Billy Monger is a 19-year-old Formula Three racing driver with the Surrey-based Carlin team. Monger has been racing since the age of six when, like his hero Lewis Hamilton before him, he joined the karting circuit.
Monger rose through the ranks to F4, earning the nickname Billy Whizz for his daring and speed.
When did Billy Monger crash?
On 16 April 2017, Monger was racing at a rainy Donington Park in the British Formula Four championship when he smashed into the back of Finnish driver Patrik Pasma’s car at 120 miles per hour. Pasma walked away from the crash. Monger, who was still 17, lost both his legs: the right leg below the knee, the left above the knee.
The front of Monger’s car crumpled into the back of Pasma’s. It took an hour and a half to get Monger out of the wreckage.
Monger was evacuated by air ambulance and put in a coma by doctors at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. The severity of his injuries was immediately apparent to the team treating him.
What happened after Billy Monger’s crash?
Lewis Hamilton is presented with the Pirelli Pole Position trophy by Billy Monger during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 7, 2018
As he slept, something remarkable happened: the F1 community gathered round. Drivers like Lewis Hamilton who had come up the same way as Monger, through karting and Formula Three, knew it could have been their younger selves lying in intensive care. Hamilton, who has 5.41 million Twitter followers, tweeted his support for Monger, and former Formula One world champion Jenson Button posted an appeal on Instagram. Within 24 hours, £500,000 had been raised towards his recovery.
After the crash, when Monger was still in a wheelchair but determined to continue his racing career, he was invited by childhood friend and team Carlin driver Jamie Caroline to come to the Carlin HQ and try out the simulator. Almost immediately, Monger starting posting better times than the able-bodied drivers using it.
Carlin adapted a car for Monger. The clutch, gear-change and accelerator are all on the steering wheel (this requires him to do exercises to keep his hands and fingers strong) and the brake pedal was moved from the floor of the cockpit closer to the driver so he can reach it with a specialist prosthetic he wears for driving.
What are Billy Monger’s hopes for the future?
Now, only 18 months after the crash, Monger is back at the wheel regularly in a Formula Three car, one stage up from F4 and adapted to allow him to compete in the British championships. In his first season of F3, which ended in October, Monger gained four podium finishes and finished sixth overall. He’s now looking for £350,000 sponsorship for next season.
He seems to have gained his biggest boost from the involvement of Hamilton. “Lewis has been my idol since I was eight,” he tells Radio Times. “When I was first racing go-karts, he was winning his first World Championship in F1 and I was looking at that as my inspiration. He’s a really nice guy and invited me to spend the weekend with him at the British Grand Prix. Lewis told me a lot about his F1 car, how it worked.”
Is it possible Monger could drive an F1 car one day? “I don’t want this to be an excuse, I don’t want to think, ‘I could have been an F1 driver if I hadn’t had my accident.’ I think most people when faced with adversity discover they can’t cope with it, or they find that extra little bit. It was a brutal situation and, thankfully, I found that extra little bit of strength.”
Driven: the Billy Monger Story airs 10am on Sunday 18th November on BBC3 and at 9pm on Monday 19th November on BBC2