• Ask Steven

Team treachery

Steven Lynch March 29, 2013
Gilles Villeneuve watches on as Didier Pironi celebrates victory at Imola © Sutton Images

Have there been any other cases of a driver ignoring team orders like Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia? asked Paul McDermott

There have been a few such instances over the years: in the 1981 Brazilian GP Williams instructed Carlos Reutemann to move over so Alan Jones, the reigning world champion, could pass for the win - but Reutemann didn't budge. Probably the most famous - and ultimately tragic - example happened the following year, when Didier Pironi passed his Ferrari team-mate Gilles Villeneuve during the San Marino GP at Imola. The two Ferraris were well ahead of the field, and were told by the pits to slow down: Villeneuve took this to mean they should hold position, and was enraged when Pironi nipped past him to win. "I'll never speak to him again in my life," said Villeneuve - which sadly proved to be prophetic words, as he was killed in practice for the next grand prix, at Zolder ... trying to better Pironi's lap time in poor conditions.

Was Stirling Moss the first Englishman to win a grand prix? asked Michael Hunter

Actually the first Briton to win a world championship grand prix was Mike Hawthorn, who won the French GP at Reims in 1953 in a Ferrari. Five years later Hawthorn became the first Englishman to win the world championship, just pipping Stirling Moss, who had become the second Brit to take the chequered flag in the British GP at Aintree in 1955, driving a Mercedes. Peter Collins (1956 Belgian GP) and Tony Brooks (1957 British GP) were the next Britons to stand on top of the podium. In all now 19 British drivers have won at least one world championship grand prix (Italy comes next with 15).

Why is Nico Rosberg shown as German on the television? Isn't he Finnish? asked Nicholas Coult

Nico Rosberg, whose mother is German, was actually born in Wiesbaden, and holds a German passport, so that's why his nationality is usually given as German (although he did sometimes race under the Finnish flag earlier in his career). He does hold dual German/Finnish nationality and, just to confuse things, he grew up in Monaco - where he still lives - as his father, the 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, lived there. Keke won the world title under the Finnish flag, although he was actually born near Stockholm in Sweden!

Lucien Bianchi in action in 1962 © Sutton Images

One of your recent columns mentioned the Belgian driver Lucien Bianchi - is he any relation of the new Marussia driver Jules? asked Clive Parker

Jules Bianchi, a late addition to the Marussia team this year, is actually the nephew of Lucien Bianchi, who raced in 19 GPs between 1959 and 1968, scoring one point in 1960 and five more eight years later. Lucien, who was born in Italy, was also an accomplished sports-car driver, who won Le Mans in 1968 - but he was killed while practising there the following year. His brother Mauro was also a noted racer. Jules, who joined Marussia when their original signing Luiz Razia had problems with funding, has had a fair bit of success in Formula Three, and was third in the GP2 series in 2011 before finishing runner-up in Formula Renault 3.5 last year.

Nigel Mansell took pole position at the 1994 Australian GP when he was 41 - is he the oldest F1 pole-sitter? asked Craig Jamieson

Nigel Mansell was three months past his 41st birthday when he set the fastest practice lap at the Australian GP in Adelaide in 1994. Mansell, during a brief comeback for Williams, started just ahead of Michael Schumacher's Benetton, with Damon Hill third in the other Williams: this was the race in which Schumacher famously collided with Hill, putting him out of the race, which secured the German's first world championship. However, Mansell is only fifth on this particular list: Mario Andretti was 42 when he took pole at Monza in 1982, while Jack Brabham was 44 when he started the 1970 Spanish GP from the front of the grid. The last of Juan Manuel Fangio's 29 pole positions - from just 48 races - came at his home Grand Prix in Argentina in 1958, when he was 46 ... but the oldest pole-sitter of all, at 47 years 79 days, was the inaugural world champion of 1950, Nino Farina, who set the fastest practice time for the 1954 Argentine GP in a Ferrari (he still finished second to Fangio in the race).

Has anyone ever won the world championship in his first season? asked Tom Nixon

If you exclude Nino Farina, who won the inaugural official world title in 1950, no one has done this. Two drivers have won the title in their second season: Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, and Lewis Hamilton in 2008. Both of them had finished second in their rookie season - Villeneuve behind his Williams team-mate Damon Hill, while Hamilton (McLaren) was pipped by Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari). With two races to go in 2007, Hamilton looked an almost certain winner: after collecting ten points for winning the Japanese GP he was 12 clear of Fernando Alonso, and 17 in front of Raikkonen. But Hamilton crashed out in the next race, in China, and could manage only seventh place (two points) in the last one, in Brazil ... meanwhile Raikkonen won both races to pinch the title by a single point. Hamilton ended up with 109, the same as his McLaren team-mate Alonso, although he was placed ahead of him in the table as he had more second-placed finishes (both had four wins).