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Damon Hill

Hill reveals how a Williams testing crash had an unusual cause

F1 World Champion Damon Hill has explained that a pre-season testing crash from his Williams days was caused by an unusual oversight by the team.

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Damon Hill has reflected on his days of taking part in pre-season F1 testing, and said he'll always remember one particular incident that ended up with him crashing his car.

The 1996 F1 World Champion was at the wheel of a Williams (although didn't specify which year between 1993 and 1996), and explained that the car had been fitted with some extra technology that hadn't been altered from the previous season – an oversight that would prove calamitous during a pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

"I went out in a Williams and we had an automatic downshift," Hill told the F1 Nation podcast when asked for his most memorable moment from pre-season testing.

"I went down the straight in Barcelona and, basically, it was supposed to be a case of you press a button before you get to the corner, and then, as your car slows down, the gears automatically go down through the box, but they weren't supposed to change down until the revs had dropped enough for it to go to the lower gear.

"Someone forgot, over the winter, that they had gone through the computer or something like that and forgot to put the change down bar in there. So I literally went past the pits at 200 miles an hour down to the first corner, hit the button, and the car started changing down.

"But the engine revs were going up and up and up until, eventually, the engine just exploded and threw me into the barrier. But I remember just thinking it's literally the first run of a new season in a new car and I hit this self-destruct button!

"I got out and I just thought, 'What the hell was that all about? Did I press the wrong button?' But, thankfully, it was a software problem."

Hill: Engine failures can be pretty exciting!

Engine failures are now quite a rare occurrence in Formula 1, but Hill was no stranger to mechanical issues during the Williams-Renault days of the mid-1990s, with a particularly gut-wrenching incident being when his engine let go while dominating the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix.

Asked to describe the experience of a failure, Hill said: "You usually hear a little tinkle first!

"Usually you hear a little (trill), [just about] a fraction of a second [before it blows].

"Sometimes, it loses power. So you're going along, usually flat out under maximum stress, and then there'll either be a slight tightening or a little tinkling noise and then all hell breaks loose.

"Imagine there's the energy inside one of those things when you've got a tiny bit of metal being bounced around inside a piston or something seizes up – it just explodes. And yeah, it's pretty exciting!"

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: All you need to know after the first pre-season test

At the end of the first pre-season test of 2022 in Barcelona, Dieter Rencken and Thomas Maher discuss the on- and off-track developments so far.

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