… Remember? The same combination that made Murray Walker come over all emotional.
Who could forget the moment Damon Hill crossed the line in his Williams FW18 to win the 1996 Formula One World Championship? He became the first (and still only) son of a world champion to win the championship himself, the poignancy of the moment emphasised by the emotional commentary by Murray Walker. After calmly and concisely relating just why we were watching history in the making, as Hill crossed the line he memorably said ‘I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat.’
Hill will once again drive the FW18 at the Festival of Speed this weekend.
The Williams and Hill combination dominated in 1996, despite the fact he was almost replaced by Heinz-Harald Frenzen at the end of the 1995 season. The FW18 drew heavily on 1995’s FW17, the main development being the addition of driver safety features enforced by FIA regulations. Adrian Newey aerodynamics helped its speed – it was one only three GP cars in the 1990s to score a 1-2 finish on its debut – and Hill won eight out of 16 rounds. It was reliable, too; no other GP car in 1996 matched its 1778 laps of a possible 2018.
Damon’s dominance wasn’t always the case. He started with Williams in 1992 as a test driver in Mansell’s championship-winning year, but his first shot at a championship win was 1994. The season came to an inauspicious end when a crash with arch-rival Michael Schumacher saw both retire and the German claim the title by a single point. In 1995, Schumacher won again, dominating the season with seven wins.
By the time Hill won the championship in 1996, he already knew his contract with Williams would not be renewed. It was, realistically, his last shot at the title. No wonder Murray Walker, like most British viewers at home, were moved by Hill’s win. He’ll be back in that very seat at Goodwood this weekend, sharing the car with current Williams driver Felipe Massa. We can’t wait to see it…