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SUZUKACIRCUIT MOTORSPORTS LIBRARY

1996Damon Hill and Jacque Villeneuve stage first-ever 2nd -generation drivers’ confrontation, with Hill taking first-ever father-and- son F1 titles!

Damon Hill, the first-ever 2nd -generation F1 Champion

Damon Hill, the first-ever 2nd -generation F1 Champion

Damon Hill, driver of the Williams-Renault is a son of Graham Hill, who was crowned Formula One World Champion in 1962 and 1968. Damon started car racing in earnest when he was 24 years old. That was a late start, but he took a second place finish at the second round of the 1993 series that he made his Formula One debut in, one of three victories he won that year. He fought an intense competition with Michael Schumacher for the Drivers’ Championship title in 1994 and then 1995, with Schumacher taking the title both times. Damon Hill was considered one of the champion candidates in 1996 as well. On the other hand, Jacque Villeneuve is a son of Gilles Villeneuve, who had raced for the Ferrari team and was loved by many fans though he never won a Championship title. Jacque made his racing debut in earnest when he was 18 years old. In 1994 he took part in the CART series that was considered the top formula car race competition in the US and he won the championship title in the following year. In 1996, Jacque Villeneuve made his debut in the Formula One World Championship from Williams team, like his father had. Jacque was quick to show his ability by getting a 2nd -place finish in the season opener to mount the podium. He kept getting good results after that too and was becoming a challenge to Damon Hill, who was advancing toward the Championship title. Hill won seven races to earn 87 points, while Villeneuve won fewer races than Hill, with four victories, but finished consistently among the leaders to earn 78 points. They came to the Japanese Grand Prix, the last round of the season, with a point difference of nine points.

Jacque Villeneuve

Jacque Villeneuve

Hill running through ‘S’ curves

Hill running through ‘S’ curves

Frank Williams, team principal watching over the two drivers at his pit

Frank Williams, team principal watching over the two drivers at his pit

Hill only needed a single point to clinch the Championship title while Villeneuve would have to win the race at the very least. In the qualifying sessions, Villeneuve, who has aiming for the title of Debut-year Champion, set a series of top times from the beginning of the sessions. On the other hand, Hill drove with all his might near the end of the sessions to set his fastest lap time but qualified in second by six hundredths of a second. Villeneuve took pole position, meaning that the two would start the title-deciding match from the front row of the grid.

Villeneuve took pole position

Villeneuve took pole position

The start of the race. Villeneuve was passed by cars to fall back in position

The start of the race. Villeneuve was passed by cars to fall back in position

Hill took the checkered flag for the win

Hill took the checkered flag for the win

At the start of the race, it might have been a moment when Villeneuve was tense than anyone else. His car slid a lot and he fell back to sixth place. But he began to push hard to chase the top runners. Villeneuve closed in on to Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) after having climbed to fourth place. If he could pass these two drivers, it would be only Hill left in front of him. Fighting hard his way through the field, Villeneuve set the fastest lap of the race, but the goddess of victory did not smile on him. His car showed unsteady behavior for an instant at the first turn of lap 37. His right rear wheel came off and the car went off the track. Thus vanished his dream of taking the Championship title in his debut year, a prize that any driver only has one chance at. Hence, Damon Hill took his first Championship title, but he did not ease up on the accelerator until the end of the race. Hill held off Hakkinen and Schumacher chasing him from behind to take the checkered flag for his eighth win of the season. Villeneuve had come so close to a great achievement that nobody has accomplished. Hill became the first 2nd -generation F1 driver ever to win the Championship. The 2nd -generation drivers’ confrontation in 1996 will surely be talked about for many years to come.

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