5th December 1975 – On this day forty two years ago, over 2,000 people attended the service to celebrate the life of Graham Hill who had been killed just a week before.
Outside St. Albans Abbey another 2,000 gathered to pay their respects as the double World Champion was laid to rest.
He and five other members of the Hill racing team had been killed in an aircraft crash as they returned from testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in heavy fog. Hill, who was piloting the aircraft, mistook the lights of the A1 trunk road for the landing lights at the nearby Elstree airfield and they perished.
From his debut in 1958 to his retirement in 1975, Hill won the F1 title twice, fourteen Grand Prix victories which included five at Monaco and also claimed victory at Le Mans and at the Indianapolis 500, the fabled ‘Triple Crown’. The Triple Crown is an unofficial motorsport achievement, often regarded as winning three of the most prestigious motor races in the world and one a certain Spanish McLaren driver clearly is aiming to achieve. It is clear now that Fernando Alonso is unlikely to be adding more F1 titles to his name as he’s nearing the twilight of his Formula One career, so to emulate Hill would be Alonso’s last stab at achieving anything significant in motorsport beyond his two F1 titles.
The only active drivers who have won two legs of the Triple Crown are Juan Pablo Montoya (currently racing in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) and Jacques Villeneuve. Villeneuve competed in the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans where he finished in second place, a victory there would have allowed him to complete the Triple Crown (under the latter definition that includes the F1 Drivers’ Championship, under the former definition of the Monaco GP his best finish was 4th in 2001). Montoya also won the 24 Hours of Daytona three times and the CART series once.
The only driver in history to win the Triple crown, Graham Hill was a very popular man with both fans and fellow drivers, he defined an era that will never be seen again.