Phil Hill’s last official
grand prix start was
Mexico 1964, where he
was classified ninth in a
Cooper-Climax. But two
years later he drove
the camera car for
“Grand Prix” movie in a
number of sessions at
the Monaco (BELOW)
and Belgian GPs. He
also attempted, but
failed to qualify for
the ’ 66 Italian GP in a
more of a rota, in truth – by 1956, and he
shared with France’s Maurice Trintignant
the showdown victory in Sweden that
secured the World Sportscar
Championship for Ferrari against strong
opposition from Maserati.
He repeated the trick in 1957, co-driven
by England’s Peter Collins in Venezuela. Yet
Enzo felt inclined to hold his clean-cut
American in reserve, preferring to fast-track
fashionably unshaven playboy Alfonso
de Portago to F1 instead. “Fon” was far
from a safe pair of hands – he would die in
the ’ 57 Mille Miglia accident that brought
Enzo into conflict with the Vatican – but
that, oddly, was part of his appeal.
Hill, conscientious and concentrated,
began 1958 in superb style, scoring wins
at Buenos Aires and Sebring, co-driven by
Collins both times, but would top them
with a superb first Le Mans success
alongside Olivier Gendebien (see page 31).
Still Enzo kept his appreciation under
wraps, albeit for an altered reason.
Having underestimated the understated
Hill, it dawned on him now that he was
too important to risk in F1. Le Mans was
fundamental to Ferrari’s marketing strategy.
Hill’s response was bold and somewhat
provocative. This increasingly frustrated
“peace-loving man” fired a warning shot by
starting 13th (of 21) and finishing seventh
on his GP debut. In a rented Maserati.
Perhaps Enzo, who had forbade him to,
got the message. Or perhaps he didn’t.
Either way his hand was forced two months
later. The fatal accidents of previous
incumbents Luigi Musso and Collins saw
Hill make his Ferrari F1 debut at Monza.
He led the first five laps – and seven in
total – set fastest lap, and might have won
rather than finish third, but for a need to
support team leader Mike Hawthorn.
He completed that job the following
month in the Moroccan finale, when he
stepped aside so that the Englishman
might finish second and win the world
title by a single point.
A consistent 1959 as teammate to
likeminded Tony Brooks (Hawthorn had
retired and been killed in a road accident)
saw Hill finish fourth in the points. And
by 1960 he was the Scuderia’s leader –
Brooks had taken the more lucrative
option of running a filling station/car
dealership west of London…
But Ferrari had by now been out-
thought and out-maneuvered by Britain’s
garagisti, Cooper and Lotus, whose
rear-engined machines had redefined F1.
Nevertheless, taking advantage of Monza’s
high-speed straights and treacherous
banking, plus a garagisti boycott, Hill
delivered Ferrari a home win – the first
grand prix win for an American since
Jimmy Murphy’s 1921 French GP win,
and the last by a rear-engined car.
When Enzo finally agreed to putting the
horse(power) behind the cart, a concurrent
change of F1 engine formula in 1961 put
Ferrari briefly back at the front.
Stirling Moss, working wonders in an
outdated, underpowered, but nimble
privateer Lotus was clearly the benchmark,
and although the gap to the others was
perhaps wider than at any other time in
F1 history, there’s no reason why Hill
cannot be considered best of the rest.
Five consecutive pole positions and five
podium finishes from six starts, including
victory in the Belgian GP at super-fast
Spa, were punctuated by a solitary mistake
Hill’s F1 title defense started strong, with
podiums in the 1962 Dutch (MAIN), Monaco and
Belgian GPs, but ran out of steam as Ferrari’s
156 fell out of contention. (BELOW) His final F1
season, ’ 64 with Cooper, was one of tribulation.