• Ask Steven

Ten titles, one podium

Steven Lynch July 6, 2012
F1's most successful podium © Sutton Images

The podium for the European GP at Valencia featured three world champions, with a total of ten titles between them. Is that a record? asked Ivan Jelkic from Croatia

Ten F1 world titles on one podium - Michael Schumacher's seven, two for Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen's one - is indeed a new record. The previous-best was eight, which had happened eight times, seven of them also involving Alonso and Schumacher in 2006. The exception was the 1991 United States GP in Phoenix, the first race that year, which was won by Ayrton Senna (two world titles at the time, and he won that year as well) ahead of Alain Prost (three at the time; he won another in 1993) and Nelson Piquet (three).

Alonso, Raikkonen and Schumacher, who finished first, second and third in Valencia, had also shared a podium at least five times previously, in 2005 and 2006. Is this a record for the same three drivers? asked Akshay Gopinathan Nair from India

This is a difficult one to nail exactly, with so many races to trawl through, but I'm confident that the most-often-viewed podium involved Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. They shared the limelight on 12 occasions, and the next-best appears to be eight, by Schumacher/Coulthard/Rubens Barrichello and Fernando Alonso/Sebastian Vettel/Mark Webber. Jenson Button has been alongside Vettel and Webber on the podium seven times, the same number as the evocative combination of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna

Michael Schumacher reappeared on the F1 podium in Valencia after a six-year gap. Is this a record? asked Carl Johnson

Michael Schumacher's last appearance on the podium before the recent European GP came when he won in China in October 2006. Since then nearly six years and 99 races have elapsed - and that puts him second on these particular lists on both counts. The man with the longest gap between podium appearances - almost eight years, and 128 races - is the Austrian driver Alexander Wurz, who was third in the British GP in July 1997 in a Benetton, and did not feature in the top three again until the San Marino GP at Imola in April 2005, when he stepped in to replace the injured Juan Pablo Montoya and finished third in a McLaren.

Niki Lauda won in 1984 by half a point from Alain Prost © Sutton Images
In 1984 Niki Lauda won the world championship by just half a point from Alain Prost. But what's the closest three-way tussle for the title? asked Nick Sargent

In 2007 the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton (in his first season) and Fernando Alonso both finished with 109 points in the world championship ... and both finished just one point behind that year's champion, Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton was officially second in the championship as he had more second places than Alonso (both had four wins). Raikkonen, in a Ferrari, really stole the title from under their noses: with two races to go, Lewis led Kimi by 17 points and Fernando by 12 - but he crashed out in China and finished only seventh in the last race in Brazil after gearbox trouble. Raikkonen, meanwhile, won both GPs to nick the title by that solitary point. And you're right about the closest two-way battle: in 1984 Niki Lauda ended up with 72 points to his McLaren team-mate Alain Prost's 71.5 (only half points were awarded for the rain-shortened Monaco GP, which Prost won). However, arguably the 2008 world championship - clinched by Lewis Hamilton when he passed another car almost within sight of the final race's finishing line, to pip Felipe Massa by one point over the season - was even closer!

Does the 2012 Marussia driver Charles Pic have the shortest surname of any F1 driver? asked Tom Underwood

I thought he probably did, until I started researching and found a few - although it's fair to say none of them are exactly household names! Joe Fry - a British driver more famous for hill-climbs, and connected to the chocolate-making family - drove in the first world championship Grand Prix, at Silverstone in May 1950, finishing tenth in a Maserati. Sadly, Fry was killed in a hill-climb two months later. Around the same time the Italian Franco Rol took part in five GPs, finishing ninth at Monza in 1951. Dutchman Ben Pon took part in his home GP in 1962, and many years later the Japanese driver Yuji Ide drove a Super Aguri in the first four races of 2006. The longest surname I can find belonged to another Englishman: John Riseley-Pritchard, who drove a Connaught in the 1954 British GP.

Is the old F1 driver Christian Fittipaldi the son of the former world champion Emerson? asked Neil Campbell

Christian Fittipaldi, who took part in 43 GPs between 1992 and 1994, is actually the nephew of Emerson, the world champion of 1972 and 1974. But Christian's father was an F1 driver himself: Wilson Fittipaldi took part in 38 GPs in the 1970s, with a best finish of fifth in a Brabham in Germany in 1973, when he finished a few seconds ahead of his more illustrious younger brother. Wilson later set up the Copersucar Fittipaldi F1 team: he drove the car in its first season, 1975, before Emerson joined the family firm the following year. Sadly, neither of them had much success in the car. Christian's best F1 results were a trio of fourth places, for Minardi in South Africa in 1993 and in the Pacific GP in Japan and the German GP the following year, driving a Footwork (formerly Arrows). He left F1 after that season, and had some success in the north American CART series, finishing fifth in the championship in 1996 and again in 2002 (his last season).