Died, F1 Legend

Phil Hill


  • Vienna, Austria Place of Birth
  • 22 February 1949 Date of Birth
  • 1971 Austrian Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • Eagle Current/Last Team

The first American World Champion had a complex relationship with racing. Profoundly intelligent and deeply sensitive, he candidly spoke about the personal demons that brought inner turmoil, making his racing career a bittersweet journey. Constantly battling fear, he struggled to balance the perils and pleasures of the sport. Yet, driving became his form of self-expression, taking him to unexpected places.

BornPhilip Toll Hill Jr.
April 20, 1927
Miami, Florida, U.S.
DiedAugust 28, 2008 (aged 81)
Monterey, California, U.S.

Philip Toll Hill, Jr. was born on April 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida, into a prominent family. Distant from his parents, he became an introverted child with an inferiority complex and few friends. He was not athletically inclined and feared failure and ridicule, which fueled his feelings of inadequacy. Music provided an outlet, and he learned to play the piano before becoming fascinated with cars. At 12, his favourite aunt gifted him a Model T Ford, which he dismantled and reassembled multiple times to understand its workings, and her chauffeur taught him to drive. These automotive skills boosted his self-confidence, though he remained socially awkward and directionless.

After two years of studying business administration at the University of Southern California, Hill dropped out to work as a mechanic’s helper in a Los Angeles garage owned by an amateur racer. In 1947, he acquired an MG-TC two-seater, which he modified and began racing. Following his parents’ deaths in 1951, he used his inheritance to buy a 2.6-litre Ferrari, racing it with increasing success. Despite regular victories, he remained self-doubtful, crediting his car for his wins. His constant anxiety over racing dangers led to severe stomach ulcers, forcing a ten-month hiatus. With the help of tranquillizers, he resumed racing and winning in various Ferraris, becoming America’s top sports car racer by the mid-1950s.

In 1955, Hill joined Ferrari’s endurance racing team at Le Mans, where a tragic accident killed over 80 people, profoundly affecting him. Despite this, he went on to win Le Mans three times (all with Olivier Gendebien). Hill’s transition to Formula One was slow as Enzo Ferrari doubted his temperament for single-seaters. In 1958, following the deaths of Luigi Musso and Peter Collins, Hill joined Ferrari’s Formula One team, aiding Mike Hawthorn in winning the 1958 drivers’ title. He won his first Formula One race at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in 1960.

Hill overcame his inferiority complex as a Formula One driver, but his introspection caused ongoing inner conflict. He saw racing as a means of self-expression but wasn’t sure he liked what it revealed about him. “Racing brings out the worst in me,” he said. “Without it, I don’t know what kind of person I might have become. But I’m not sure I like the person I am now. Racing makes me selfish, irritable, defensive. If I could get out of this sport with any ego left, I would.”

He also feared for his life, saying, “I became hypersensitive to the danger and wasn’t sure that I wasn’t going to kill myself.” He was especially anxious before races, pacing, polishing his goggles, chain-smoking, or chewing gum feverishly. Yet, once the race began, he displayed notable composure. He was a careful driver, gentle on his cars, and despite his fears, remarkably courageous. He excelled on challenging circuits and in poor conditions, feeling secure in the rain since childhood.

Though open about his insecurities, Hill remained a loner in Europe, residing near the Ferrari factory and enjoying music, opera, and physical fitness. He restored vintage cars and player pianos in the off-season but found inactivity more stressful than racing. “The strain of inactivity was worse than the strain of driving,” he said. “I was compelled to race again.”

In 1961, driving the new Ferrari 156, Hill competed for the championship against his teammate Count Wolfgang von Trips. Their battle culminated at Monza, where von Trips collided with Jim Clark‘s Lotus, causing a crash that killed von Trips and 14 spectators. Hill won the race and the championship but felt no joy, serving as a pallbearer at von Trips’ funeral. “I never in my life experienced anything so profoundly mournful,” he reflected.

Hill’s Formula One career declined thereafter. He raced for ATS and Cooper before retiring from single-seaters in 1964. He continued in sports cars briefly before focusing on his car restoration business in California. In 1971, he married Alma, his long-time girlfriend, and embraced family life without regrets. “In retrospect, it was worth it,” he said. “I had a very exciting life and learned a lot about myself and others that I might never have learned. Racing sort of forced a confrontation with reality. Lots of people spend their lives in a state that is never really destined to go anywhere.”

Philip Hill passed away in 2008 at 81 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Source: formula1.com

Phil Hill Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1958–1964, 1966
TeamsMaserati, Ferrari, Cooper, Porsche, Automobili Turismo e Sport, Lotus, McLaren, Eagle
Entries52 (49 starts)
Championships1 (1961)
Career points94 (98)
Pole positions6
Fastest laps6
First entry1958 French Grand Prix
First win1960 Italian Grand Prix
Last win1961 Italian Grand Prix
Last entry1966 Italian Grand Prix


Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
British Ferrari 1952 Belgian Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
New Zealand McLaren 1958 German Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend


Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Maserati Italian 1950 Historic
Ferrari Italian 1950 Current
Cooper British 1950 Historic
Eagle American 1966 Historic