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Birthday winners

Steven Lynch April 12, 2013
James Hunt is one of only two drivers to have won a grand prix on their birthday © Getty Images

Has anyone ever won a Grand Prix on his birthday? asked Michael Lewis

It turns out that only two people have ever won a world championship Grand Prix on their birthday. The first was James Hunt, who won the 1976 Dutch GP at Zandvoort on August 29, his 29th birthday. This was the fourth of Hunt's six victories in his Championship-winning season for McLaren. The second birthday boy is pretty remarkable - it's the popular Frenchman Jean Alesi, who won his only Grand Prix in a Ferrari in Canada in 1995, on his 31st birthday (June 11). Near misses include second places by Carlos Pace (1974 United States GP) and Carlos Reutemann (Argentine 1981), and thirds for Elio de Angelis (Brazilian 1984) and Rubens Barrichello (Monaco 2004).

Last year in Abu Dhabi Sebastian Vettel started 24th on the grid but finished third - an improvement of 21 places. Was this a Grand Prix record? asked Kyle Canning

It's certainly a record in recent years, when the number of cars on the grid has been limited to 24 or (this year) 22. In the early days of F1, though, more competitors were allowed to take part: in the 1954 British GP at Silverstone Roberto Mieres of Argentina started 31st and last on the grid but finished up sixth, a rise of 25 places (although one car in front of him on the grid did not actually start the race). At the Indianapolis 500, which counted towards the world championship from 1950-60, there are traditionally 33 cars on the grid: in 1957 Jim Rathmann started 32nd there and finished second. The worst grid position for someone who went on to win a Grand Prix was 22nd, by John Watson at the United States GP West at Long Beach in 1983 (his McLaren team-mate Niki Lauda, who started 23rd, ended up second).

What was the slowest Grand Prix of them all? asked William Gerrard

The list of the slowest GPs is dominated by the tight, twisty Monte Carlo circuit - at one stage 17 of the slowest 18 GPs had been held in Monaco. The slowest of all was the first one, in 1950, which was won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa-Romeo, at an average speed of 61.33mph (98.7kph). This race featured a big pile-up shortly after the tunnel on the first lap - high winds had blown sea water over the harbour wall, making the track slippery - which eliminated 10 of the 19 starters. Fangio picked his way through the debris, and eventually lapped the remainder of the field. The slowest race not at Monaco was the Argentine GP of 1954, a rain-affected contest eventually won by Fangio - the local hero - at an average speed of 70.13mph.

Karl Kling finished second on debut for Mercedes behind team-mate Juan Manuel Fangio © Getty Images

I think only one person has won his very first Grand Prix. How many people have finished second in theirs? asked Tim Vance

The only man to have won his first Grand Prix was the Italian Giancarlo Baghetti, who won the 1961 French GP in a Ferrari. That remained Baghetti's only world championship victory. Technically you could also include Nino Farina, who won the first official world championship race, the British GP of 1950, and Johnny Parsons, who won the Indianapolis 500 that same year. Excluding those three - and Luigi Fagioli, who finished second in that inaugural race at Silverstone in May 1950 - only four men have come second in their maiden Grand Prix. That includes two more from 1950 - Alberto Ascari, at Monte Carlo a week after missing the Silverstone race, and Dorino Serafini, who was second in the Italian GP at Monza later in the year. Serafini shared that drive with Ascari, but remains the only man to finish on the podium in what was his only Grand Prix. In 1954 Karl Kling finished second in the French GP for Mercedes, and then there's a long gap to 1996, when Jacques Villeneuve was runner-up in his first Grand Prix, in Australia in a Williams. In addition three Americans - Bill Holland (1950), Mike Nazaruk (1951) and George Amick (1958) - finished second in the Indy 500 during the years it counted towards the F1 world championship.

The Malaysian GP provided Lewis Hamilton with his 50th podium finish. Where does he stand on the all-time list - I bet a certain German is top? asked Martin Crawshaw

Lewis Hamilton became the 12th driver to achieve a half-century of podium finishes at Sepang - not that he, or the two drivers who shared the dais with him, looked terribly happy about it! As you suspect, Michael Schumacher leads the way, with no fewer than 155 podium finishes (he finished in the top three in just over half his total of 306 races). Alain Prost is the only other man to have stood up there more than 100 times - 105 in all. Next comes Fernando Alonso with 87, ahead of Ayrton Senna (80). Of other current drivers, Kimi Raikkonen has had 70 top-three finishes, Jenson Button 49 and Sebastian Vettel 48.

Who won four GPs - in three different makes of car? asked Albert Haynes

This was Dan Gurney, the versatile American driver who was actually the first to win a world championship Grand Prix in a Porsche (1962 French), a Brabham (1964 French) and an Eagle (1967 Belgian). Gurney, who is credited with being the first to spray champagne around the podium - which he did after winning at Le Mans in 1967 - also won the 1964 Mexican GP in a Brabham.