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Lotus turns over new leaf

Steven Lynch August 13, 2010
Jackie Oliver in the 1968 Lotus 49B, painted in the colours of new sponsor, Imperial Tobacco © Sutton Images

Old pictures show F1 cars in national colours like British Racing Green, or red for Italy. Which were the first cars to be painted in a sponsor's colours? asked Andrew Browne from Kingston

The innovator in this, as in several other areas of F1, was the former Lotus team owner Colin Chapman. He arranged a deal in 1968 whereby his cars - previously a rich shade of dark green, with a distinctive yellow trim - were painted in the colours of their new sponsors, Imperial Tobacco (specifically their Gold Leaf cigarette brand). Those 1968 cars were red with gold trim, and bore the name "Gold Leaf" in several prominent positions. The new-look Lotus first appeared at a Formula Two meeting at Hockenheim in April 1968 - and, sadly, the double world champion Jim Clark was killed while driving it. Graham Hill in a similar F1 car did, however, go on to win the world title that year.

What has been the fastest grand prix ever, in terms of average speed? asked Bill Cockroft from Manchester

For years the answer to this question was the Italian GP of 1971, won by Britain's Peter Gethin in an exciting blanket finish in which the first four cars were separated by only 0.18 of a second. The average speed of Gethin's BRM was 150.75mph, the first time the 150mph barrier had been beaten over an entire race. The record finally changed hands in 2003, again at Monza, when Michael Schumacher's average speed in the Ferrari was 153.84mph. This time the finish wasn't quite as close: Juan Pablo Montoya was second, just over five seconds behind, and only three others were on the same lap.

I know that Britain's Mike Hawthorn became world champion in 1958 even though he only won one race. But who has won the most races in a season without becoming champion? asked Albert McKenzie from Clacton

Mike Hawthorn did indeed win the world championship in 1958 despite only winning one race (Stirling Moss, who finished second a point behind, actually won four). Keke Rosberg in 1982 also managed this peculiar feat (the next five drivers in the standings all won two races each, and overall there were a record number of 11 different race winners that year). The most wins in a season without winning the championship is seven, which has rather surprisingly been achieved on no fewer than four occasions: by Alain Prost twice, in 1984 and 1988, by Kimi Raikkonen in 2005, and by Michael Schumacher in what we all thought was his final season, 2006.

Pierluigi Martini briefly led the 1989 Portuguese Grand Prix for Minardi and finished fourth twice for the Italian team © Sutton Images

The Minardi car always seemed to be struggling at the back of the grid - but I remember a lot of famous names starting with them. Who were Minardi's best signings? asked Terry Bull from Exeter

Minardi's cars did always seem to struggle, probably because the team was underfunded compared to most of the others. Still, they survived on the F1 grid for 20 years (1985 to 2005) before being sold to Red Bull and reappearing as Toro Rosso. And you're right: the roll call of their drivers includes some famous names, notably the double world champion Fernando Alonso, who started in a Minardi in 2001, and the current world championship leader Mark Webber, who drove for Minardi in 2002 and finished fifth at the Australian GP. Other notable drivers who drove for Minardi include Andrea de Cesaris (1986), Alessandro Nannini (1986-87), Roberto Moreno (1991), Alessandro Zanardi (1992), Michele Alboreto (1994), Giancarlo Fisichella (1996), Jarno Trulli (1997), Marc Gene (1999-2000) and Jos Verstappen (2003). Minardi's best-ever finishes were a pair of fourths by Pierluigi Martini in 1991, at the San Marino and Portuguese GPs, and another by Christian Fittipaldi in South Africa in 1993.

How many F1 drivers have won the Indianapolis 500? asked Janet Draper from London

The Indianapolis 500 has been won by five drivers who had been or became F1 world champions - Jim Clark (1965), Graham Hill (1966), Mario Andretti (1969), Emerson Fittipaldi (1989 and 1993) and Jacques Villeneuve (1995). The winner in 2000, Juan Pablo Montoya, later won seven Grands Prix after joining F1 circuit. Other Indy 500 winners who had significant F1 careers were Mark Donohue (who won at Indianapolis in 1972), Danny Sullivan (1985) and Eddie Cheever (1998). Some of the other winners, like Bobby Rahal and Bobby Unser, had very occasional races in F1. The Indy 500 counted towards the F1 world championship from 1950 to 1960.

You talked last time about fastest laps and whether the drivers should still get a point for them. Who has set the most fastest laps over his F1 career? asked Ken McCarroll from Edinburgh

The name of the man who has set most fastest laps in his F1 career is not really a surprise: Michael Schumacher, with 76 from his 261 races so far. Alain Prost is next with 41. Juan Manuel Fangio (23 out of 51 races, or 45%) and Jim Clark (28 out of 72, or 39%) have better fastest-lap percentages than Schumacher's, which is 29%.