Google+ Jack Leslie F1: Review: Damon Hill - Watching The Wheels

21 September 2016

Review: Damon Hill - Watching The Wheels

Damon Hill has enjoyed a successful but unusual career in motorsport, with his route to success in Formula 1 being very different to the rivals he competed against in the 1990s.
I was a little apprehensive about reading his new autobiography Watching The Wheels, as I wasn’t sure if it’d be the enthralling read I was looking for.

It proved to be a pretty enjoyable book and went through his life in great detail, from his early years growing up as the son of F1 legend Graham Hill to his father’s tragic death, his stint competing on two wheels and his journey to the pinnacle of single-seater racing. 

I actually started watching F1 after Hill’s exit from the series, but being the nerd that I am, I already knew a fair bit about his career – his tough start at Brabham, those encouraging early Williams years, his F1 title in 1996 and his brief stints at Arrows and Jordan. 

But while I knew the results of those seasons and some of the events that happened, I knew little about his life away from the track. So that was what I was looking for from his autobiography and I definitely gained a vast array of knowledge about what happened away from F1. 

I was quite shocked to read in the early pages about his battle with depression. Maybe with F1 being the pinnacle of motorsport, you don’t expect drivers to fight those kind of things. The F1 bubble probably masks that a fair bit too, so it was fascinating to hear about this side of his life and how he came through it. 

The book is incredibly honest and detailed, although I would have liked to read more about his post-F1 projects as well – these were touched on briefly at the end but would have made for very interesting reading. 
© Williams

It begins with his life growing up as the son of two-time F1 world champion Graham Hill, who was on the steady rise to becoming one of Britain’s most famous sportsmen at the time. It was interesting to read about Hill’s thoughts on fame and what life was like for his family back then, it’s not something many can relate to. 

The book then progresses through his school life and not having a particular interest in F1 to begin with. He soon caught the racing bug though, but two wheels instead of four. But as most F1 fans will know, his father was killed in a plane crash in 1975 and this – understandably – changed his family’s path considerably. 

One aspect I particularly like about Hill’s autobiography is the snippets from the books written by his parents, Graham and Bette. Sometimes it’s tough to remember things from your youth and particular events, so the fact both of his parents had books about their life must have been a great resource for his autobiography and definitely gave a clearer picture. 

Reading this book was refreshing because it’s not like other racing driver autobiographies out there. He addresses his views on various topics and goes into great depth about what life as an F1 driver is really like. This is also partly because his journey to F1 was so unique. 

He skipped the entire karting scene and was a very late starter to single-seaters, having spent several years trying to make it in motorcycle racing (and showing promise, despite many setbacks). Of course, there was a lot of focus on him when he started racing cars due to his dad and it was a rocky start, but Damon soon showed signs of speed. 

His rise up the ranks was fascinating to read and he draws several parallels to his father’s career – late starts, being seen as grafters rather than for their skill and their interests in the engineering side of F1. I was sceptical before reading this book but I didn’t need to be. 

It’s witty, interesting and offers a unique perspective on F1, because his life has revolved around racing from the very start. His time in F1 was a complete rollercoaster – a tough start, being team-mates to Ayrton Senna when he died, winning the title and his struggles at the end. I’d definitely recommend it to F1 fans.

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