• Ask Steven

Winning around the world

Steven Lynch March 1, 2013
All of Sebastian Vettel's victories in 2012 were outside Europe © Press Association

Sebastian Vettel won the drivers' title last year despite not winning a race in Europe. Is he the first champion to do this? asked Gerry Houghton

That's a good spot, as although Sebastian Vettel won five GPs last year, they were all outside Europe - in Bahrain, Singapore, Japan, Korea and India. He only had one second place in Europe, too (in Belgium). In Vettel's first title year, 2010, he also won five races - and four of those were elsewhere, the exception being the European GP itself, at Valencia; then in 2011 five of Vettel's 11 wins were elsewhere. Overall, no fewer than 17 of Vettel's 26 GP wins to date have come outside Europe. Until the 1980s there were very few world championship races outside Europe, so it would have been exceedingly difficult to win the title without some success there. Even the two drivers whose championship year included only one Grand Prix victory won it in Europe: in 1958 Mike Hawthorn took the chequered flag in France, while Keke Rosberg's sole success in his title year of 1982 came in the Swiss GP at Dijon, also in France. In 2004, when he won a record 13 races, Michael Schumacher had six victories outside Europe (Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Canada, USA and Japan), and he repeated that in 2000, when six of his nine victories came elsewhere. Damon Hill won five races outside Europe (and three in it) during his championship year of 1996.

What is the most successful nation for producing F1 world champions? asked Derek Clarke

Britain leads the way with ten different world champions, who between them have won 14 titles. Brazil and Finland have produced three world champions, while German drivers have won ten titles (Michael Schumacher seven and Sebastian Vettel three). There is perhaps a case for saying that drivers from Finland have had the most success: only eight Finns have appeared in F1 (there have been 30 Brazilians, and 158 Brits), but three of them have won the title - Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen - while one of the others (Heikki Kovalainen) has a Grand Prix victory to his name.

What are the chances of seeing a woman driver in F1 soon? asked Jane Harding

There doesn't seem to be any immediate prospect of this. Last year Maria de Villotta was Marussia's test driver, before a freak accident in testing cost her an eye. That means the closest woman to an F1 drive is Susie Wolff, who has taken part in the German Touring Car (DTM) championship for several years: in 2012, she was signed as a development driver for Williams, where her husband, Toto Wolff, was a shareholder. All this means that the only woman ever to score in the F1 drivers' championship remains Lella Lombardi, who collected half a point for sixth place in the 1975 Spanish GP, which was stopped after 29 of its scheduled 75 laps following a major accident. The only other woman to start a world championship Grand Prix was another Italian, Maria Teresa de Filippis, who drove in three in 1958-59. Davina Galica (1976-78), Desire Wilson (1980) and Giovanna Amati (1992) have all subsequently entered races but failed to qualify for the final grid. I have to say I'm surprised no team has taken the plunge with a female driver, which would undoubtedly generate lots of publicity!

Robert Benoist in action at the inaugural British Grand Prix at Brooklands © Getty Images

Has the British Grand Prix ever been held at Brooklands? asked Jim Canning

Brooklands, in Surrey, was the world's first purpose-built racing circuit - but it closed with the onset of war in 1939, and never reopened for racing, although some of the circuit (including part of the imposing banking) is still there, and forms part of an atmospheric museum. There's no chance of the circuit being rebuilt - part of it is now a supermarket, and there's a housing estate on another bit. Because of this, there was never a world champlonship GP at Brooklands - but an event called the British Grand Prix was held there in 1926, when a four-hour race was won by Frenchmen Robert Senechal and Louis Wagner in a Delage, with Britain's Malcolm Campbell second in a Bugatti. Another Delage, this time piloted by Robert Benoist, won in 1927.

I seem to remember a race called the Luxembourg Grand Prix. Where did this take place, assuming it wasn't actually in Luxembourg?! asked Leslie Harris

The F1 world championship featured a race called the Luxembourg Grand Prix in 1997 and 1998. Really it was only a device to stage an extra GP in Germany: it was held at the Nurburgring, which lies about 50 miles from Germany's border with Luxembourg. In both years the race was won by the eventual world champion: Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, and Mika Hakkinen in 1998. Between 1949 and 1952 there was a non-championship race of the same name, which actually was held in Luxembourg - at Findel, in the south of the Grand Duchy, where the international airport now is.

Heiki Kovalainen had three unbroken years with Caterham, in which he never scored any points in about 60 races. Is this the longest pointless run? asked Michael Bradley

Heikki Kovalainen actually had 58 successive races with Caterham (originally Lotus) between 2010 and 2012, and he also failed to score in his final three outings for McLaren in 2009, making a total of 61 successive pointless races. Kovalainen is without a drive for 2013 at the moment, but if he returns down the line he's in danger of breaking the record, currently held by the Italian Nicola Larini, who entered 69 races from 1988 before finishing second in the 1992 San Marino GP at Imola, driving a Ferrari while Jean Alesi was injured. Larini only started 44 of those 69 races, though, failing to qualify in the others.