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Monza's banking, banned drivers and a blue Ferrari

Steven Lynch September 14, 2012
Graham Hill tackles Monza's banking in 1961 © Getty Images

During the commentary of the Italian GP there was mention of the "famous banking" at Monza which is no longer used. What was it and when was it used? asked Robin Mitchell

The high-speed banked turns of the original Monza track are still there, although they are no longer used for motor racing. They formed part of the circuit used for the Italian GPs of 1955, 1956, 1960 and 1961, and were last used for a serious race of any sort in 1969, for the Monza 1000kms sports-car event. The curves were banked at an angle of about 30 degrees, and although they added to the circuit's already impressive lap speed, they were unpopular with the drivers of the time. Graham Hill wrote, of that 1961 race: "The cars could go round it absolutely flat out, and that was probably over 160mph. The surface itself is made up of huge concrete slabs, supported every few yards by large concrete stanchions; over the years the slabs of concrete have sagged below the supports and the surface is now a series of hollows and ridges. The ripple-board effect is very damaging to a car at high speed ... The driver gets a tremendous pounding too, and you get to the point where you can hardly see." Sounds appalling!

I read that Romain Grosjean was the first man to be suspended from a grand prix for causing an accident for 18 years - who was the last one? asked Terry Browne

The man suspended for causing an accident in 1994 was Mika Hakkinen, who missed the Hungarian GP after being held responsible for causing a ten-car pile-up at the first corner of the previous race in Germany. Later that season Michael Schumacher was also banned for two races after an incident in Belgium in which his car was found to have been gaining aerodynamic advantage from being too close to the ground (the "plank" underneath the car was too worn, according to the stewards). He still managed to win the title - his first - that season.

Michael Schumacher scored 148 points in 2004, the most under the old system. The maximum he could have got was 180 - is this the highest percentage in any season? asked Bill Wainwright

You're right, Schumi could have ended up with 180 points in 2004 if he'd won all 18 races, rather than "just" 13! His 148 points that year meant he collected 82.2% of those available - but he'd actually beaten that percentage in 2002, when he collected 144 points from 17 races, or 84.7% of the maximum. In 2011, under the current points system, Sebastian Vettel collected 392 points out of a possible 475 (82.5%). However, back in the early years of the F1 world championship there was usually a provision in place that allowed a driver only to count a certain number of results - and this led to three instances of someone scoring the maximum points available. In 1952 Alberto Ascari scored 36 out of 36 (only four results out of seven could be counted; Ascari won five GPs and set the fastest lap in four of those, which earned an extra point at the time), while in both 1963 and 1965 Jim Clark managed 54 out of a possible 54 (only six results could count, and he won seven GPs in 1963 and six in '65).

John Surtees clinched his 1964 title in a blue and white Ferrari © Motorsport

Pictures of John Surtees clinching the world championship in 1964 show his Ferrari painted in blue and white, not the traditional red. Why was this? asked Carl Howard

This was because Enzo Ferrari was embroiled in a dispute with the Italian Automobile Club at the time, so John Surtees completed the 1964 championship season - which he won at the last gasp - by driving the last two races (in the USA and Mexico) in a car officially entered by the North American Racing Team. This was run by Luigi Chinetti, a former racing driver who had been the first dealer to sell Ferraris in the United States. The following year one of the team's Ferrari sports cars, driven by Jochen Rindt and the American Masten Gregory, won the Le Mans 24-hour race.

I was impressed by Sergio Perez's drive in Monza, and have two questions: have Sauber ever won a Grand Prix? And has a Mexican driver ever won one? asked James Stone

The answer to that is yes, and yes: Sauber has won one Grand Prix so far, but only under BMW ownership when Robert Kubica took the chequered flag in Canada in 2008, the year after he'd had a monumental crash there, also in a BMW-Sauber. And Sergio Perez looks as if he has it in him to become only the second Mexican driver to win a world championship grand prix, after Pedro Rodriguez who won two - the 1967 South African GP (in a Cooper-Maserati) and the Belgian GP in 1970, in a BRM.

Who has been the runner-up in the world championship most often? asked Colin Ryan

Two men have finished second in the world championship on four occasions - Alain Prost, who at least had the compensation of winning it four times too, and Sir Stirling Moss, who famously never did win it. Moss was second every year from 1955 to 1958, and was third in each of the three years after that. Two British drivers were the championship runner-up three times - Graham Hill, between his titles in 1962 and 1968, and Nigel Mansell, his near-misses all coming before he finally secured the title in 1992.