• Ask Steven

Blowing a winning start

Steven Lynch April 22, 2011

As a Lewis Hamilton fan, I was wondering how often someone had won the first two GPs of the season but not become world champion? asked Richard Franklin

The good news for Lewis Hamilton (and everyone else) is that this has happened four times now. The first instance was in 1973, when Emerson Fittipaldi won the first two races of the season in a Lotus, but lost out overall to Jackie Stewart, driving a Tyrrell. It happened again in 1976, when Niki Lauda won the first two races, and seemed set for a runaway victory in the championship before his horrific crash at the Nurburgring. James Hunt chipped away at the lead while Lauda was recovering, and just pipped him in the end. The most extreme case was in 1979, when Jacques Laffite won the first two races of the season in a Ligier, but collected only 18 more points in the remaining 13 races and faded to fourth overall. In 1982 Alain Prost won the first two GPs, but Keke Rosberg took the title (Prost also ended up fourth). Bruce McLaren almost managed it in 1960, finishing first and second in the first two races of the year yet still ending up second behind Jack Brabham; Fittipaldi did the same in 1975, but ended up behind Lauda overall. In 1981 Alan Jones was first and second in the first two races, and Carlos Reutemann was second and first … but Nelson Piquet won the championship!

I remember Damon Hill driving a car with the number "0". Is he the only person to do this? asked Ian Cooper

Damon Hill drove a Williams bearing the number 0 in 1993, and again in 1994. The initial reason was that Nigel Mansell had won the world championship in a Williams in 1992, but he did not race in 1993 and it was thought inappropriate for someone else to use the number 1. Alain Prost won the title that year, again in a Williams, but then retired - so Hill continued in car 0 in 1994. But he wasn't the first to race with this non-number: the only other time it happened was in 1973, when Jody Scheckter was entered in a third McLaren in a few races, and was given the 0 to wear in two of them. Incidentally the practice of the world champion driving car No. 1 was not universally applied until 1973 - and even then Ronnie Peterson (whose Lotus team had won the constructors' title in 1973) drove No. 1 in 1974, after the previous year's champion Jackie Stewart retired.

Who has set the most fastest laps in one Grand Prix season? asked Jamie Connolly

There have been three seasons in which one driver has set the fastest lap at ten different Grands Prix - and Kimi Raikkonen did two of those, in 2005 (in a McLaren) and 2008 (Ferrari). That equalled the record set by Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari in 2004. Only Schumacher won the world title in the year in question.

Phil Hill on his way to winning the 1960 Italian Grand Prix © Getty Images

Who was the last man to win a Grand Prix in a car with the engine in the front? asked Ed Callender

The last man to win a Grand Prix in a front-engined car was Phil Hill, who finished first in the 1960 Italian GP in a Ferrari 246. However, three leading teams boycotted that race because of safety concerns after the organisers insisted on including the massive old banked turns which used to be a feature at Monza: Cooper (including the world champion-elect Jack Brabham), Lotus and BRM, who all had rear-engined cars. Ferraris finished first, second and third - but the writing was on the wall for cars with the engine in front of the driver, and Hill was to win the title the following year in the rear-engined "shark-nosed" Ferrari 156.

What has been the most boring end to an F1 season - by which I mean who wrapped up the championship earliest? asked Nick Ormond

By your criterion the most boring season would have been 2002, when Michael Schumacher clinched the drivers' championship by winning the French GP on July 21. That was the 11th race of the season, and there were still six to go - but Schumacher had won eight of those 11 GPs (including the one at Magny-Cours), and couldn't be caught. He finished up with 11 wins and 144 points: his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello was second with 77 points. That included four victories: the only non-Ferrari winners in 2002 were Ralf Schumacher, who won the Malaysian GP in a Williams, and David Coulthard, who won at Monaco in a McLaren.

Only one car retired from this year's Chinese Grand Prix. Is this a record? asked Bill Morrison

You're right; the only retirement at the absorbing Chinese GP last week was that of Jaime Alguersuari, whose Toro Rosso lost a wheel after his first pit stop. He was forced to retire after just nine laps. But the record in this regard belongs to the 1961 Dutch GP at Zandvoort: all 15 cars which started the race finished it, and apparently no-one even came in for a pit stop! It is, however, the record for the most finishers in a grand prix, with the previous highest being 22 at the 1952 British Grand Prix and last year's Brazilian GP.