Ivanhoe

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:13

Sounds Lauda-like when I saw Niki at Watkins in the Ferrari.

Very smooth, always in-control drivers. Jackie Stewart was also that kind of driver.



#28 noriaki

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:17

Was his Dad not put in a similar group though ? I've often read that Graham Hill didn't have the natural talent of Jimmy Clark but had to "work a little harder".


Perhaps there's some equivalency there in that both Hills had a formidable rival whom they could occasionally beat through resilience and a bit of help from their cars maybe, but arguably Graham was a level above his son - the dad still has a very solid claim to have been "the best of the rest" of the sixties, and also had a career much more successful in other forms of motorsport than Damon ever did. While in terms of skill Damon was more of a Denny Hulme of the nineties, in my view. Still a good driver, though - and as someone said, one of the best human beings to ever become a world champion.

#29 Collombin

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:22

I do sometimes think Graham's triple crown makes people assume he had a much more highly successful Indycar and sports car career than he actually did.

#30 Spillage

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:27

IMO he was a lot better than he gor credit for but was never going to be a world champion had the stars not aligned for him. Definitely top driver material, but I think he was some way off the Prost/Senna level. Had an excellent 1994 in really trying circumstances but 1995 was a bit of a disaster; really error-prone. The commentary from Murray Walker and Jonathan Palmer after he spun off at Suzuka (which you can listen to here) really indicates how far his stock had fallen by then.

 

1996 was a lot better, but you might say that with easily the best car and a rookie teammate he could hardly fail to win the title. All the same, he drove well that season and in 1997 and 1998 showed that he couid. on his day, be really very good indeed.

 

I think it's a shame he started so late. In 1993, when he announced himself as a top driver, he was already 33. It's not inconceivable that he declined after that point - IMO there's a case that 1993 was his best season. I wish he'd made his debut ten years earlier.



#31 PlatenGlass

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:27

He was a decent enough driver who was in the right place at the right time. Other decent enough drivers weren't in the right place at the right time.

#32 AndyPerry

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:29

Damon was very talented. You don't come into modern F1 (which F1 in the nineties definitely was) in your thirties, with as little single seater experience as Damon had, and acquit yourself like he did, without having huge amounts of talent.

He wasn't a "one in every 10 years" talent, and it showed in crucial moments. It always seemed to me that he wasn't as naturally ruthless as most out there, so when he had to act like he was, it was forced and unnatural. I loved him for that, though, he often seemed like a normal human being among a pack of jackals.

He drove very smoothly, usually using way less tires and fuel than his teammates (like Prost, who was probably his most influential role model). He must have carried some of his style and racing philosophy over from his motorcycle racing days.

His story is scarily similar to his Dad's. They both started late, were not considered to be natural talents, both had to deal with the death of a genius teammate and carry the team on their shoulders in the immediate aftermath, both stayed in F1 too long. Graham won Monaco 5 times, but never won the British GP, which he dearly wanted to, while Damon won the British GP but failed to win in Monaco, which remains his biggest F1 regret.

I adored him while he was racing and especially respected him for the way he handled himself after Adelaide 1994.

After reading his autobiography my respect for him only grew. In my opinion, he belongs to a relatively small group of F1 drivers, where there is much more than just a racing driver behind the visor.

Edited by AndyPerry, 24 March 2020 - 18:31.


#33 Ivanhoe

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:31

I do sometimes think Graham's triple crown makes people assume he had a much more highly successful Indycar and sports car career than he actually did.

Don’t know, think most remember him as an F1 driver who also won the Indy 500 and Le Mans. Just like they’d look at Alonso if he’d ever win in Indianapolis.


Edited by Ivanhoe, 24 March 2020 - 18:31.


#34 Ivanhoe

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:34

After reading his autobiography my respect for him only grew. In my opinion, he belongs to a relatively small group of F1 drivers, where there is much more than just a racing driver behind the visor.

