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The unexplained mystery of 'Taffy' von Trips

Steven Lynch June 4, 2010
The origin of how Wolfgang von Trips gained the nickname 'Taffy' is unclear © Getty Images
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Why was the German driver Wolfgang von Trips nicknamed "Taffy"? asked George Scott from Horsham

There doesn't seem to be much information on how the aristocratic von Trips acquired this nickname. I seem to remember reading something by Graham Hill in which he said that it was because "Taffy" (usually applied to Welsh people) was about the most unlikely thing you could call a German count. I've also found a report which pins the blame for the nickname on Mike Hawthorn, who thought von Trips looked Welsh (this attribution seems reasonably likely, as the pair both drove for Ferrari). For those unfamiliar with von Trips's career, he was in the lead in the 1961 world championship before the Italian GP at Monza that September, where he was involved in accident with Jim Clark and lost his life (11 spectators were also killed). Von Trips's Ferrari team-mate Phil Hill won the race, and with it the drivers' championship.

Why do the teams spend millions on wind-tunnel aero-development of their cars and then go and stick cameras on various parts of them? Surely the cameras must affect the aerodynamic work? asked Brian from Australia

That's a reasonable question, and one that had occasionally occurred to me. I always assumed that all the teams had to carry the cameras, so suffered the same aerodynamic "penalty", but I wasn't sure so asked the helpful techies at McLaren. Here's what they said: "You're correct in saying that all the teams do carry the same penalty. All teams have to carry five cameras or have at least five camera housings. Even if there isn't a camera in one of the places the same weight is applied to the housing. The cameras are mainly used for entertainment purposes, as you will see on the TV coverage over the Grand Prix weekends. For more information you can visit the FIA website (www.fia.com) and look at Article 20 of the Technical Regulations."

Is HRT's Karun Chandhok the first Indian to drive in Formula One? asked Bharat Rajesh from Delhi

Actually, Karun Chandhok is the second Indian F1 driver: the first was Narain Karthikeyan, who also hails from Chennai, and drove for Jordan in 2005. He was hamstrung by the car not being very competitive, and finished out of the points in 13 of the 14 races in which he made it to the end. The exception was that year's farcical United States GP at Indianapolis, when only six cars took part after a dispute about tyres. Karthikeyan picked up his only world championship points - five of them - after finishing fourth in that race, behind his team-mate Tiago Monteiro but ahead of two Minardis. After failing to secure an F1 race drive for 2006 (he did secure a spot as Williams's test driver) Karthikeyan spent three seasons driving the Indian car in the A1-GP series, winning two races - in China and Britain - during the 2007-08 competition, in which he eventually finished tenth overall. He has been driving in NASCAR in 2010.

Who was the last Australian driver to win back-to-back Grands Prix before Mark Webber? asked Hari Prasath via Facebook

The last one was Alan Jones, who won the Canadian and United States GPs to round off his title-winning 1980 season, and also won the first race of 1981, at Long Beach. Jones also won two in a row earlier in 1980, and the previous year had won three races in successive. The only other Australian driver to win successive Grands Prix is Jack Brabham, who won five in a row in 1960, and four in succession in 1966 - not surprisingly, he won the drivers' title in both those years (and 1959 as well).

I noticed that Nick Heidfeld finished all his 18 races during the 2008 season. Has anyone else done this? asked Craig Nicholls from Bury

No, Nick Heidfeld's 100% record for as many as 18 races in 2008 is unapproached. He was driving for Sauber - I bet they wish their 2010 car was similarly reliable! Jordan's Tiago Monteiro finished 18 Grands Prix in 2005, but there were 19 races that year and he failed to finish in the Brazilian GP, the 16th race of the season.

Is it true that Alberto Ascari won every race of the 1952 F1 season? asked Terry Beale from Worcester

It's not quite true, since Ascari didn't enter the Swiss GP, the first race of the season, because he was making a rare attempt on the Indianapolis 500 (his specially adapted Ferrari completed only 40 laps at the Brickyard). But once Ascari returned to Europe he was unstoppable, winning the remaining six Grands Prix of the year. He was helped by the absence of the 1951 champion, Juan Manuel Fangio, who missed the whole season after breaking his neck in a crash - but even he would have had trouble stopping Ascari in his 1952 form.

I am a fan of the French driver Sebastien Bourdais, and am sad he's no longer in F1. What's he doing now? asked Jane Fisher from Kingston

Sebastien Bourdais drove for Toro Rosso in 2008 and 2009 - his best result came in his debut race, when he was seventh at the Australian GP - after winning the American Champ-Car Series for four years running. After failing to secure an F1 seat for 2010 he has been driving in the Superleague Formula series. Bourdais was born in Le Mans, and has done well in the 24-Hour race there: he co-drove the runner-up in 2007 and 2009.