Gilles Villeneuve Biography
Nationality: United States of America
Date of birth: January 18, 1927 - Miami, Florida, United States of America
Date of death: August 28, 2008 - Salina, California United States of America
Hill was born in Florida in 1927, but grew up in Santa Monica, California, where he would spend most of his life. He made his F1 debut at the French Grand Prix in 1958 driving a privately-entered Maserati 250F, after the death of Luigi Masso and Peter Collins he was drafted into the Scuderia Ferrari, driving a Dino 156 for the German Grand Prix to support of Mike Hawthorn's title bit (he had joined Enzo Ferrari's endurance team in 1955 but the legendary team owner had initially considered Hill as unsuitable for F1) and then for the final two grands prix of the year in the Dino 246 he collected two podium finishes.
In 1959 at the wheel of a Ferrari 256 he visited the podium three times on his way to fourth in the championship, and a year later, still driving the 256, he won the Italian Grand Prix en route to fifth place in the championship. The next year, driving the new 'shark nose' 156 built for the new 1.5-litre regulations, proved his best-ever, on the podium six times in seven races he won twice (Belgium and Italy) to clinch the F1 World Championship and earn his place in the record books as the first American to win the title.
His title came however in tragic circumstances, having battled all year with Ferrari team mate Wolfgang Von Tripps, the aristocratic German was killed in the Italian Grand Prix along with fourteen spectators and with the title secured the Scuderia withdrew from the final race of the year at Watkins Glen. There was little joy for Hill though, although the title was achieved by a single point, he was a pall-bearer at Von Tripps' funeral and said: "I never in my life experienced anything so profoundly mournful."
His title-defence year (1962) started promisingly with three podiums in the first three races, but his challenge faded and he came sixth. A deeply sensitive and thoughtful man, his inner turmoil and quiet manner away from the track is the stuff of legend. He left Ferrari before the end of that year and with it his success in grand prix rapidly rapidly faded off before he finally quit F1 in 1967 at the age of 39 having made 48 starts. Hill was also noted for never suffering an form of injury whatsoever during his career, which took place during an era where serious injury and death was commonplace.
At the same time Hill took three victories in the Le Mans 24 Hours driving for Ferrari: In 1958 he shared a 250 with Olivier Gendebien to claim his first win in the endurance classic. The duo won again in the 250 in 1961 and a year later repeated the feat in a 330. He also won the 12 Hours of Sebring three times.
As soon as he got word of Phil Hill's passing, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo declared: "I, as well as all employees of Ferrari are 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. Phil Hill raced and won many competitions both with prototype cars, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring, won three times each, as well as with F1 single seaters. With our car, Phil won the Formula One Championship title in 1961 as the first American-born to reach this result. Phil and I have always kept in touch throughout the years and I know I will miss his passion and love for Ferrari very much. My deepest sympathies are with his wife Alma and son Derek in this sad moment."
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