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Damon Hill on lightning strikes, drenched grid girls and driving like a God

Damon Hill on lightning strikes, drenched grid girls and driving like a God

F1 News

Damon Hill on lightning strikes, drenched grid girls and driving like a God

Damon Hill on lightning strikes, drenched grid girls and driving like a God

It proved to be a memorable Brazilian Grand Prix in more ways than one for Damon Hill en route to him clinching the Formula 1 title in 1996.

At Interlagos, Hill claimed what proved to be a crucial pole position in his Williams. Come the day of the race on this day 24 years ago, a thunderstorm preceded it, eventually clearing just before the start.

On a drenched track, Hill took full advantage of his clear view by streaking away at the start, claiming victory by almost 18 seconds from Benetton's Jean Alesi, with Michael Schumacher third in his Ferrari.

It was the 15th win of Hill's career, one that elevated him past his late father Graham.

Speaking to GPFans in recalling such a momentous day, Hill said: "I remember it tipped down at the start. In those days we had grid girls, and the poor girls were absolutely drenched, but they held their station valiantly.

"When I then first went out a bolt of lightning hit the track in front of me, and then when we went to the grid the sun came out, but there were manhole covers popping off due to these great big geysers gushing out of the drains in some corners of the track.

"Thankfully I was on pole position so I had visibility, but no-one else behind me could see a thing. It was properly wet but also sunny, this extraordinary contradiction.

"I literally made hay while the sun shone because I knew people wouldn't be able to see so I legged it at the start as quickly as I could to take advantage.

"But I was driving by the seat of my pants because it was so wet, with these massive puddles.

"I won by quite a considerable margin. After it, Niki Lauda said I drove like a God. I thought 'That's going on my tombstone'.

"I have often gone very well in the wet, and I think that stemmed from my time when I raced bikes, and you had to be able to control a lot of power and very little grip, so I think I had quite good sensitivity to that - but every driver claims that."

After taking the chequered flag in the season-opening race in Australia, the win maintained Hill's perfect start to the season that continued in the subsequent race in Argentina.

The hat-trick of triumphs provided the perfect platform for Hill to go on and claim the world title, beating rookie team-mate Jacques Villeneuve by 19 points.

"I knew that season was going to be make-or-break for me," said Hill. "I was no spring chicken, I was 35, and so the clock was ticking, and I only had a one-year contract.

"I knew I'd never get another chance at it, so I made the best of it, and it all came out perfectly, particularly in the early part of the season as there were a lot of circuits Jacques was unfamiliar with, so I knew I had an advantage over him and that I had to capitalise on it.

"It eventually proved to be a great year."

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