Phil Hill, first American to win the Formula One championship, dies at age 81

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Phil Hill, the American Formula One race-car driver, has died today at age 81 in Salinas, California. Phil died from complications from Parkinson's Disease. He was set to travel to a historic meeting at Monterey but was rushed to hospital. His son Derek, also a racecar driver had to retire to look after his father.

Phil Hill in 1962 at the Nürburgring.
Image: Spurzem.

Phil was the first American-born driver to win the Formula One World Drivers' Championship when he won the 1961 season. Italian-born American Mario Andretti, who won the Drivers' Championship in 1978, is the only other American to have won.

Phil Hill finished one point above the German Wolfgang von Trips, who died in a crash during the Italian Grand Prix.

As well as winning the 1961 F1 Season, Phil also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in 1958, 1961 and 1962.

He continued to race up until 1966 when he retired. He failed to win another F1 race after the 1961 season. After retiring from racing he spent his time collecting vintage cars. He judged at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance a record 38 times.

"It's a sad day," said close friend Carroll Shelby. "Phil was an excellent race car driver with a unique feel for the car, and his real expertise was in long-distance racing."