• Ask Steven

F1's most successful Swiss

Steven Lynch May 20, 2011
Clay Regazzoni won five grands prix in his career © Sutton Images

Sebastien Buemi hails from Switzerland, where motor racing is banned. Who is the most successful Swiss F1 driver? asked Colin Sutherland

The most successful F1 driver to emerge from Switzerland is Gianclaudio "Clay" Regazzoni, who won five of the 132 world championships Grands Prix he started. In 1970 - his first season - he was third in the drivers' championship and won his fifth race, at Monza, in a Ferrari. In 1974 he finished second in the championship, just three points behind Emerson Fittipaldi in a McLaren: they were level going into the final race of the season, in the USA, but Regazzoni's Ferrari finished out of the points while Fittipaldi finished fourth. The popular "Regga" was paralysed after a dreadful accident in 1980, and he died in a road crash in 2006. An earlier successful Swiss entrant was Jo Siffert, who won the British GP in 1968 and the Austrian one in 1971, a few weeks before being killed in a non-championship race at Brands Hatch. In all 25 Swiss drivers have competed in F1.

There used to be a San Marino Grand Prix, which was held in Italy because San Marino isn't really big enough to have a circuit. Are there any other cases like this? asked Jim Moir

The San Marino Grand Prix was held at Imola in Italy every year from 1981 to 2006: Michael Schumacher won it seven times (and his brother Ralf once). As for other instances of a country "staging" a Grand Prix outside its own borders, as mentioned above motor racing has been banned in Switzerland since the 1950s, as a result of the terrible accident at Le Mans in 1955 which killed more than 80 spectators. Nonetheless the 1982 world championship included a Swiss GP, held at Dijon-Prenois in France (which has also staged the French GP five times). The winner was Keke Rosberg - his only victory of a season which ended with him taking the world drivers' championship. There have also been two races called the Luxembourg Grand Prix (1997 and 1998), which were held at the Nurburgring in Germany.

Did the Schumacher brothers ever finish first and second in a Grand Prix? asked Andy Carter

Yes, it happened twice, both times in the Canadian GP at Montreal. In 2001 Ralf, driving a Williams, led home his more celebrated brother's Ferrari by more than 20 seconds. He took the lead when Michael pitted, and pulled out with enough of a cushion to stay in front after his own pit stop. Two years later the normal order of things was restored, when Michael's Ferrari pipped Ralf's Williams by less than a second.

Ayrton Senna was the first man to beat Nigel Mansell in 1992 after a brilliant battle on the streets of Monaco © Sutton Images
I remember Nigel Mansell having a storming start the year he finally won the world title. How many races did he win? asked Terry Varley

Nigel Mansell began the 1992 season with five straight wins, before Ayrton Senna nipped in to claim his customary victory at Monaco, with Mansell second. Gerhard Berger won the next race, in Austria, then three more wins for Mansell just about tied up the title. Although Mansell won only one of the last six races, it was enough to give him the world championship by a comfortable margin - he finished with 108 points, with his team-mate Riccardo Patrese next on 56. Those last six races included, in Belgium, a maiden victory for a promising youngster named Michael Schumacher, driving a Benetton back then. Mansell took pole position in 14 of that year's 16 GPs (Patrese pipped him in Hungary, and only Senna's pole in Canada prevented a Williams clean sweep).

You answered a question recently about the last front-engined car to win a Grand Prix. But what was the first rear-engined car to start one? asked Tom Braithwaite

The first rear-engined car to appear in a world championship Grand Prix was a Cooper T12, with a JAP V-12 engine, which was driven by the American Harry Schell at Monaco in 1950. Schell qualified near the back of the grid, and didn't last long in the race - he was forced to retire on the first lap after being involved in a nine-car pile-up that eliminated almost half the field. It was to be eight years before a rear-engined car actually won a Grand Prix: Stirling Moss piloted a Cooper-Climax to victory in Argentina in 1958.

Are there any countries which have hosted just one Grand Prix? asked Alistair Parsons

The only one is Morocco, which staged a solitary world championship Grand Prix in 1958, held at the Ain-Diab circuit near Casablanca. It was the last race of the season: Stirling Moss, in a Vanwall, needed to win and set fastest lap in order to become the world champion - but only if Mike Hawthorn finished lower than second. Moss did all that was required - he duly set the fastest lap, and stormed home almost a minute and a half in front … but Hawthorn, driving a Ferrari, finished second and pipped him for the world title anyway. At the time of writing Korea has also staged only one GP, but that should change on October 16 this year, when their second is scheduled. Two weeks after that India should join the one-race club, at least until 2012.