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The latest title decider

Steven Lynch November 18, 2011
Nigel Mansell was regularly on pole position in the FW14B in 1992 © Sutton Images

I heard that Sebastian Vettel had equalled Michael Schumacher's record of pole positions in a season at Abu Dhabi. But then I read it was by Nigel Mansell. Which is correct? asked Christopher Howells

The record that Sebastian Vettel equalled in Abu Dhabi, with his 14th pole position of the season, was set by Nigel Mansell in 1992, when he set the fastest practice lap in 14 of that year's 16 races (Mansell's team-mate Riccardo Patrese nipped in to take pole at the Hungarian GP, while Ayrton Senna was fastest in Canada in a McLaren). Schumacher's best effort came in 2001, when he was on pole 11 times: Senna (in 1988 and 1989) and Alain Prost (1993) have also taken 13 poles in one season.

This year's F1 season ends on November 27. Is this the latest ever? asked Martin Kehoe

The latest finish to any F1 season is December 29, the date of the South African GP at East London in 1962. It had been a long wait since the previous race, in America on October 7, which must have been a nervous time for the two drivers in contention for the championship. Graham Hill had 39 points going in to the race, and Jim Clark 30: with nine points available for a win, Clark could catch Hill if he won, as the regulations that season allowed the drivers to count only their best five results from the nine races, and Hill (who already had three wins and two second places) could only improve his points total if he won: victory for Clark would give him the same amount of points but four wins to Hill's three. Clark took pole position and roared off into the lead, soon setting the fastest lap - and by halfway he was nearly half a minute ahead of Hill, whose championship hopes were rapidly receding. But on lap 59 (out of 82) Clark noticed smoke coming from his engine, and he was forced to retire three laps later. Hill swept by to take the chequered flag and the championship in a dramatic end to the season. The South African GP was often held around the turn of the year: in 1965 and 1968 it kicked off the season on January 1.

We often hear of the extreme heat in places like Malaysia and Singapore, but what's the coldest weather an F1 Grand Prix has been held in? Has it ever snowed during one? asked Ryan Merk from the United States

I don't think it has ever snowed during an F1 Grand Prix. Most of them are held in the summer of the countries concerned, although not necessarily - there was a European GP held in Britain in April recently which could easily have been a bit chilly. My guess for the coldest weather in which a GP has been run would go to the 1978 Canadian GP, which took place on October 8, quite late in the North American autumn. That race was won by the local man Gilles Villeneuve - the first of his six GP wins - and he ascended the podium in what looked like a warm fur coat!

Nino Farina also became the oldest man to win a grand prix in 1953 © Getty Images

I spotted that Mario Andretti took pole position at the 1982 Italian GP, when he was 42. Is he the oldest pole-sitter of them all? asked Ken Margeritson

Mario Andretti did indeed set the fastest lap in practice for the 1982 Italian GP, a popular one in the Ferrari. He was 42 years 196 days old at the time, about 15 months older than Nigel Mansell was when he took pole at the 1994 Australian GP. But there have been three older pole-sitters than Andretti: Jack Brabham was just past his 44th birthday when he set the fastest practice lap at the 1970 Spanish GP, Juan Manuel Fangio was 46 when he claimed pole at his home GP in Argentina in 1958, and four years before that Giuseppe "Nino" Farina - the inaugural F1 world champion - set the fastest practice time in Argentina in 1954 a couple of months after his 47th birthday.

I remember a race a few years ago being disrupted because some of the adverts over the track fell off. When was this? asked Neil Buckley

I think you must be referring to the Brazilian GP of 2000, when there were three separate incidents of elevated advertisements breaking loose and falling on to the track. These, though, were in practice rather than during the race, which was trouble-free (presumably after the organisers went round with a screwdriver!). The practice session was halted on each of the three occasions - and the third advert narrowly missed Jean Alesi's Prost when it fell. The organisers were later fined $100,000 for failing to secure the signs properly.

What is the worst pit stop in F1 history? asked Jim Wooldridge

I suppose this depends on your point of view. There have been several pit stops when the driver has come in a little too fast, or been released too early, and injured one or more of his mechanics. There have also been several instances of cars catching fire during a stop - Jos Verstappen's Benetton bursting into flames while refuelling at Hockenheim in 1994 is probably the most spectacular example of this. Thankfully, no-one was injured during that one. But if you're talking about the sort of confusion that sometimes envelops the mechanics during a pit stop, then this one, by Esteban Tuero in a Minardi at his home GP in Argentina in 1998, is hard to beat.