In September of 1961 Hill went home to Santa Monica where the Grand Prix championship barely registered. He had the misfortune of devoting his life to a sport that Americans considered barely more than a rumor. Like the Tour de France, it was a European preoccupation that warranted only cursory notice in U.S. newspapers. If Americans cared about car racing at all it was the Indianapolis 500.
The Hill-von Trips rivalry was far eclipsed in America by a gripping contest closer to home: the summer long home run derby between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Hill had the misfortune of winning the Grand Prix title two weeks before Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs. It was clear who America’s hero was.
The part of the problem was that Hill did not look like a champion. He was slight of build and grim-faced, with none of the winner’s swagger. Plus, there was something fragile about him in those months after Monza. “Perhaps I am oversensitive,” he wrote in October, “but since returning to America this fall I have found that I am being treated with kid gloves.”