A legend passes…

The Formula 1 world has lost one of its more colourful lunch partners. Christopher Hilton, the prolific book writer and former Fleet Street journalist, passed away unexpectedly at the weekend.

Chris was an established sports writer, albeit specialising in tennis, for the Daily Express when he was pitched into F1 at the beginning of the eventful 1982 season. He later turned those experiences into a book, one of many on F1 and other sporting subjects.

As a book writer his work rate put the rest of us to shame. He put this down to a regular routine in which he would rise early, write until lunchtime or thereabouts in his dressing gown, and then go out (properly dressed by now) for the papers, which he would digest over a pint in his local. Following this convivial repast he would return home to carry on writing until early evening, whereupon he would call time on the day’s work and take a long, hot bath.

Occasionally he would interrupt this routine to visit the LAT Archive for picture research, and this would usually involve lunch, during which he would provide delightful company. Thankfully he would give at least 48hrs notice of his impending arrival so that you could make alternative transport arrangements and mollify loved ones. Lunches with Chris almost inevitably occupied rather longer than the statutory hour, and would often involve you stumbling from the establishment rather later than expected and somewhat the worse for wear.

Most F1 fans will have at least one of his books. His prodigious output led to the inevitable accusations of hackery, and certainly many of his biographies relied heavily on secondary sources, but he always took the matter of accuracy and fairness very seriously, and he would never abuse the legal tenet that the dead can’t sue for libel. The majority of the previous sentence contains nothing that can be said about the author of a recent high-profile biography of a major F1 figure…

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  • Comments (6)
    • Xyon
    • November 29th, 2010

    RIP Mr Hilton. Your work brought an extra dimension to the sport I love, and the world seems a smaller place without you in it all of a sudden.

    • Mike
    • November 29th, 2010

    A nice tribute to a top bloke. Christopher came into BBC London 94.9 to talk about his books – and other matters – on many an occasion. I’m a sport producer at the station and he would often “do us a turn” at short notice, such as those quiet summer days when we suddenly had 3 or 4 hours to fill!

    He would often make a day of it, bringing his wife and daughter into London with him and meeting them after the interview in one of the many nice eateries on Marylebone High Street.

    My condolences to Christopher’s family and friends.

  1. Great shame. Always like Christopher’s books – his Senna biography was particularly good.
    He’ll be sadly missed.

  2. I will miss Christopher Hilton. His “Inside the Mind of a Grand Prix Driver” remains one of my favourite F1 books, with good coverage of a broad subject, filled with fascinating anecdotes in an easy-to-read format. My local library must think he’s good as well because there are invariably several of his books available there at any given time (and yes, they do get borrowed) – an honour accorded to few F1 writers.

    Reading “Grand Prix Battlegrounds” (which arrived in the library last week) will be a good way to remember Christopher – a man who did a great service to F1 bookworms everywhere.

    • Steven Roy
    • November 29th, 2010

    I have read a few of his books. I never thought of him as a journalist. I can’t ever remember seeing race reports or opinion poeces attributed to him.

    1982 must have been the most incredible season possible to be his first season covering F1

    • Julian Nowell
    • December 3rd, 2010

    Christopher was kind enough to use some of my photos in Grand Prix Battlegrounds,something for which I shall be eternally grateful, as I finally realised an ambition to have some of my photos published in a motor sport book.
    Although they were not brilliant, they were very relevant ,and his encouragement and humour in putting the book together shone through.
    At one point I kept e-mailing him umpteen photos, and then I apologised for bombarding him, but he replied ‘Keep bombarding me, or I’ll get worried…!’
    He couldn’t have been more courteous or helpful with my efforts, and I hope Grand Prix Battlegrounds will serve as a nice memento of his many books, my favourite being an epic on Clay Regazzoni.
    His loss will leave a great big gap in motor sport publications….

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