• Ask Steven

From four wheels to four legs

Steven Lynch July 16, 2010 « Toro Rosso to stick with drivers in 2011 | »

Our resident expert - Steven Lynch - is here to answer all your questions about any aspect of F1. If you have a burning question or just want to test Steven, send us your questions… And check out the new Ask Steven Facebook page

Alfonso de Portago ahead of his fatal accident at the Mille Miglia © Getty Images

Apparently there was an F1 driver who also took part in the Grand National. Who was this all-round sportsman? asked Mike Murphy from Liverpool

This multi-talented individual was Alfonso de Portago, a Spanish marquis, who co-drove a Ferrari to second place in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1956. He drove the first 70 laps before handing over to Peter Collins, who completed 30 more: they finished a lap down on the winner, Juan Manuel Fangio. On horseback de Portago twice attempted the fearsome fences of the Aintree Grand National, as well as taking part n the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Just to complete the set he also represented Spain in the bobsleigh at the Winter Olympics, finishing fourth in the two-man event in 1956. His sporting achievements were almost as impressive as his full name - Alfonso Antonio Vicente Eduardo Angel Blas Francisco de Borja Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton - and a love life which would keep several gossip magazines going these days. Perhaps inevitably, "Fon" de Portago was killed at the wheel of a car: aged only 28, he crashed towards the end of the Mille Miglia sports-car race over public roads in Italy in May 1957. His co-driver and 12 spectators also died, leading to the end of the Mille Miglia as a serious race.

Nico Rosberg seems to be clocking up lots of points without yet winning a race. Is he the record-holder? asked Darrell Long from London

Nico Rosberg's third place at Silverstone gave him a career total of 165.5 points without winning a race. That doesn't quite put him top of this particular list, though: another German, Nick Heidfeld, scored 219 world championship points without ever quite making onto the top step of the podium. All points-related F1 records, of course, are going to be skewed by the introduction of this year's system, which offers far more points for the leading placings than before.

Takuma Sato and Sakon Yamamoto back in 2006 © Getty Images

Why did Sakon Yamomoto drive for HRT at Silverstone, and who is the most successful Japanese F1 driver? asked NAME

The circumstances of what seems to have been a one-off decision to replace Bruno Senna with Sakon Yamomoto for the British GP have not yet been fully explained by Hispania Racing. As with many things F1, though, I'd have a shrewd guess that the real reason was money-related! Yamomoto, who took part in 14 GPs for Super Aguri and Spyker in 2006 and 2007 with a best finish of 12th, is the 20th Japanese driver to take part in a Formula One Grand Prix (Hiroshi Fushida was the first, in 1975), and the most successful in points terms has been Takuma Sato, with 44: that included third place at the 2004 United States GP in a BAR. Japan's only other podium finish came, appropriately enough, in the Japanese GP at Suzuka in 1990, when Aguri Suzuki (later the owner of the Super Aguri team Yamomoto raced for) was third in a Larrousse-Lamborghini. Kamui Kobayashi so far has 18 points, and will probably soon overhaul Sato's total.

I assume Ferrari have entered the most Grands Prix, as they have been there since the start. Who's next? Lotus? asked Tim Marks from Oxford

Ferrari do indeed lead the way here, having clocked up their 800th world championship Grand Prix earlier this season. The original Team Lotus took part in 493 GPs, and the new Lotus outfit has added nine more to that, making 502 if you lump them together. But two other current teams lie ahead of them: McLaren have so far contested 675 GPs, and Williams 529. Of now-defunct teams Tyrrell (433) and Brabham (402) also took part in more than 400 GPs, while Arrows fell just short with 393.

I read that Michael Schumacher has won 35% of the GPs he has entered. Has anyone ever had a better percentage than that? asked Jay Montague from Colchester

Of drivers who have taken part in more than a handful of races the only ones with a higher percentage of wins than Michael Schumacher - 35% at the last count - are the legendary 1950s pair of Juan-Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari. The reduced programme back then meant that Fangio only took part in 52 GPs between the inauguration of the world championship in 1950 and his retirement in 1958 - but he won 24 of those races, or over 46%. Ascari, meanwhile, won 13 of his 33 races, or 39.39%. On current form Schumacher might soon slip behind Jim Clark, who won 25 of his 73 races, or 34.25%.

You mentioned Bernie Ecclestone the driver in last week's column. What was his best Grand Prix result? asked Alex Gorham from Towcester

The man who is now F1's supremo had the briefest of careers as a Grand Prix driver. Bernie Ecclestone entered two GPs in 1958 - at Monaco, as mentioned last week, and the British GP - in a front-engined Connaught, but failed to qualify for either. At Monaco he was one of 15 drivers who failed to make it onto the starting grid, while at Silverstone the car Ecclestone might have used was driven in the race by Jack Fairman, who had recorded a faster practice time in it - but he didn't last long, dropping out after only seven laps with an ignition problem. Ecclestone had earlier had more luck in Formula 3. He proved rather more successful as a team owner, buying up the Brabham team in 1972, two years before becoming one of the co-founders of the Formula One Constructors' Association: Bernie has been FOCA's chief executive since 1978.