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The race that no-one wanted to win

Steven Lynch October 21, 2011
Riccardo Patrese leads John Watson before his late spin at the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix © Getty Images

I remember a race which Riccardo Patrese won after being third at the start of the last lap. When and where was this? asked Steve Donald

This would be the Monaco Grand Prix of 1982, which Patrese won in a Brabham despite spinning on the penultimate lap and starting the last one in third place. The race had followed a fairly predictable course until the very end, when it started raining. Long-time leader Alain Prost skidded and hit the barriers at the seafront chicane on the 74th of the 76 laps. Patrese took the lead, but spun himself at the Loews hairpin; he managed to get the car going again by jump-starting it after coasting downhill, but he had dropped back to third. However, on the last lap Didier Pironi (Ferrari) was in front but ran out of fuel in the tunnel, which left Andrea de Cesaris (Alfa Romeo) about to inherit the lead - but he too ran out of fuel, just before the tunnel entrance. Derek Daly (Williams) might have taken over first spot then ... but he'd also had a crash, losing his front and back wings at Tabac, and then his gearbox went as he tried to limp round the final lap. All this left a rather surprised Patrese to take the chequered flag for the first time in a Grand Prix.

After winning in India Sebastian Vettel has now won 11 GPs this year. What's the record? asked Ken Maitland

Sebastian Vettel needs to win both remaining races to grab a share in this record, set by his fellow-countryman Michael Schumacher in 2004, when he won 13 races. If Vettel does win in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, Schumacher would shade it on average, as there were 18 races in 2004 compared to 19 this time. That shouldn't detract from Vettel's great achievement, though, since the opposition has, I would say, been closer this year. Schumacher also won 11 races in 2002. The only driver to have a higher percentage of wins in a season than Schumacher's 72% in 2004 was Alberto Ascari, who won six of the seven races (85%) in 1952 (six out of eight or 75% if you include the Indianapolis 500, which was part of the world championship at the time).

Jacky Ickx was second in the world championship in 1969, and also won the Le Mans 24 Hours that year. Has anyone gone one better and won the F1 title and Le Mans in the same year? asked Ian Hillary

The only man to have won both in the same year was Phil Hill, the versatile American driver, who won the F1 world title in 1961 not long after completing the second of his three Le Mans victories (he also won there in 1958 and 1962). All his successes came in Ferraris. The other three drivers who have won the F1 world championship and Le Mans during their careers are Mike Hawthorn (Le Mans 1955, F1 title 1958), Jochen Rindt (Le Mans in 1965, F1 title in 1970), and Graham Hill (F1 titles in 1962 and 1968, won Le Mans in 1972). Ickx's feat was replicated by Jose Froilan Gonzalez (won Le Mans and F1 world championship runner-up in 1954), Bruce McLaren (F1 runner-up 1960, won Le Mans 1966), Didier Pironi (Le Mans 1978, F1 runner-up 1982) and Michele Alboreto (Le Mans 1997, F1 runner-up 1985).

Sebastian Vettel is still 70 victories behind Michael Schumacher © Sutton Images

I heard during the commentary from India that Vettel has now won 21 GPs. Where does he stand in the all-time list? asked Conrad Clarke via Facebook

That clinical victory in India was indeed Sebastian Vettel's 21st Grand Prix victory since his first (for Toro Rosso) at Monza in 2008. That already puts him 12th on the overall list, one ahead of Mika Hakkinen, and one behind Damon Hill. Ahead lie Nelson Piquet (23), Juan Manuel Fangio (24), Jim Clark and Niki Lauda (25), Fernando Alonso and Jackie Stewart (27), Nigel Mansell (31), Ayrton Senna (41), Alain Prost (51) and Michael Schumacher (91). And the scary thing is that Vettel is still only 24! (When Schumacher turned 24 he had won just two GPs.)

Which drivers finished second and third most often in the F1 races won by Michael Schumacher? asked Balu Patel via Facebook

I was interested to find out the answer to this one, and was just about to start checking the podium stats for Michael Schumacher's 91 Grand Prix victories when another keen Facebooker, Tristan Kennedy, came up with the answer. Rubens Barrichello finished second or third behind Schumacher 32 times in all - second 20 times and third 12, most of them during his long stint as Ferrari's No. 2 driver - while David Coulthard did so on 21 occasions (second nine times and third 12 times as well).

First of all thank you for sharing this huge amount of information in such a stylish way. My question is, who was the oldest driver entering the inaugural F1 season debut at Silverstone? asked Alhassan Yousef from Saudi Arabia

First of all, thank you! And the answer to your question is, the oldest driver at the first-ever world championship Grand Prix, at Silverstone in 1950, was the Frenchman Philippe Etancelin, who ended up eighth in a Talbot. Etancelin was 53 at the time, having been born in December 1896. There were two other 50-year-olds in that race: Luigi Fagioli, who was second in an Alfa-Romeo, was less than a month away from his 52nd birthday, while Louis Chiron, whose Maserati was forced to retire, was 50. Fagioli later became the oldest driver ever to win a Grand Prix - he co-drove (with Juan Manuel Fangio) the winning Alfa Romeo at the French GP at Reims in 1951 - while Chiron became the oldest driver ever to take part in one, finishing sixth (just out of the points in those days) in a Lancia at Monaco in 1955, when he was almost 56. Three years later he entered the Monaco GP again, but failed to qualify.