Phil Hill, The Only American-Born Formula One Champion, Has Passed Away

ThomasSenior Writer IAugust 28, 2008

The only American-born F1 champion has died today. 

Phil Hill, who suffered from Parkinson's disease and a different degenerative neurological disorder, died at Community Hospital Of The Monterray Peninsula. 

He was 81.

Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari said this in a statement after news broke that Hill had died:  “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.”

Hill was known as the American hero in his days.  A fact he didn't appreciate. 

He once said:  "“I’m in the wrong business.  I don’t want to beat anybody, I don’t want to be the big hero.” 

However, Hill was always in danger of dying during any race. Thankfully, Hill never had a serious injury during his career. 

Phil Hill was born in Santa Monica, California, on April 20, 1927. He eventually went to USC where he studied business administration. 

However, the draw of F1 racing was too strong for Hill and two years after he began school, he went to England to fulfill his racing dream. 

In 1955, Hill joined Ferrari as a driver. 

After both Ferrari drivers, Luigi Musso and Peter Collins, died in separate accidents in 1958, Hill found himself the chief driver for Ferrari.

In 1961, Phil Hill won the Formula One championship by a single point over his Ferrari teammate, Wolfgang von Trips, who died in Ferrari’s final race that season.

Mario Andretti, who was born in Italy, is the only other American champion in Formula One. 

Hill went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans three different times. He also won the 12 Hours of Sebring three different times.

In 1967, Hill officially retired from racing.  After his racing days, Hill began a successful classic car restoration business called Hill & Vaughn with partner, Ken Vaughn. 

Hill was also a television commentator for ABC's Wide World Of Sports. 

Probably his most famous accomplishment after his racing career was his association with Road And Track magazine. 

He wrote several articles for them, including road tests and retrospective articles on historic cars and races. He shared his "grand old man" status at R&T with '60s racing rival Paul Frere, who also tragically, died in 2008. 

Phil Hill was a true racing legend. The entire racing community and many Americans will miss the legend.