• Ask Steven

Pole stars

Steven Lynch September 10, 2010
Nigel Mansell secured 14 pole positions from 16 races in 1992, a statistic Red Bull could beat © Sutton Images

Red Bull have got 12 out of 13 pole positions so far this season. What's the record for an F1 season? asked Bill from South Korea

The record for a driver is 14 pole positions from 16 races, by Nigel Mansell during his dominant season for Williams in 1992. Riccardo Patrese in the other Williams claimed one of the poles Mansell missed (Ayrton Senna took the other) making it 15 out of 16 for Williams. The following year (1993) Williams again took 15 pole positions out of 16, the drivers now being Alain Prost (13 poles) and Damon Hill (two). Again it was Senna's McLaren which prevented the full set. Back in the early days of the world championship, when there were many fewer races, there were some clean sweeps: for example in 1950, the first year of the F1 drivers' championship, Alfa-Romeos took pole in all six GPs (but not in the Indianapolis 500, which counted towards the standings at the time).

Which F1 driver later became governor of his home town? asked Alex Marshall from Reading

There may be others, but the one I'm aware of is Carlos Reutemann, the Argentinian driver who had a very successful F1 career between 1972 and 1982. After retirement Reutemann went into politics, and had two spells as governor of Sante Fe, his home province, where he was born in 1942. Reutemann, who won 12 GPs all told, was third in the world drivers' championship in 1975 (in a Brabham), 1978 (Ferrari) and 1980 (Williams). In 1981, still in a Williams, he was the runner-up, a point behind Nelson Piquet. Incidentally, a few weeks ago I answered a question about drivers who finished second in the championship without ever winning it, and inadvertently missed Reutemann off that list, so apologies to him (and you) for that.

Michael Schumacher has had 13 Grands Prix this year without winning one - is this the longest drought of his career? asked Bernard Archer from Cardiff

Actually Schumacher's barren run extends to 15 races - he did not win either of his last two GPs for Ferrari before his "retirement" in 2006. It's not quite the longest he's gone without a win, though: he did not win any of his first 17 races, starting in 1991, before coming in first in the Belgian GP in a Benetton in August 1992. After that he went another 17 races before winning the Portuguese GP in 1993. Since then, though, the longest spell he endured without a victory before the end of 2006 was a spell of nine races in 2004-05.

There seem to be a lot of British drivers having success in the Indycar series in America. Have any of them raced in F1? asked David Briscoe from Carlisle

There are currently three British drivers in the top ten of the 2010 Indycar standings, and four more who have scored points in the series this year. In second place overall in this year's table - just 17 points behind the leader, Australia's Will Power, with two races remaining - is Dario Franchitti, the 2009 Indycar champion and the winner of this year's Indianapolis 500. Franchitti, who was born in Bathgate in Scotland in 1973 and is married to the American actress Ashley Judd, has not yet raced in F1. Nor has Dan Wheldon, who is currently lying ninth in the championship. Wheldon, born in Buckinghamshire, won the Indianapolis 500 and the Indycar championship in 2005. He was linked to an F1 drive with Sauber in 2007, but nothing came of it. However, the man currently tenth in the Indycar championship did have a season in F1: Justin Wilson, from Sheffield, raced for Minardi and Jaguar during 2003, picking up a point for eighth place in the United States GP, which ironically was held at Indianapolis that year. Wilson, whose height (6ft 4ins/1.93m) proved problematic for F1 designers, has won two Indycar races.

There are 19 Grands Prix this season. Is this a record? asked Ben Moore from France

There are indeed scheduled to be 19 GPs this year - a far cry from the sedate days of the 1950s when they were usually six or seven. Last year there were "only" 17 races - but there were also 19 GPs in 2005. Fernando Alonso only needed 17 to wrap up the drivers' title that year, though. Both he and Kimi Raikkonen won seven of the races, Juan Pablo Montoya three, and Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher one each.

Who was the first person to win his own (home-country) Grand Prix? asked Jonathan Faull from Hertford

This was in the first world championship season of 1950, when the Italian Nino Farina won the final event of the season, the Italian GP at Monza. His win made him the inaugural F1 world drivers' champion, and it was a close-run thing: he'd been third in the championship before the start, with 22 points, behind Juan-Manuel Fangio (26) and Luigi Fagioli (24). But Fangio's gearbox broke, and although Fagioli finished third he couldn't add to his points tally as only the best four results from the seven-race season could count, and he'd already had four second places. That allowed Farina to cruise home to take the race by more than a second and the title by three points (he received eight points for his win, while Fangio picked up a consolation point for setting the fastest lap, in accordance with the regulations of the time).