• Ask Steven

The pole-less champions

ESPNF1 Staff
March 2, 2012
Niki Lauda was the second man to win the world championship without securing a pole position © Sutton Images

I noticed that when he won the title in 1984 Niki Lauda never managed pole position. Has anyone else managed this? asked Martin Chancellor

You're right, Niki Lauda never managed the fastest lap in practice for any of the races in 1984, a season in which he ended up winning the world title by just half a point from his McLaren team-mate, Alain Prost. Nelson Piquet, in a Brabham, took nine pole positions in that year's 16 races, but finished only fifth in the championship. Prost had three poles, and Michele Alboreto (Ferrari), Elio de Angelis (Lotus), Nigel Mansell (Lotus) and Patrick Tambay (Renault) one apiece. I thought this was probably unique, but actually it also happened in 1967: Denny Hulme, in a Brabham, won the title despite never setting the fastest practice lap. In that season's 11 races Jim Clark (Lotus) took six poles, Graham Hill (Lotus) three, and Hulme's team leader Jack Brabham two.

Adrian Sutil's conviction for GBH reminded me of another driver a few years ago, who I think went to jail after assaulting a taxi-driver. Who was this, and are there any other famous F1 felons? asked Terry Beale

The driver you're thinking of was the Frenchman Bertrand Gachot, who served two months in a British prison in 1991 after being convicted of spraying CS gas at a taxi-driver after an argument. This cut short a promising season with Jordan in which Gachot had claimed four championship points (his best placing was fifth in Canada). He had also co-driven the winner of the Le Mans 24-Hour race earlier that year. Gachot's bad luck wasn't over, though: the man chosen to keep his seat warm at Jordan was a promising youngster called Michael Schumacher. Gachot returned in 1992 with the not terribly competitive Larrousse team, finishing sixth in Monaco, but drifted out of F1 two years later. As far as other drivers are concerned I'm sure quite a few have had their moments with the law - usually for speeding! But one man who seemed to get into more than his fair share of scrapes was the old Scottish driver Innes Ireland, who - among several other incidents - was once arrested by the same American policeman two years running, according to his entertaining autobiography All Arms and Elbows.

My dad has a programme for a Formula One race at Thruxton in Hampshire in 1980. But it wasn't a Grand prix - what was it? asked Darrell Watson

This must have been the short-lived British Formula One championship, which ran for just four seasons - 1978 to 1980, with a brief revival in 1982. It was an ambitious series - the first three seasons had 12, 15 and 12 races, although the 1982 one had only five - usually using recent F1 cars piloted by young drivers hopeful of finding a place on the main grid. The 1980 Thruxton race you're talking about was won by Eliseo Salazar - later to become more famous for a mid-race fight with Nelson Piquet - in a Williams. The series winners were Tony Trimmer (1978), Rupert Keegan (19789), Emilio de Villota (1980) and Jim Crawford (1982), all of whom had brief top-level F1 careers. History was made at Brands Hatch in April 1980 when that round of the British F1 series was won by a woman - the South African Desire Wilson - driving a Wolf.

Wolfgang von Trips won the 1961 Dutch Grand Prix, a race in which every car finished without pitting © Sutton Images

What was apparently unique about the 1961 Dutch Grand Prix? asked Michael Kehoe

That 1961 race at Zandvoort remains unique in that it featured no retirements - and no pit-stops either. Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill (the eventual 1961 champion) led home a Ferrari 1-2, ahead of the Lotuses of Jim Clark and Stirling Moss. There wasn't another GP with no retirements until 2005 (both the Italian GP and the six-car United States one at Indianapolis) but there has never been another race without a single pit-stop.

You wrote in your last column that Ferrari engines had won 217 GPs. But Ferrari cars have only won 216 - where does the other one come from? asked John McAdam

The extra one comes about because the 2008 Italian GP was won by a Toro Rosso car powered by a Ferrari engine - it was the first (and still only) GP victory for Toro Rosso, and the first of many for its driver, Sebastian Vettel - who became, at 21, the youngest driver ever to win a Grand prix, breaking the record previously held by Fernando Alonso (22 when he won the Hungarian GP in 2003)

Your last column mentioned a Porsche-engined car winning a Grand Prix. When was this? asked Porsche driver Andy Gift

Porsche had a brief flirtation with F1 as a constructor in the early 1960s (their engines have featured occasionally since), and their only victory came when the American Dan Gurney won the French GP in 1962. This was the last win by a German manufacturer until Robert Kubica won the Canadian GP in a BMW-Sauber in 2008. Gurney was also at the wheel when F1's other one-hit-wonder engine won its only Grand Prix - he won the 1967 Belgian GP at Spa in 1967 in an Eagle car, powered by a Weslake engine. Just to complete Gurney's unusual hat-trick, he was also the first of several drivers to win a Grand Prix in a Brabham, winning the 1964 French GP in one. His only other GP victory came later that year in the Brabham, in Mexico.