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Women, helmets and IndyCar champions

Steven Lynch December 12, 2009

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…

Lewis Hamilton, in his distinctive helmet, celebrates taking pole in the last race of 2009 © Sutton Images
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I really like the design of Lewis Hamilton's crash helmet - is there a story behind it? Steve Bailey, London
The basic yellow colour of Lewis's helmet dates back to his karting days, when he used a bright yellow one so his father Anthony - who was rather a nervous spectator back then - could spot him easily among a pack of other karts. It was Anthony who came up with the initial "ribbon" design in red, blue and green which survives in adapted form on Lewis's current helmet. One tweak to the usual design came at the 2007 Monaco GP, when a diamond company arranged for "Monaco 07" to be spelt out in diamonds on the side of the helmet. I'm not sure whether Lewis was allowed to keep that one ...

I notice in older races back in the '50s drivers used to drive more than one car… how did this work?John McDermott, Cornwall
Usually this arose because a team's leading driver - or possibly someone in contention for the championship - had to withdraw because of a mechanical breakdown. A junior driver would be called into the pits, and handed over his car to the senior man: the drivers concerned would then share the points at the end of the race. The first time two drivers shared a race win was at the French GP in 1951, when Juan Manuel Fangio took over Luigi Fagioli's Alfa-Romeo after his own one developed a fault. This rather unfair system was stopped in 1958.

Has any driver ever managed to win both the F1 championship and the IndyCar championship?Anil Nair, Mumbai
Four drivers have won both titles. Nigel Mansell won the F1 title in 1992 and then the IndyCar one (then known as the CART PPG series) the following year, after being controversially dropped by Williams. He is also the only man to have held both titles at the same time, the Indycar series finishing before the F1 series. The others are the great American Mario Andretti, who was F1 champion in 1978 and took the Indycar crown in 1984; he also won the USAC national title (the fore-runner of IndyCar) three times in the 1960s. Emerson Fittipaldi, F1 champion in 1972 and 1974, won the Indycar title in 1989. The most recent crossover winner is Jacques Villeneuve, who the Indycar title in 1995 and the F1 crown in 1997.

Lella Lombardi made a fleeting appearance in F1 and remains the only woman to score a championship point © Getty Images
Why are there no female drivers in F1? Are they not allowed?Mel Adorian, Cumbria
They certainly are allowed, and indeed one has actually scored a world championship point - or half of one, as the race concerned (the 1975 Spanish GP) was shortened by an accident. Lella Lombardi drove a March 751 to sixth place in that race at Montjuich Park in Barcelona. The first female GP driver was another Italian, Maria Teresa de Filippis, who took part in five races in 1958 and 1959 without managing a point. Since then Desiré Wilson, Davina Galica and Giovanni Amati have been fleetingly involved in F1. But it seems only a matter of time before a female driver makes the grade: Danica Patrick, for example, has raced with great success in America, becoming the first woman to win an Indycar race (in Japan in 2008). She also led the 2005 Indianapolis 500, before finally finishing fourth.

Who was the first F1 drivers' champion and constructors'?Alex Clayton, Melbourne
The official F1 drivers' championship was set up in 1950. The first championship Grand Prix was the British, at Silverstone in May that year, and the winner was the Italian Giuseppe "Nino" Farina, driving a front-engined Alfa-Romeo. Farina went on to be the inaugural world champion, winning two of the other six races that season. The constructors' championship wasn't set up until 1958, and the first winners were the British Vanwall team, even though that year's individual champion (Mike Hawthorn) drove a Ferrari. That was a vintage year for British drivers: the top five in the final table were all English.

Which country has produced the most F1 world champions?Chris Robinson, Connecticut
Great Britain leads the way here, with ten different F1 world champions, starting with Mike Hawthorn in 1958. The others are Jim Clark, Lewis Hamilton, Damon and Graham Hill, James Hunt, Nigel Mansell, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and most recently Jenson Button. Two other countries have produced three F1 world champions: Brazil (Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna) and Finland (Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and Keke Rosberg).