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New kids on the block

Steven Lynch March 16, 2012
Patrick Tambay's first ever victory came when he was given a drive by Ferrari © Sutton Images

What is the record for the most successive races being won by people who'd never won one before? asked Ben Constantine via Facebook

If I've understood your question correctly the record is three, which happened during 1982. First Patrick Tambay won the German GP at Hockenheim, in only his fourth race after replacing the late Gilles Villeneuve at Ferrari. Tambay's debut win was followed by a first one for Lotus's Elio de Angelis, in Austria, then Keke Rosberg broke his duck with a win for Williams in the Swiss GP - Rosberg's one and only win in his world title-winning year. This was the most open championship of all: the season's 16 races were won by 11 different drivers.

Who was the first Indianapolis 500 driver to enter a regular Grand Prix? asked Blaine Whitten

In the 1960s and '70s it became a fairly regular occurrence to see American drivers who had made their names in oval-track racing in the States - such as Mario Andretti and Mark Donohue - strutting their stuff in F1. But in the early years there wasn't much crossover, despite the Indianapolis 500 itself being considered part of the world championship from 1950 to 1960. Alberto Ascari, the 1952-53 world champion, entered the Indy 500 in 1952 in a specially adapted Ferrari, but suffered mechanical trouble while running eighth. The first man from the "other side" to try F1 in Europe was Troy Ruttman, who had won the Indy 500 in 1952 aged only 22: he took part in the 1958 French GP in a Maserati, and finished tenth.

What was the longest Grand Prix of them all? asked Edward Potter

The longest world championship Grand Prix was the French one of 1951, at Reims, which amounted to just under 374 miles. It was won by the Alfa-Romeo of that year's world champion Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli (who surrendered his car when Fangio's had mechanical problems). Just short of that come the Belgian GPs of 1951-56, which weigh in at just under 316 miles of the full and terrifying Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Several races at Reims, Monza and the Nurburgring in the 1950s added up to more than 300 miles. Not long after that, though, the current limit of 200 miles was imposed: the last 300-mile race was the 1963 Italian GP at Monza. As so often, we have to mention the Indianapolis 500 here - as mentioned above it formed part of the F1 world championship from 1950 to 1960 and, as it says on the box, lasts for 500 miles (except in unusual circumstances).

Even the Beastie Boys appeared to be fans of Mario Andretti © Sutton Images

Which racing driver features in a Beastie Boys song? asked Kim Farmer

Well, this one is a little outside my normal area of expertise - but I'm reliably informed by a music-loving friend that it's the 1978 F1 world champion, who gets a namecheck in the Beastie Boys' 1989 song Shadrach, which includes the line "You love Mario Andretti 'cause he always drives his car well". Andretti also made an appearance - or at least his voice did - in the recent animated Disney film Cars.

Some books show Michael Schumacher as the world championship runner-up in 1997, while I've also seen Heinz-Harald Frentzen given the position. Which is right? asked Dennis Clarke

They're both right, in a way. Michael Schumacher finished the 1997 season with 78 points, three behind the champion Jacques Villeneuve. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Villeneuve's Williams team-mate, was next with 42 points. But Schumacher had attempted a dangerous manouevre in the final race of the season, the European GP at Jerez, and was accused of trying to take Villeneuve out of the race and give himself a better chance of winning the title. (In the event Schumacher's own car was too damaged to continue, while Villeneuve was able to carry on.) The FIA, the governing body, launched an investigation into the accident, and eventually officially disqualified Schumacher from the championship, which promoted Frentzen to second. But Schumacher retained the points he'd won, which still count in his overall tally.

Who's the best driver never to have won the world championship? asked Andy Browne

Well, this one is a matter of opinion, although probably the first name most people would come up with would be Stirling Moss, and I wouldn't argue with that. You can stand it up statistically, I suppose, as Sir Stirling finished second in the world championship four times - each year from 1955 to 1958 - which is more often than anyone else who never won it. After that it's a great bar-room discussion - there would be advocates of Ronnie Peterson and Gilles Villeneuve, and possibly Carlos Reutemann and Jacky Ickx. Someone Moss himself rated very highly was his fellow Brit Tony Brooks, who was second in the championship in 1959, while you also have to think about those who died at a young age, like Ricardo Rodriguez or Francois Cevert, or the highly rated British pair of Tom Pryce and Tony Brise.