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At the tenth time of asking

Steven Lynch November 5, 2010
Nigel Mansell and Jenson Button are the two world champions who took the longest to secure their titles © Sutton Images

Jenson Button won the world championship in his tenth season. Has anyone taken longer to win their first title? asked Robert Atkinson from Cheshire

Jenson Button did indeed start in F1 in 2000 - when he was 20 - when he secured a sought-after drive with Williams. But it wasn't until 2006 that he won a race (in a Honda), and it was 2009, his tenth season, when he clinched the championship for Brawn. Only one F1 world champion has had a longer wait for the crown: Nigel Mansell made his F1 debut in a Lotus in 1980, but didn't win the drivers' title until 1992, his 13th season.

I recall some years ago seeing some sickening footage where just before the start a mechanic jumped the wall to attend a stalled car, only to have the car behind take off when the lights went green, into the back of the stalled car (and the hapless mechanic). Which race was this and who was involved? asked Dale Porter from Australia

I'm sure the race you're referring to is the Belgian GP at Zolder in 1981. There was much confusion at the start: first the organisers started the warm-up lap sooner than expected, leaving some cars stranded, then Nelson Piquet overshot his grid position and had to do another lap. This delay meant the cars still on the grid were in danger of overheating, and some of the drivers switched off their engines. When Piquet finally took up his allotted spot, Riccardo Patrese was unable to restart his Arrows, and waved his arms to attract attention. One of his mechanics, Dave Luckett, assumed the race would be delayed and leapt over the pit wall to start Patrese's car - just as the green light came on and the race started in earnest. In the confusion the other Arrows, driven by Siegfried Stohr - an Italian, despite his German-sounding name - ploughed into the back of Patrese's car. Stohr feared that he had seriously injured the mechanic, and got out of his car aghast: fortunately for all concerned, Luckett survived. It completed an unhappy weekend: another mechanic had been seriously injured during practice when he fell from the pit wall into the path of Carlos Reutemann's Williams, and sadly he later died of his injuries. Luckett, though, is still involved in motor racing, currently working in the American Le Mans series, and told the Speedcafe website earlier this year: "I was pretty beat up including a broken leg, arm and lost the end of the little finger. I had a few weeks in hospital in Belgium and then headed back to the UK. After a couple of weeks they brought me back to the shop on crutches and said they wanted me to come to the next race to help cheer the guys up!"

Nelson Piquet lands a punch on Eliseo Salazar at the 1982 German Grand Prix © youtube
I remember Nelson Piquet having a punch-up with another driver after a crash. Where was it? asked David Miller from Reading

This was at the German GP at Hockenheim in 1982. Nelson Piquet was leading the race in his BMW-engined Brabham, and came up behind the Chilean Eliseo Salazar in an ATS. It was only the 19th lap, and possibly Salazar wasn't expecting to be lapped so soon; or maybe he just didn't see Piquet at all. But as Piquet tried to pass through the Ostkurve, Salazar turned into him and they collided: both were instantly out of the race (Salazar ground to a halt in the middle of the track). However, the drama wasn't quite over: Piquet marched over to Salazar and started punching and kicking him. The marshals eventually separated them, and Piquet stomped off to a nearby marshals' car, which ferried him back to the pits (Salazar had to walk). A few months later Piquet learned from a mechanic that tests showed his engine had been about to expire anyway: he rang Salazar to apologise, and thanked him for saving BMW an embarrassing engine failure at their home Grand Prix.

I was looking at the record of the British driver Mike Beuttler, who drove in 28 GPs in the early 1970s but never managed a world championship point. Has anyone started more races than him but still ended up pointless? asked George Grover from Sussex

Mike Beuttler - whose sister married the flamboyant Conservative politician Alan Clark - did indeed drive a privately entered March in 28 GPs between 1971 and 1973 without gaining a single point: his best finish was seventh (which did not then carry any points) in the Spanish GP at Barcelona in 1973. But a few drivers have had even more races without winning a point: Japan's Tora Takagi took part in 32 GPs in 1998 and 1999 without troubling the scorers, while the American Brett Lunger drove in 34 between 1975 and 1978 for a variety of teams. But the reluctant winner in this category is the Italian Luca Badoer, who drove in 50 GPs without ever gaining a championship point. He had 48 starts with various not terribly competitive teams between 1993 and 1999, before a brief comeback in 2009 with Ferrari after Felipe Massa was injured. Badoer, who had long been Ferrari's test driver, had two disappointing races - he was 17th in the European GP at Valencia, and 14th in Belgium - and was summarily replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella.

How many different drivers have won a grand prix now? asked Leslie Wright from Suffolk

So far 102 different drivers have won a race in the F1 drivers' championship since its inception in 1950. As I seem to say almost every week, that includes the Indianapolis 500, which counted towards the championship between 1950 and 1960: ten different drivers won that race, so it's probably more accurate to say that 92 different drivers have won a world championship F1 grand prix. That includes 22 (not including nine Indy 500 winners) who won just one race.

Which now-defunct team had the most grand prix starts? asked Alastair Kehoe from Devon

The answer to this one depends on whether you consider the new Lotus team to be in any way related to the old Colin Chapman-inspired one. The "old" Team Lotus took part in 491 GPs between 1958 and 1994: only Ferrari, McLaren and Williams have raced in more. Next, with 430 GPs between 1970 and 1998, comes the Tyrrell team.

If you want to ask Steven a question, use our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered here every other Friday. His long-running Ask Steven column on Cricinfo remains one of that site's most popular features

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If you want to ask Steven a question, use our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered here every other Friday. His long-running Ask Steven column on Cricinfo remains one of that site's most popular features Ask Steven features a number of experts, headed by Steven Lynch, who answer your questions across Formula One as well as a variety of other sports