• Ask Steven

Returning from retirement

Steven Lynch January 20, 2012

With Kimi Raikkonen joining Michael Schumacher in making an F1 comeback, which driver has made the most successful return after a time away? asked John Moorhouse

I'd say the best return was by Niki Lauda, who "retired" in 1979 after a disappointing season in an uncompetitive Brabham, but returned in 1982 with McLaren, and won his third world title - by just half a point from his team-mate, Alain Prost - in 1984. Lauda had already won the title in 1975 and 1977 before his career break, during which time he worked on setting up his aviation business, Lauda Air.

Red Bull have kept both their drivers for 2012, meaning that Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber will be team-mates for the fourth year running. Is this a record? asked Imre Minjo from Estonia

Red Bull's consistency is pretty exceptional by modern standards, but it's not the record - that was set by McLaren, who teamed Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard together for six seasons, from 1996 through to 2001, after which Hakkinen retired (Coulthard stayed at McLaren for three more years as the team-mate of another Finn, Kimi Raikkonen); and equalled by Ferrari, with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello joining forces from 2000 to 2005. Schumacher started 181 GPs in a Ferrari, the record for a driver in a partiuclar make of car, with Coulthard second with 150 for McLaren.

Do the cars drive clockwise on every F1 circuit? asked Eamonn Johnston

Unusually, there are no fewer than five circuits scheduled to host GPs in 2012 on which the cars will go anti-clockwise - Interlagos, in Brazil, the recently constucted tracks in Abu Dhabi, Korea and Singapore, plus the new circuit in Austin, Texas. In 2011 there was another one - Istanbul Park - but the Turkish GP is not being held in 2012. Anti-clockwise circuits have historically been rare: I remember reading somewhere of Graham Hill complaining about one, as it tested out neck muscles much more accustomed to clockwise circuits, where most of the corners are right-handers. Another famous circuit not currently used for F1 on which the cars proceed anti-clockwise is Imola, in Italy, the venue for the San Marino GP between 1981 and 2006 (and the Italian one in 1980).

The first three laps of the 1997 Belgian Grand Prix were run behind the safety car © Sutton Images

What was the first Grand Prix to be started behind the safety car? asked Colin Wilkinson

This notable first occurred at Spa in 1997, when that year's Belgian GP began behind the safety car after heavy rain. The poor weather continued through most of the race - as it often does at Spa - and Michael Schumacher emerged victorious, his Ferrari finishing nearly half a minute ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan. It rained the following year as well, when Jordan pulled off their first F1 victory, with Damon Hill splashing home to complete a 1-2 ahead of his team-mate Ralf Schumacher. That was the race in which Michael Schumacher ran into the back of David Coulthard's McLaren, leading to a heated argument afterwards in the pits. Since that 1997 race there have been seven more which started behind the safety car, including the Canadian GP of 2011.

Which current F1 driver has a son called Enzo? asked Peter Rice

This is Jarno Trulli, currently one of the Caterham (formerly Lotus) drivers for 2012. His son Enzo was named after Trulli's father, rather than Enzo Ferrari ... maybe Trulli could have got a drive in a Ferrari if he had pretended otherwise! Trulli himself was named after Jarno Saarinen, who won the 250cc motor-cycling world championship in 1972 (he's the only Finn ever to win one). Saarinen was killed in a crash at Monza in 1973, the year before Trulli was born.

Which circuit has corners called Hamilton and Brundle? asked Mike Williams

These are two of the corners at the reshaped Snetterton circuit in Norfolk, which has recently renamed most parts of the track. Martin Brundle is a local - he was born in King's Lynn and still lives in Norfolk. Jonathan Palmer, the former F1 driver, now runs the company which owns Snetterton, and said: "Martin's name is not on one of the corners through friendship, but professional respect. Through talent, ambition and application he has earned his place in history as one of Britain's most accomplished achievers in international motor racing. The friendship bit only came in when I suggested he might like to choose his corner. No great surprise that it was one that combined driving skill and commentating relevance - Brundle corner is where you'll see the last of the late brakers succeed ... and fail - and the focus of excitement for those on the microphone." And Palmer added: "One of the most tricky corners at new Snetterton is Hamilton. It's a very quick flick left, but hard to get right. Lewis would have an edge here."