Graham Hill

Personal Information

Full Name
Norman Graham Hill
Place of Birth
Hampstead, London, Great Britain
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Place of Death
Arkley, Hertfordshire, Great Britain

About Graham Hill

Graham Hill F1 Career Overview

The effervescent Graham Hill arguably defined F1 as the sport it would go on to become with his delicate race craft and his meticulous record-keeping making him the star of his generation.

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Graham Hill F1 Career Overview

The effervescent Graham Hill arguably defined F1 as the sport it would go on to become with his delicate race craft and his meticulous record-keeping making him the star of his generation.

F1 World Champion in 1962 and 1968 - as well as runner-up on three occasions in between - Hill, together with Jack Clark, were considered the stars of their eras, though it was only Hill that was able to conclude his career on his terms after turning to race team management in 1975.

However, the same year he - and four other members of the Embassy Hill team he’d founded - lost their lives in an aircraft accident he was piloting while attempting to land. He died on 29 November 1975 aged 45.

During his time in F1, Hill won 14 races from 176 starts and is the only person to hold the so-called ‘Triple Crown”; victory in the F1 Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

Graham’s son Damon would go on to become the 1996 F1 World Champion making them the first drivers from the same family to win a world title. This has since been replicated by the Rosbergs (Keke 1984, Nico 2016).

Graham Hill F1 Career - Team-by-Team

Lotus: 1958-1959

Hill began his motorsport career as a mechanic with Team Lotus before working his way into a race seat and received his maiden F1 outing during the prized Monaco Grand Prix with the same team, a race he’d go on to clinch five times during his career.

Maintaining his seat for much of the year, Hill’s success was limited to a couple of non-point scoring finishes to the end of the year, form that went on to define his first full season, again with Lotus in 1969 with a best finish of seventh in the Netherlands Grand Prix.

BRM: 1960-1966

A switch to BRM brought Hill his best successes and though his maiden campaign was a lean year in which he scored only once, his maiden top five finish was still a maiden podium in the Netherlands Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Things started to look up for Hill the following year in 1961 with top six results in France and the United States before launching what would go on to becoming his first F1 World Championship title in 1962

Driving an improved car and growing in confidence, Zandvoort set the scene for his first win at the start of the year before a rout of three wins from the final four races at the Nordschleife, Monza and in East London (South Africa) saw him overhaul Jim Clark for the crown.

More glory came in BRM colours the following years even if the title crown remained agonisingly just out of reach again. In 1963, Hill achieved the first of what would have been five victories at the Monaco Grand Prix but despite that and a further five other victories over the next three years he’d finish runner-up each time to Clark (twice) and John Surtees.

By 1966 the BRM package was slipping down the pecking order relative to Brabham and Cooper and after a winless season decided on a return to Lotus for the 1967 season.

Lotus: 1967-1970

Resuming ties with Lotus, Hill was tasked with leading development with the new Lotus 49, which had been built to take on the new threat of Cooper and BRM. Though frail the car showed good promise in Hill’s hands in 1967 and a pair of podiums - amid a slew of DNFs - gave the team fresh hope for the 1968 season. 

It subsequently proved to be a good omen with the updated Lotus 49B winning on its debut in the Spanish Grand Prix (Round 2), which was followed up by another win at Monaco. Though assisted in part by main rival Jackie Stewart skipping two events and arguable favourite Jim Clark’s death earlier in the year, Hill shrugged off a handful of DNFs to be three points ahead of Stewart coming into the finale in Mexico which he won to lift the crown a second time. 

However, while the Lotus was certainly quick and innovative, it had reliability flaws owing to the aerodynamic features that - while revolutionary - had a tendency to break in dramatic ways. Indeed, Hill’s title defence was already going south (after another win at Monaco) when a crash at the penultimate 1969 United States Grand Prix round left him with two broken legs.

That Monaco success would go on to prove his last in F1, Hill switching to Rob Walker Racing in 1970 - still in Lotus machinery - but managing only modest results and was 13th overall at the season end.

Brabham: 1971-1972

Hill left Lotus for Brabham in 1971 but results weren’t any better and over the course of two seasons he managed just three points’ finishes, with a best result of fifth in the Italian Grand Prix.

As such, Hill began to pursue the prospect of setting up his own team. mirroring the likes of Jack Brabham for whom he had just raced.

Embassy Racing: 1973-1975

Setting up Embassy Racing ahead of the 1973 F1 season, Hill utilised a Shadow chassis with Ford-Cosworth power, though it didn’t make its first appearance until Round 4 in Spain.

Hill remained on the driver roster alongside his management commitments in what was a one-car entry in the year the similar ethos Hesketh Racing debuted with future champion James Hunt.

While many might have expected Embassy Racing to have the measure of an upstart outfit like Hesketh - using the same engine but a March chassis - the opposite was true and Hunt was the revelation of the year while Hill languished towards the back without any points.

Moving to a Lola chassis for 1974, form didn’t improve despite the car being reliable with a single top six result in Sweden the scant highlight from another underwhelming year in which none of his team-mates scored either.

As such, Hill took it upon himself to lead development on the team’s own chassis - the Hill GH1 - based on the Lola. The car didn’t debut until Round 5 in Monaco and then failed to qualify, which came after Hill had failed to shine in the opening three events in older machinery already.

As such, Hill took the opportunity to announce his immediate retirement from F1 to focus on team management and performances did improve with both Tony Brise and Hill’s replacement Alan Jones both finding the points before the year was out.

Graham Hill's Death

On 29 November 1975 - almost two months after the season had concluded - Hill was killed in a crash involving a light aircraft he was flying from France after a test at Paul Ricard. 

Coming down in dense fog in Hertfordshire as the plane was nearing its intended landing spot at Elstree Airfield, Hill was one of five people killed in the smash, including driver Brise, team manager Ray Brimble, designer Andrew Smallman and mechanic Terry Richards.

Embassy Racing was therefore disbanded and didn’t start the 1976 F1 season in his absence.

Graham Hill - Beyond F1

While his F1 career suffered peaks and troughs, Hill remained a successfully versatile racer that participated in numerous different disciplines during his height in the mid-1960s

He won the 1966 Indianapolis 500 and - after many years of trying - finally conquered the Le Mans 24 Hours at his final attempt in 1972 alongside Henri Pescarolo in a Matra, having previously finished second in 1964.

It makes him the only driver to have won the most modern interpretation of the ‘Triple Crown’, an accolade that has gained more notoriety in recent years after Fernando Alonso (now a Monaco GP and Le Mans 24 Hours winner) made his bids to match it. 

Other interpretations of the Triple Crown have seen others suggest a driver must win an F1 World Championship (a definition which still applies to Hill) rather than the Monaco Grand Prix.