Hill proved a popular figure after taking over the mantle from Nigel Mansell as the nation's favourite driver and was twice named the BBC's sports personality of the year. But his career on the track has stalled. He won the Belgian Grand Prix last year but he has made a poor start this season and last Sunday crashed during the Canadian Grand Prix.
"After much reflection I have decided not to continue racing in Formula One after the end of the 1999 season," Hill said yesterday. "Despite being a late starter to Formula One, at the age of 32, I am very proud of my record of having won 22 grands prix and the world championship itself.
"Formula One has afforded me many incredible opportunities and I will cherish some fantastic memories. I have fulfilled my ambitions and consider myself very fortunate to have done so. I would like to thank all those who had to work with me, from the caterers to the team owners. You survived, well done!"
Eddie Jordan, who runs Hill's current team, said: "This is a sad but typically brave and honest decision by one of Britain's great sporting heroes. Damon was a great world champion and a wonderful ambassador for motorsport worldwide."
Michael Schumacher called Hill's decision "a pity" and said: "I think he will be a loss to the sport - we had some great and interesting battles together on the track."
The man who guided Hill to his world championship, Frank Williams, said Hill worked very hard with the team. "In 1994, he provided the team with a solid bedrock of strength of character and humour to put the Ayrton Senna loss behind us. This will never be forgotten by all of us at Williams F1 and we wish him well on his retirement."
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