• Ask Steven

Courses for horses, winners and steering wheels

Steven Lynch February 18, 2010
Jody Scheckter celebrates winning Wolf's first ever grand prix in Argentina in 1977 © Sutton Images

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…

Brawn GP won their first-ever race, at the start of 2009. Has another team managed to win their very first race? Colin Steele
Jenson Button's victory in the 2009 Australian GP for Brawn was the first time a team had won their first F1 race since 1977, when Jody Scheckter drove the new Wolf car to victory in the first race of the season in Argentina. The team was funded by Walter Wolf, an Austrian oil magnate, and competed with diminishing success for two more seasons. Before that, at the French GP at Reims in 1954 Juan-Manuel Fangio was first and Karl Kling second in a famous name which was returning to motor racing and taking part in its first world championship grand prix - Mercedes-Benz. An omen for 2010, perhaps?

Has there ever been a grand prix in which only one person finished? Cheryl Martin
Not yet there hasn't - the fewest number of cars to finish any grand prix is three, in the 1996 Monaco GP . It was a wet day, and only Olivier Panis, David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert of the 21 starters actually crossed the line at the end of the race, although Heinz-Harald Frentzen only retired on the final lap. Three other cars completed 90% of the race distance and were thus classified as finishers. Also at Monaco, in 1966, only four cars finished the race and there were no others classified: Jackie Stewart won that one.

How many people have won just one grand prix? David Campbell
A total of 22 different drivers have one just one world championship Grand Prix. The list includes three current drivers - Heikki Kovalainen, Robert Kubica and Jarno Trulli - who may yet add to their solitary victories. For the record, the other one-time winners are Jean Alesi (whose only win in more than 200 Grand Prix came in Canada in 1995, on his birthday), Giancarlo Baghetti (who won his first GP), Lorenzo Bandini, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jo Bonnier, Vittorio Brambilla (he only received half points for his win at the 1975 Austrian GP, as it was shortened by rain), Francois Cevert, Luigi Fagiol, Peter Gethin, Richie Ginther, Innes Ireland, Jochen Mass, Luigi Musso, Alessandro Nannini, Gunnar Nilsson, Carlos Pace, Olivier Panis, Ludovico Scarfiotti and Piero Taruffi. This list excludes nine American drivers who won the Indianapolis 500 once each between 1950 and 1960, when it counted towards the F1 title.

Wolfgang von Trips on his way to winning the 1961 British Grand Prix at Aintree © Sutton Images

When did the steering wheel stop being round? Donald from the USA
That's a difficult one to answer - I suspect there have been steering wheels which were not quite round from quite early on in Formula One history. I seem to remember reading about Graham Hill asking for the wheel to be altered in one 1960s car because he couldn't easily get his hands past his thighs, and he ended up with a circle with bits cut out of it. Up until the early 1990s the steering wheel was still basically round - although often with squared-off edges, or parts of the whole circle flattened - and just about its only function was to get the car round corners. Gradually, though, as electronics took over, the wheel became the nerve centre of the car, carrying the gear-changer and many other buttons controlling much technical wizardry.

My father told me about a driver whose entire Formula One career lasted a couple of hundred yards. Who was this unlucky driver? Peter Norris
The man with the shortest Formula One career of all is Marco Apicella, whose only grand prix came in his native Italy in 1993. Driving a Jordan after the mid-season retirement of Thierry Boutsen, Apicella qualified towards the back of the grid at Monza. At the first corner he was a blameless participant in an incident involving JJ Lehto which also put Apicella's Jordan team-mate Rubens Barrichello out of the race. Apicella's suspension was damaged, and he could not continue: his race - and, as it turned out, his F1 career - had lasted a few seconds and about 800 metres.

I was surprised to discover that the British Grand Prix was once held at Aintree. Did it follow the Grand National horse-racing course? Michael Booth
It's an interesting mental picture to imagine F1 cars going over those fences. Actually the motor racing track at Aintree is laid out inside the horse racing course, although the same grandstands were used for spectators watching horses or cars. The British GP was actually held there five times, in 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1962. Stirling Moss won the first two (the second time in a car shared with Tony Brooks), and the other winners were Jack Brabham, Wolfgang "Taffy" von Trips and Jim Clark . The motor racing circuit, which shares some redolent names with the famous steeplechase fences (Becher's Bend, Canal Curve, Valentines Way) was used for other motor races until the early 1980s. It's still there, and there are some plans to update it and use it again.