• Ask Steven

The volcano track

Steven Lynch July 18, 2013
Clermont-Ferrand was a daunting circuit for drivers © Sutton Images
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Which Grand Prix circuit was laid out in and around a volcano? asked Michael Rabinowitz

The Fuji circuit, which has staged the Japanese GP on four occasions, is not far from Mount Fuji - but it's pushing it to suggest the circuit is "in and around" the sacred mountain. I think the answer you're probably looking for is the Charade circuit near Clermont-Ferrand in France, which was laid out around a volcano (luckily, an extinct one!) in the Auvergne mountains. It was a regular circuit for sports cars, and the French GP was held there four times between 1965 and 1972. It was never very popular with the F1 set as the track tended to have a lot of stones on it from the nearby mountains - and it was there in 1972 that Helmut Marko (then a BRM driver but now a big wheel in the Red Bull team) lost an eye after a stone thrown up by another car went through his helmet visor.

I noticed that Renault won the Constructors' Championship in 2006 by just five points. Is the closest margin? asked Paul Miller

In 2006 Renault, in the shape of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella, finished just five points in front of Ferrari (Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa) to retain the Constructors' Championship they also won in 2005, when the margin was a scarcely more comfortable nine points. But the closest competition was in 1964, when there were many fewer races: Ferrari (John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini) won by only three points from BRM. In 1999 Ferrari pinched the title again, by just four points, from McLaren this time; and they also pipped McLaren by five points in the notably open season of 1982.

Jack Brabham was 44 when he took pole position at the 1970 Monaco GP. Is he the last 40-year-old to start from the front of the grid? asked Nicholas Merry

There have been two 40-year-old pole-sitters since then … and one near-miss. Mario Andretti was 42 when he set the fastest practice time at the Italian GP in 1982, and Nigel Mansell was 41 when he stuck his Williams on pole in Australia in 1994. At Monaco in 2012 Michael Schumacher set the fastest practice time, aged 43 - but he had a five-place grid penalty from the previous race so did not start from pole position. The only pole-sitters older than Brabham were Nino Farina (47 in 1954) and Juan Manuel Fangio (46 in 1958).

I was reading an article about the 1955 Le Mans disaster which mentioned the British driver Ivor Bueb. How successful was he - and, more importantly, how do you pronounce his name?! asked Richard Feltham

To do the important bit first, apparently his name was pronounced to rhyme with "Tube". Born in East Ham in London in 1923, Ivor Bueb took part in six GPs for various teams between 1957 and 1959, without collecting any points. He was more famous in sports-car racing, and actually co-drove the winning Jaguar in the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours - the race marred by the horrific crash when a car flew into the crowd, killing the driver (Pierre Levegh) and more than 80 spectators. He won again at Le Mans in 1957, this time driving with Ron Flockhart in another Jaguar. Bueb himself died in 1959 from injuries received in a crash at the Charade circuit in France (see above).

Susie Wolff in the Williams © Sutton Images

I see Susie Wolff is testing for Williams this week. Do you think she will get a race seat? asked Jeremy Marks

I think I've said before that I'm surprised no-one has signed a woman driver in F1 - not since the days of Lella Lombardi and Davina Galica, anyway - because for a start I imagine the publicity would be huge. Susie Wolff is a very experienced driver, having completed seven seasons in the tough German DTM series, in addition to her role as a Williams development driver - and she's also pretty well connected, as her husband Toto is an executive director of the Mercedes F1 team! So she currently seems the most likely woman to make the breakthrough to the Grand Prix grid.

Graham Hill's first world championship points apparently came in the 1960 Dutch GP. But he was sixth at Monza in 1958, why didn't he get any then? asked Tim Fearnley

There's nothing sinister in this: it's just that under the scoring system in use in 1958 you didn't get any points for finishing sixth - it went eight points for first, then six, four, three and two for second to fifth, plus a point for the fastest lap. The point for sixth place (instead of for the fastest lap) was introduced in 1960. That was indeed the year that Graham Hill collected his first points - for third place at Zandvoort in a BRM.