Damon Hill: Forgotten Hero

July 29, 2006

by Ojas Sabnis 

I am not a sportomaniac. Being a decent swimmer (and a rookie badminton, table tennis, basketball, cricket and tennis player), I have a natural affection for sports. I don’t watch television and I am a lazy person, so I can’t really ‘follow’ any games. Obviously, I can’t write anything about any sport for nuts.

But then there were times when we used to follow F1, cricket, tennis and NBA like anything. Gone are those days, but some memories are still fresh! So when Goyal asked me to write a post for Pavilion Seat about something (actually, anything!), after a little apprehension in the beginning, I got myself going eventually. Old love, you see. I am not a master of F1 per se. Schumi has always been my hero. It’s something like this – whoever claims to be a music fan will love U2 – no matter what. My Schumi love is just like that. But everybody seems to know too much about him. I remember one of his strong contenders from the mid-nineties – Damon Hill. 

1994 was the time when we started following Formula 1. Those were the crazy days … all my cousins used to support Schumi. He was the master, he simply ruled. We’d watch all the races together and support Schumi. Though when we talk about it now, nobody remembers the great rival who brought immense fun in the game – Damon Hill. And I don’t understand why. 

Damon Graham Devereux Hill was an awesome driver. It takes something to bag 22 Formula1 Victories and a World Championship – and that explains why Hill was one of the greatest of his era. He became the world champion in 1996 in Japan, driving for the Williams team. Williams was the best car in those days and Hill never looked back once the season started. Nobody could stop him from qualifying for the front row in every single race he played. Not even our hero Schumi, who then raced with Ferrari, which in my opinion wasn’t as good a car as Williams. But then, a victory is a victory, and I give it to Hill for that!

I remember Hill as a good rival of Schumi. I don’t want to comment Schumi’s sportsmanship, but we enjoyed the battles between these two as much as we enjoyed the delicious fried bombeel (Bombay Ducks) that were made by my aunt and served during all of those races (with beer for my uncles – sigh)! This rivalry brought immense fun into the game. In races like 1994 Australian GP, the rivalry reached its peak. It was a battle for the World Championship, with a difference of only one point. Shumi was on 92, Hill 91. A nasty hit on the wall was about to cost Schumi his championship when he cut back, (deliberately?) brushing Hill’s car, and throwing both of them out of the race. Schumi won. Off the track. I felt genuinely bad for Hill – and I was a Schumi supporter! There were many such incidents and somehow Schumi never accepted the blame.

What a rivalry! What a game!

Even though Hill’s career ended in a very poor manner in the 1999 season, he will always remain in my heart for his sporty nature, the fighting spirit, his victories, his defeats, and the fact that he was 32 when he started his career – that too with a giant like Ayrton Senna as his team-mate in the initial stages of his career. 


6 Responses to “Damon Hill: Forgotten Hero”

  1. Sreejith Says:

    I’ve always felt that Damon Hill was way overrated and he happened to be in the best possible car when he won the championship in 96(a lot like Jacques Villeneuve in 97). He definitely should have won in 95 too in that Williams. The only pity i feel is for the Williams which is now just a pale reflection of its glorious past. I would rather call Mika Hakkinen a forgotten hero. And his rivalry with Schumi was delicious… like those bombay ducks u mentioned 🙂

  2. Ojas Says:

    Yeah, of course Mika was a very good rival of schumi. And about the best car bit, I personally always believed that F1 is a race of technology, and technology only 😉

  3. Goyal Says:

    I agree with Sreejith when he says that Mika was perhaps the greatest rival to Schumacher, but even he had an amazing McLaren at his disposal.

    And while technology does play a huge part in the sport I do not believe that it is the only factor. One sight of Schumacher driving in rain would tell you that. It takes more than just a fast car to win it.

  4. Cyrus Poncha Says:

    unfortunately we could hardly see the Schumi – Senna battle. Senna won the poles but did nothing on race day.

  5. Goyal Says:

    I had not started watching F1 when Senna used to drive, but from what I have heard he was better than Schumi. Though a huge fan of Schumi I would rather not compare two players I did not see compete against each other.

  6. Cyrus Poncha Says:

    i dont think hill did anything exceptional, mika was strong but he lost motivation and there is a rumour that he may return now. that wud be good for the sport if he drives atleast for a year

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