This, never was a great fan of Damon as a driver, but after reading his biography he’s one of my favourite personalities in motorsports.


Edited by Ivanhoe, 24 March 2020 - 18:34.


#35 SophieB

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:36

Damon was very talented. You don't come into modern F1 (which F1 in the nineties definitely was) in your thirties, with as little single seater experience as Damon had, and acquit yourself like he did, without having huge amounts of talent.

He wasn't a "one in every 10 years" talent, and it showed in crucial moments. It always seemed to me that he wasn't as naturally ruthless as most out there, so when he had to act like he was, it was forced and unnatural. I loved him for that, though, he often seemed like a normal human being among a pack of jackals.

He drove very smoothly, usually using way less tires and fuel than his teammates (like Prost, who was probably his most influential role model). He must have carried some of his style and racing philosophy over from his motorcycle racing days.

His story is scarily similar to his Dad's. They both started late, were not considered to be natural talents, both had to deal with the death of a genius teammate and carry the team on their shoulders in the immediate aftermath, both stayed in F1 a little too long. Graham won Monaco 5 times, but never won the British GP, which he dearly wanted to, while Damon won the British GP but failed to win in Monaco, which remains his biggest F1 regret.

I adored him while he was racing amd especially respected him for the way he handled himself after Adelaide 1994.

After reading his autobiography my respect for him only grew. In my opinion, he belongs to a relatively small group of F1 drivers, where there is much more than just a racing driver behind the visor.

 

Agree with all of this. I know I've said this before but I am always just even more impressed that I got the impression he became WDC despite only being into F1 to an extent, and that it didn't compare to his true love, two wheeled racing. 

This shows in ways large and small, like when he took part in the Sunday Times regular column about Favourite Cars, he picked a bike instead.

 

I also believe that Damon Hill is the sport's moral compass.



#36 Radoye

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:42

Underrated. Not one of the all-time greats, but much much better than he is usually given credit for.



#37 noriaki

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:49

I do sometimes think Graham's triple crown makes people assume he had a much more highly successful Indycar and sports car career than he actually did.

 

Discounting their F1 careers, Damon's racing record is easily the worst of any World Champion so I didn't think saying "much more successful" career outside of F1 would be that egregious.  :p

 

I am aware NGH wasn't the best multi-tasker ever, not even of his own era, but still a pretty handy GT driver in those Jaguars and Ferraris. And no matter how many others got caught in unluck, winning the 500 still required putting in those 200 daunting laps on his debut, without errors. 



#38 DarthWillie

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 18:54

Damon mightily impressed me 1994 how he dragged the team with him after Senna's death.
He surprised me when he started to beat Prost in the middle of 93.
He disappointed mee when he did the pizza advert with Murray Walker

Not Prost/Senna/Schumacher level, but I'd rate him higher than Coulthard. His reputation suffered from 99 where he should have retired

#39 RaggedyMan

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:11

he often seemed like a normal human being among a pack of jackals.

 

 

This, one of the main reasons I too adored him. Seemed a thoroughly grounded, normal guy and too nice to be in F1.  



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#40 Collombin

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:12

This, never was a great fan of Damon as a driver, but after reading his biography he’s one of my favourite personalities in motorsports.


How open is he about his relationship with his father? A revered historian from Wiltshire once told me things about it in confidence, but now I'm wondering if Damon then covered it all in his book anyway.

#41 RekF1

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:14

He could drive quite fast while making it look slow. I liked that actually.


I think the opposite is true. He used to power slide Jordans and it was great replay material, but not so good for tyres or lap time. On his day he was PDQ and I'll always have a soft spot for him.

#42 AndyPerry

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:20

How open is he about his relationship with his father? A revered historian from Wiltshire once told me things about it in confidence, but now I'm wondering if Damon then covered it all in his book anyway.

Very open. Talks about fear/respect he felt with him, talks about a difficult relationship they had, about how he went into shutdown mode after Graham's death that never quite ended until it resurfaced in the form of a pretty severe depression, which he had to deal with in his 40's and early 50's. It takes quite a man to reveal as much as he did, and shows how much he overcame and the personal growth that's behind it.

