• Ask Steven

Lotus, Australians and teenage drivers

Steven Lynch January 7, 2010
Giancarlo Baghetti on his way to winning his first ever championship grand prix at Reims in 1961 © Sutton Images

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…

I remember Lewis Hamilton finishing on the podium in his first grand prix, but has anyone actually won their first world championship race? Andy Bell, London
You're right about Lewis Hamilton: he finished third on his grand prix debut, in Australia in 2007. Apart from the man who won the first-ever world championship grand prix - Giuseppe "Nino" Farina , who won the 1950 British GP at Silverstone and went on to claim the first world title - the only driver to win his first Grand Prix was the Italian Giancarlo Baghetti , in 1961. Baghetti, who was born on Christmas Day in 1934, had already won his first two Formula One races (there were fewer championship rounds in those days, but the drivers were able to compete in several non-championship races) when his private backers lined up a Ferrari for him for the French GP at the super-fast Reims circuit in July. A Ferrari was the car to have that season: Phil Hill drove one to the world championship, becoming the first American to win it. But Hill's car, and the other two works Ferraris, hit trouble at Reims, and Baghetti was left to contest the race with another American, Dan Gurney, in a Porsche. About 100 yards from the chequered flag, Gurney was in front - but, according to Graham Hill, Baghetti "out-fumbled Gurney on the last lap at the hairpin", and nipped past to claim a famous victory. It was the only one of his world championship career - in fact he never made it onto the podium again, and collected just five more points before his F1 career petered out. He did manage to win the European Touring Car Championship in 1966. Baghetti later became a successful photographer, but died of cancer in 1995. Arguably one should also count the American Johnnie Parsons, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1950 - the Indy 500 counted towards the world championship between 1950 and 1960, and Parsons hadn't previously taken part in a race that counted towards the title.

Excluding Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones, can you name other Australians that have driven in F1, and how did they perform? Noel Steele, Australia
The only Australian to win a grand prix - apart from the two world champions you mention - is the current Red Bull driver Mark Webber , who won his first GP in 2009 (his win in Germany came in his 130th race, a new record for persistence). There have been a few other Aussie F1 drivers, including Sir Jack's son David Brabham , but they have met with little success. Tim Schenken, from Sydney, did finish on the podium at the 1971 Austrian GP in a Brabham. Larry Perkins, who has won the famous Bathurst 1000 race six times, took part in the F1 world championship between 1974 and 1977, but failed to earn any points. But my favourite stat in this area is that Dave Walker, another Australian, raced for Lotus in 1971 and 1972 without gaining any points - and in 1972 his team-mate, Emerson Fittipaldi, won the drivers' title. It's the only time one of a team's drivers ended as world champion while the other one failed to get a single point.

The McLaren F1 car's initials always start with "MP-4". Is there any special meaning for this prefix? Simpson Wong, Hong Kong
As ESPNF1's McLaren page reveals, "The McLaren team as we know it today was formed in 1980 when Ron Dennis's Project 4 Racing team merged with McLaren and Dennis took up the post of team principal". Nowadays the "MP" stands for "McLaren Project", but originally the name was "Marlboro Project", reflecting the team's main title sponsor at the time, the Marlboro cigarette company.

Who has taken part in the most grand prix without ever winning one? Andrew Bourne, London
The owner of this rather unwanted record is the Italian Andrea de Cesaris, who started no fewer than 208 races between 1980 and 1994 without ever winning one - he twice finished second, in Germany and South Africa in an Alfa-Romeo in 1982, and also stood on the podium on three further occasions in third place. Second place on the non-winning list changed hands during 2009, as Nick Heidfeld has now started 167 GPs without winning one, passing the driver-turned-commentator Martin Brundle (158).

Mario Andretti drove the Lotus 79 to take the championship in 1978, the last time Lotus won a world title © Getty Images

It's great to see the Lotus name back on the F1 grid. When did they last take part, and when did they last win a race?Neil Jones, Aberdeen
Lotus' last season in F1 was 1994, although they didn't do very well - the team used six different drivers and none of them managed to score a point. The previous season Johnny Herbert gained 11 points, mainly through three fourth places. The last time a Lotus won a grand prix was in 1987, when Ayrton Senna finished first in Monaco and Detroit on his way to third place in the drivers' championship. The last time a Lotus driver won the championship was in 1978, when Mario Andretti (64 points, six wins) led home his team-mate Ronnie Peterson (51, 2).

I believe that during 2009 Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari became the youngest driver ever to start a grand prix. Who was the previous holder of this record? Matt Price, Yorkshire
Jaime Alguersuari from Barcelona is indeed the youngest driver to take part in an F1 grand prix - he was just 19 years and 125 days old when he started the race in Hungary. He supplanted the New Zealander Mike Thackwell, who was nearly two months older when he took part in the Canadian Grand Prix in 1980. Five other 19-year-olds have started a grand prix, including the current leading drivers Fernando Alonso (in 2001) and Sebastian Vettel (2007). The others were New Zealand's Chris Amon (in 1963), Ricardo Rodriguez of Mexico (1961) and the Argentine Esteban Tuero (1998).