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.