One of my favourite autobiographies so far is Damon Hill’s. I’ve been ploughing the autobiographies lately and had this one mind a while. I had already planned on getting it and actually saw it at an English bookshop in Amsterdam when I was traveling for work a few months back. So I picked it up there instead of waiting to order it when I got back home. I read it sort of at the same time as I read How to Build a Car by Adrian Newey, which made it all the more interesting. (Adrian Newey built several of the cars Damon raced).
The book takes us through the whole journey, from his oldest memories and life with his dad Graham who tragically died when Damon was 15, and then all the way up the racing ladder, through F1 and up until now basically. The main thing I learnt was what a cool bloke he is. The book is a sort of journey of finding oneself. Damon speaks about his battle with depression and overcoming his fear of death in a sensitive and honest way.
I was fascinated reading about his last year in Formula 1 in 1999 (among a lot of other stuff), when he was paired together with the German driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Jordan team. Frentzen turns out to be incredibly quick in the sister car and Hill is left wondering what’s going on. In the end it’s apparent that the motivation just isn’t there anymore. He struggles with his own lack of interest in competing, only seeing the season through because of his contract. In that section of the book you really feel his pain and frustration. He even mentions having panic attacks while his management tries to get him out of his contract with Jordan. He mentions how difficult it was reaching F1, and that he never thought leaving F1 would turn out to be even worse!
One of my favourite parts in the book:
“After the race, his manager, Julian Jacobi, came to the Williams motorhome and said Ayrton wanted a word. I thought, this will be interesting. I was going to be given a lecture by the master himself. When I went into his motorhome, it was like having an audience with the Pope. He sat there, not looking at me directly…”
That extract from the book is a really funny story. Ayrton Senna is upset with Damon Hill’s behaviour on track and wants to give him a piece of his mind. It made me laugh and actually made me understand a little more of Ayrton’s character. The book is wonderful, such a fun read, it’s super honest and it really does breath speed, as one of the critics quotes says on the back cover. Damon Hill became Formula 1 World Champion in 1996.