He wrote a great book, people should read it.

Edited by AndyPerry, 24 March 2020 - 19:27.


#43 DeKnyff

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:20

Was his Dad not put in a similar group though ? I've often read that Graham Hill didn't have the natural talent of Jimmy Clark but had to "work a little harder". 

No one had the natural talent of Jim Clark, but I don't think Hill was any worse than the rest of the drivers of the mid sixties, like Surtees, Brabham, McLaren or Bandini.



#44 PayasYouRace

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:22

I think the opposite is true. He used to power slide Jordans and it was great replay material, but not so good for tyres or lap time. On his day he was PDQ and I'll always have a soft spot for him.

 

Damon struggled to adapt to the grooved tyres. What he did with the slicks didn't work with the grooves.



#45 Risil

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:22

Hill himself might disagree with you about Surtees, given his respect for the two-wheeled profession.

#46 AndyPerry

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:22

I think the opposite is true. He used to power slide Jordans and it was great replay material, but not so good for tyres or lap time. On his day he was PDQ and I'll always have a soft spot for him.


Grooved tire era (Jordan years) was an outlier for him. He admitted he never got on top of those tires and didn't like them.

Edited by AndyPerry, 24 March 2020 - 19:25.


#47 SophieB

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 19:45

How open is he about his relationship with his father? A revered historian from Wiltshire once told me things about it in confidence, but now I'm wondering if Damon then covered it all in his book anyway.

 

To add to what AndyPerry said without taking anything away, he also reflects as an adult that a lot of his father's actions must have been difficult for his mum and he wonders how it all made her feel. He chooses his words with huge amount of care throughout when he discusses this aspect of his life, and in a way, that says something too. 

 

As an aside, another thing I love about Damon Hill is he seems to have inherited his father's ability to be immune to both bullshit and charisma. He seems in my view anyway, the only person who was never knocked off their orbit by the close proximity of Planet Ayrton Senna, for instance. 



#48 AndyPerry

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 20:04

To add to what AndyPerry said without taking anything away, he also reflects as an adult that a lot of his father's actions must have been difficult for his mum and he wonders how it all made her feel. He chooses his words with huge amount of care throughout when he discusses this aspect of his life, and in a way, that says something too.

As an aside, another thing I love about Damon Hill is he seems to have inherited his father's ability to be immune to both bullshit and charisma. He seems in my view anyway, the only person who was never knocked off their orbit by the close proximity of Planet Ayrton Senna, for instance.

Couldn't have put it any better, Sophie. Wonderfully said. I noticed the same as I was reading that part.

Edited by AndyPerry, 24 March 2020 - 20:09.


#49 messy

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 20:17

Hungary 1997 and Belgium 1998 are perfect, perfect illustrations of how underestimated he was.

Sure, Bridgestone tyres, the temperature, conditions at Spa, etc etc etc - but particularly in the former case - who else could have dragged that Arrows up to a 30 second lead or whatever? He made them look crap. And for people pointing to the Bridgestone tyres, where were the rest of the Bridgestone runners that day? The Prosts, Stewarts and Diniz were all nowhere. And at Spa Ralf only got anywhere near him because of the safety car.

Edited by messy, 24 March 2020 - 20:18.


#50 Anuity

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Posted 24 March 2020 - 20:23

Damon mightily impressed me 1994 how he dragged the team with him after Senna's death.
He surprised me when he started to beat Prost in the middle of 93.
He disappointed mee when he did the pizza advert with Murray Walker

Not Prost/Senna/Schumacher level, but I'd rate him higher than Coulthard. His reputation suffered from 99 where he should have retired

 

Dragged the team?

He had the fastest/best car of the season and managed a total of two poles and ony one win on merit in Suzuka.

Being handed 3 other free wins just because.

His 1995 was bad, in the best car again. Just like 1999.