• Ask Steven

Pre-season Down Under

Steven Lynch October 21, 2011
Graham Hill was a regular entrant in to the Tasman Series © Sutton Images

I've heard of a series of Formula 1 races that took place in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania called the Tasman Series. Can you tell me when it took place? asked Brian Tychie from Canada

The Tasman Series was a series of races - usually eight of them, four each in Australia and New Zealand - which took place at the start of each year between 1964, when Bruce McLaren was the inaugural champion, and 1975. Until 1970 the cars were, broadly speaking, F1 bodies with smaller engines, but as it became more difficult to entice top teams and drivers Down Under, the rules were relaxed in 1970. That wasn't enough, though, to save the Tasman Series, as commitments spiralled for the leading F1 drivers meaning that it became more and more difficult for them to take part. In the 1960s, though, the series was won three times by Jim Clark in a Lotus, and in 1966 by Jackie Stewart in a BRM. Chris Amon (Ferrari) won in 1969. Graham Hill was also a frequent participant, and his books suggest that it was a convivial event!

Sebastian Vettel is going to win the F1 title this year by a huge margin. Is it the widest ever? asked George Smart

With 16 races gone and three still to come, it looks almost certain that Sebastian Vettel will indeed win by a new record margin - his lead is currently 127 points - but a lot of that is down to the new points system, introduced last year. The widest margin under the "old" system came in 2002, when Michael Schumacher won by 67 points, finishing on 144, with his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello second with 77. Schumacher that year had 87% more points than Barrichello; as I write Vettel (349) has 57.2% more than second-placed Jenson Button (222). If the current points system had been in place in 2002 Schumacher would have finished the 17-race season with 380 points, with Barrichello second on 217.

I was very sorry to hear of the death of Dan Wheldon. How many British drivers have won the Indianapolis 500, and did Wheldon ever drive in F1? asked Corey Brooks

Dan Wheldon, who was sadly killed in an Indycar race in Las Vegas last week, was the third British driver to win the Indianapolis 500, following Graham Hill (1966) and Jim Clark (1967). Wheldon won it in 2005, and again this year following further British wins for Dario Franchitti (2007 and 2010). George Robson, who won the Indy 500 in 1946, was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but moved to north America in his teens and is usually considered a Canadian driver. Dan Wheldon never did race in Formula One, although he was apparently offered a drive with Sauber for some races in 2007.

Toyota's best grand prix result was second place © Getty Images

Given that I've just bought one, did a Toyota ever win an F1 Grand Prix? asked Mike Flanagan

Toyota completed in the F1 world championship between 2002 and their withdrawal in 2009. In that time they never quite managed to win a Grand Prix, although their drivers recorded 13 podium finishes, including five second places - three of them by Jarno Trulli (two in 2005 and another in 2009), and two by Timo Glock in 2008 and 2009. In their first year in F1 the Toyotas suffered from reliability problems: the Scotsman Allan McNish (who I always thought was unlucky to have only this one season in F1) failed to finish on eight occasions, while his team-mate Mika Salo had six retirements. But the good news for you is I'm sure their road cars are much more reliable now!

Which track has staged the most GPs? Is it Silverstone? asked James Carpenter

Silverstone may have held the first Formula One world championship Grand Prix, back in 1950, but the now-discontinued practice of alternating the venue for the British GP (usually with Brands Hatch, but occasionally with Aintree too) means that Silverstone is only third on the overall list, having staged 45 GPs so far, one more than Spa and six more than the Nurburgring. Ahead of Silverstone lie Monaco, which has had 58 GPs now (every year from 1950 to date except for a four-year gap between 1951 and 1954), and Monza, which has staged the Italian GP on 61 occasions - every year from 1950 except for 1980, when it was held at Imola after safety concerns.

I noticed that Rubens Barrichello is taking part in his 19th F1 season. Is this a record, or did some old-timer beat it? asked Kevin Attwell

You're right, Rubens Barrichello is coming to the end of his 19th season in Formula One, which is indeed a record: after last year he shared it with Graham Hill, who took part in 18 seasons between 1958 and 1975. Barrichello, who took part in his first GP in 1993, has now started 319 races, more than anyone else. Next on that particular list is Michael Schumacher, who has now started 283 races since his debut in 1991 (but his 2007-09 "retirement" means he has only taken part in 18 seasons to date).