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Fuelling Around podcast: Damon Hill on Formula 1, sponsorship and his musical past

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January 25, 2023
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Series five of award-winning podcast Fuelling Around has already zoomed off the starting grid and continues down the home straight with this week’s guest, former Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill OBE.

Hill is one of the most recognisable faces in British motorsport history, having competed in some of the world’s most famous racing series. He is best known for his nine year stint as an F1 driver, most notably for Williams who he was racing for when he won the 1996 Drivers’ Championship.

The 62-year-old tells hosts Jason Plato and Dave Vitty about his love of cars, motorbikes and the little known secret that he featured as a guitarist on the Def Leppard Euphoria album. You can watch the full podcast below.

Damon Hill on how he got sponsorship funding at a young age

Elsewhere on the podcast, Hill tells the story of how his sponsorship deal with Cellnet helped to save his career, after initially struggling to earn sponsorship to continue racing. The former F1 driver worked as a labourer and as a courier when he was young, along with other jobs whilst continuing to race. “When my dad died I was 15 and I carried on with school and then I basically realised I’ve got to get some money in,” Hill detailed on the podcast.

“My ambition was to support myself racing bikes, so I used to try and find some money to go  racing. But you could just about afford to own your bike, run your own bike and work to pay for it all yourself. And if you won a bit of prize money, you could actually race at a national level in the UK.

“But car racing, I mean Formula Ford’s cost was £70,000 or something back in 1984, you’re going ‘what?’ and Formula 3 was £150,000. You’re going ‘you can buy a house for that, what are you talking about?’ How are you going to spend that in one year?

Damon Hill with one of his cars

“Getting sponsorship was not my strong point because I’d literally sit there in a meeting and say ‘I have no idea how you’re going to make this money back, or why anyone would do it in their right mind.’ So I wasn’t a very good salesman.

“Fortunately I did have some people who thought it would be worth giving me a crack, so I got some money in for a season of Formula 3, but then I owed the money back. And I was sitting there thinking ‘oh my god, what have I done?’ I don’t know how I’m going to pay them back.

“And then a lifeline came, which was when Cellnet came along. David Hunt – former F1 world champion James Hunt’s brother – he was good at selling. He came up with the Cellnet deal. Imagine a time when there were no mobile phones, this was 1985, he did a deal with Cellnet and there were only two mobile phone providers in those days.

“Long story short, the deal was perfect for their marketing, they didn’t want to be in F1, they just wanted to be in the UK and they had an F3 team. They offered a deal with drivers to provide everyone with £5,000 and a phone that you could make as many calls as you’d like for free. And David was saying if you sign this deal, they have to pay you £100,000 because they’re thinking no one is getting to F1” as Hill explained the unusual gradual tier system in the deal.

Plenty more episodes of Fuelling Around to enjoy

Series five has just got going, but there’s still a wealth of previous episodes from four series, for you to listen to.

A host of celebrity guests have littered the award-winning offering that has so far produced a string of cracking episodes to listen to.

You can also tune into Fuelling Around on Spotify, Apple, YouTube or various other platforms if you want to see what all the fuss is about.

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