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Safety car, Schumacher and Sir Stirling

Steven Lynch February 4, 2010

Our resident expert - Steven Lynch - is here to answer all your questions about any aspect of F1. If you have a burning question or just want to test Steven, send us your questions…

Fernando Alonso won the controversial 2008 Singapore Grand Prix from 15th on the grid © Sutton Images
Fernando Alonso won the controversial 2008 Singapore GP after starting 15th on the grid. Is this a record? Darrell Faber
Fernando Alonso did indeed win that race - during which his team-mate Nelson Piquet Jnr was apparently ordered to crash deliberately - after starting 15th on the grid. Rather surprisingly, perhaps, six other GPs (and the Indianapolis 500 in 1954, when it counted towards the F1 world championship) have been won from even further back. The record is held by Britain's John Watson, who started the 1983 United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach after starting in 22nd place out of 26 on the grid. The McLarens had problems coping with a bumpy track during qualifying - Watson's team-mate Niki Lauda started 23rd and finished second - but it all came right in the race. Watson made a bit of a habit of this sort of thing: the previous year he had won the Detroit GP after starting 17th on the grid.

With all the fuss about Michael Schumacher's comeback at 41, would he become the oldest champion if he wins this year? Michael Jones
Michael Schumacher will have to extend his comeback by a few more years if he wants to add that record to his bulging collection. The oldest F1 world champion to date was the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who won the last of his five titles in 1957, when he was 46. Coincidentally, Fangio's record as the oldest world motorsport champion of any sort was broken in 2009, when Gabriele Tarquini won the World Touring Car Championship aged 47. Tarquini had a long, if unsuccessful, F1 career - he started 78 GPs between 1987 and 1995 but, usually saddled with uncompetitive cars, managed only one point, when he finished sixth in Mexico in an AGS.

Lewis Hamilton won four races in his first world championship season. Is this a record for an F1 rookie?Graeme Robbins
Lewis Hamilton's debut season in 2007 equalled that of Jacques Villeneuve: he also won four GPs in his first season, 1996. And like Hamilton, he won the championship in his second season. Villeneuve, though, was a much more experienced driver than Hamilton when he came in to F1: he was 25, and had won the Indianapolis 500 the previous year on the way to winning the IndyCar championship in 1995.

Who has started the most GPs without ever scoring any points? Andy Hayes
The holder of this unwanted record actually took part in a couple of races in 2009: it's Luca Badoer, who has now started 50 GPs without ever finishing in the points. His best finish remains seventh (which didn't then earn any points) in the 1993 San Marino GP - only the fourth race of his career - when he was driving a Lola. He was lying fourth in a Minardi in the 1999 European GP with 13 laps to go before his gearbox failed. For some time Badoer has been Ferrari's test driver, and he made a Grand Prix comeback for them after ten years in 2009 following Felipe Massa's accident in Hungary. But he could only finish 17th and 14th in his two races, and was then replaced by Giancarlo Fisichella (who fared little better).

Luca Badoer holds an unenviable F1 record © Sutton Images

Who drives the F1 safety car? And has the safety car ever been involved in a crash? James Vernon
Since 2000 the safety car at almost all the F1 Grand Prix has been piloted by the German sports-car specialist Bernd Maylander, who won the Nurburgring 24 Hours race in 2000. I'm not aware of any accidents involving the safety car while it has been running during a race - not in a Grand Prix, anyway: I have seen a video of a crash in a sports-car race. I do recall an incident before the Brazilian GPin 2002 when Nick Heidfeld came round a blind corner and was confronted with the medical support car - he tried hard to avoid it, but did some damage to its door.

Is it true that Stirling Moss would have won the F1 world title in 1958 had the 2009 points system been in use? Terry Bealson
It's actually not quite true. In 1958 Mike Hawthorn pipped Stirling Moss by one point, even though Hawthorn won only one race to Moss's five. Moss's problem was that his Vanwall was less reliable than Hawthorn's Ferrari, and Moss finished only one other race. Hawthorn kept finishing second - he had five runners-up spots that year, to Moss's one. The points system then went 8-6-4-3-2-1 (eight points for first, down to one for sixth, with an extra point for the fastest lap), added to which only a driver's best six results from the 11 races would count. Under that system Hawthorn finished with 42 points to Moss's 41. Using the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system in use in 2009, Hawthorn would still have finished top, with 50 points from his best six races (from a total of 60) while Moss would have had 48. Moss, however, would have won the title under the 9-6-4-3-2-1 system which was used between 1961 and 1990, as then his six best results would have brought him 42 points to Hawthorn's 39 (although Hawthorn would have had 45 overall, he would have had to discard two finishes that brought him six points). Moss would also have won using the proposed 2010 system (25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1) as he would have taken 118 points from his best six finishes, to Hawthorn's 115. The only driver apart from Hawthorn to win the world championship despite winning only one race in the season concerned was Keke Rosberg, in 1982.