In 1961 California’s Phil Hill became the first American to capture the Formula One World Championship, diving his iconic Ferrari 156 “shark nose” machine.
Hill made his F1 debut at the French Grand Prix at Reims in 1958 driving a Maserati. A crash during the 1961 Italian Grand Prix killed Hill’s teammate Wolfgang von Trips and 14 spectators, making his championship-clinching win very much bittersweet. Ferrari’s decision not to travel to the United States for that season’s final round deprived Hill of the opportunity to participate in his home race at Watkins Glen as the newly-crowned World Champion. When he returned for the following F1 season, his last with Ferrari, Hill said, “I no longer have as much need to race, to win. I don’t have as much hunger anymore. I am no longer willing to risk killing myself.”
Hill passed away in August 2008.