• Ask Steven

Rindt's low points

Steven Lynch August 27, 2010
Jochen Rindt scored just 109 points on his way to becoming the only posthumous world champion © Sutton Images

I noticed that Jochen Rindt claimed only 109 points in his entire F1 career. Is this the smallest number for anyone who was a world champion? asked Derek Bonard from Brighton

You're right, Jochen Rindt did indeed earn only 109 points during his F1 career, which ended tragically early in 1970 when he was killed in practice for the Italian GP while leading the championship (he eventually won it posthumously). But the American Phil Hill earned even fewer points: 98 - 38 of them in 1961, when he narrowly won the F1 title. And to answer another question about Rindt, from Barry Cooper from Kent, he was born in Germany during the Second World War (in 1942), but was brought up by his grandparents in Austria. Although he never became an Austrian citizen, Rindt always raced under an Austrian licence so is usually shown as Austrian in the record books.

If, as you said in the last column, the first F1 cars to be painted in a sponsor's colours were in 1968, why was John Surtees's Ferrari resplendent in white and blue for the 1964 American GP? asked George Robinson from Edinburgh

This arose out of a disagreement between Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the famous marque, and the national Italian automobile club, which had refused to register one of his racing-car models as a regulation (usually conveniently ignored) stipulated that at least 100 of them had to be built. As Surtees wrote: "Ferrari was outraged, threw in his competition licence and said he would never race his works cars in Italy again, as well as decreeing that when they raced abroad they would no longer be painted in Italian racing red. It was a threat he kept up until the end of the year ... when [Lorenzo] Bandini and I turned up at Watkins Glen for the United States GP, our cars were painted blue and white - the US international racing colours - and entered by Luigi Chinetti's North American Racing Team." Surtees won the world title that year - and actually clinched it in his white-and-blue Ferrari at the Mexican GP. Also in connection with the previous column, Ian Robinson from Australia has pointed out that "The Gold Leaf colours first appeared on the Lotus 49T at the Lady Wigram Trophy race in Christchurch, New Zealand, in January 1968, and in the remaining Tasman Trophy races. Jim Clark won the series that year for the final time."

I remember Damon Hill coming very close to winning a GP in the uncompetitive Arrows car he drove one year. What race was that, and how did he do in the rest of the season? asked Phil Blake from Norwich

That was the Hungarian GP in August 1997, which Damon Hill led most of before a minor mechanical failure - blamed on a washer costing 50p - slowed him down in the closing stages and he was overtaken by the eventual champion Jacques Villeneuve. Hill had signed for Arrows after being unable to agree terms with Williams after winning the world title for them in 1996. He had an otherwise disappointing season, his only other points coming when he finished sixth in the British GP at Silverstone. The car's fine performance in Hungary was attributed to the circuit apparently suiting the Bridgestone tyres the Arrows used that season (most of the other leading teams were on Goodyears). During a testing season, spent largely towards the tail-end of the field, Damon joked: "My father used to say you met a better class of person at the back of the grid. I'm not so sure!" Hill's podium at the Hungaroring was Arrows's last in a GP, and equalled their best-ever finish (Riccardo Patrese had three runners-up spots in an Arrows, and Thierry Boutsen one).

Lewis Hamilton won four GPs in his rookie season - is that a record? asked Mick Choyne from Birmingham

Lewis Hamilton's four Grand Prix victories in 2007, his first season, equalled the record for a rookie driver - Jacques Villeneuve also won four in his first season, 1996. Like Hamilton, Villeneuve finished as runner-up in his first season, in his case behind his team-mate Damon Hill. But Villeneuve was a more experienced driver than Hamilton: he'd already won the Indycar championship and the Indianapolis 500 in 1995. Apart from the first Championship season of 1950 - when both Nino Farina and Juan Manuel Fangio won three races - no other rookie has won more than one race in his debut season

Which driver has made it to the podium the most times without ever actually managing a victory? asked Alexander Doble from London

This unwanted distinction is shared by two drivers, who both finished on the podium on 12 occasions without ever quite making it to the top step. They are Stefan Johansson, who had six podium finishes for Ferrari, five for McLaren and one for Onyx between 1985 and 1989, and Nick Heidfeld, who had nine for BMW/Sauber and three for Williams before his F1 career came to a (hopefully temporary) stop in 2009. Three other drivers - Jean Alesi, Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine - all had 15 podium finishes before finally winning a race.

Who is the youngest driver to start from the front row of a Grand Prix? asked Bob Leach from Stafford

I was confident that the answer here would be Sebastian Vettel, who was only 72 days past his 21st birthday when he took pole position at the 2008 Italian GP - but actually he's second, some 18 months behind the youngest front-row man, whose identity would win you a lot of points in a sports quiz. The Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez was only 19 years 207 days old when he qualified second in a Ferrari for his first Grand Prix - in Italy in 1961. He led that race at Monza for a while before retiring with a mechanical problem. A brilliant future seemed assured ... but Rodriguez took part in only five more GPs before he was killed in a race in Mexico late in 1962, still only 20. His older brother, Pedro Rodriguez, did win two GPs - in South Africa in 1967 in a Cooper, and in a BRM at Spa in 1970 - before he too was killed in a car crash, in 1971.