• Ask Steven

One win wonders

Steven Lynch October 12, 2012
Toro Rosso has only won one race to date © Sutton Images

You told us a while ago about drivers who only ever won one grand prix. But how many cars have won only once? asked Jonathan Drysdale

Eight different constructors have won just one world championship Grand Prix. The most recent is Toro Rosso, whose only victory to date came when Sebastian Vettel pulled off a surprise victory in the Italian GP of 2008. Earlier that year a Sauber, driven by Robert Kubica, won the Canadian GP. Back in 1999, Johnny Herbert won the European GP at the Nurburgring after a string of drivers retired while leading. Shadow won their only race in 1977, when Alan Jones won in Austria, while the previous year John Watson also won at the Osterreichring, giving Penske their only F1 victory. James Hunt won a popular victory for Hesketh in the Dutch GP of 1975, while the other two cars owed their only wins to the same driver: the American Dan Gurney took the 1967 Belgian GP in an Eagle, and the French GP of 1962 in a Porsche. The versatile Gurney was also the first to win a Grand Prix in a Brabham, in 1964, but they won 34 more races after that. Some record books also include the Kuzma, driven by Troy Ruttman, which won the Indianapolis 500 in 1952.

It looks as if this season's world championship could be another one to go down to the wire. But what's the earliest date anyone has clinched the title? asked Peter Morris

This record was set by Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955, when he clinched the title on July 16 by finishing second in the British GP at Aintree, to go with three wins from that season's previous four events. It was an unusual year, though - four races (in France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland) were cancelled in the wake of a terrible accident at Le Mans which killed more than 80 spectators. Two of those were due to be held after the British GP, so it would not have been until the cancellations were confirmed that Fangio would actually have known he had won his third title, but after the British GP he had what turned out to be an unassailable points lead over the second-placed man, his Mercedes team-mate Stirling Moss. In the end there was only one more race in that sad season, in Italy in September: Fangio won that as well. More recently, Michael Schumacher secured the title on July 21 in 2002, by winning the French GP. That was the 11th of 17 races that season (so there were six remaining, also a record), and at that point he'd won eight of them. Schumacher finished the season with 144 points, 67 ahead of the runner-up - his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello - and uniquely finished on the podium in all 17 races.

I remember Nico Hulkenberg getting a surprise pole position a few years ago. Was he the youngest to take pole in a Grand Prix? asked Dave Norman

That record is actually held by another promising young German, Sebastian Vettel, who was only 72 days past his 21st birthday when he took pole position at Monza in 2008. He beat the existing record of Fernando Alonso, who was 164 days older when he set the fastest lap in practice for the Malaysian GP in 2003. Three other pole-sitters have been younger than Hulkenberg, who was 23 years and 79 days old when he stuck his Williams on pole on a drying track in Brazil in 2010: Rubens Barrichello was aged 22 years 97 days when he set the fastest practice lap in Belgium in 1994, Lewis Hamilton 22/153 in Canada in 2007, and Andrea de Cesaris 22/308 in 1982, when he grabbed the only pole position of his long career, in the United States GP West at Long Beach in an Alfa-Romeo.

Argentinians Jose Froilan Gonzalez and Juan Manuel Fangio got a home grand prix in 2953 © Unknown

What was the first grand prix to be held outside Europe? asked George Harding

It's certainly not the case now, as the teams shuttle from Japan to Korea, but in the early days almost all of the races were in Europe. The first world championship Grand Prix held elsewhere was in Argentina in 1953, when much to the locals' disappointment the local favourite Juan Manuel Fangio lost out to Alberto Ascari. This remained a championship event until 1960 - Fangio cheered the home fans up by winning the next four - before dropping off the calendar until 1972, and disappearing for good in 1998 (it was not held in 1959 and 1976, or between 1982 and 1994). The next country outside Europe to hold one was Morocco, whose Ain-Diab circuit staged the championship decider in 1958, when Mike Hawthorn just did enough to deny Stirling Moss the title. The first United States GP was staged at Sebring in 1959. As I seem to say most weeks, this excludes the Indianapolis 500, which was part of the official world championship from 1950 to 1960.

Has the 2012 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti ever raced in F1? asked John Connolly

Dario Franchitti, who has actually won the Indy 500 three times now (in 2007 and 2010 as well as this year) has not yet raced in a world championship Grand Prix. Early in his career, though, he did have a spell as test driver for the Jaguar team in 2000, when their regular drivers were Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert. Franchitti has had great success since starting single-seater racing in the United States in 1997, and has won the annual Indycar series four times - in 2007, then each year from 2009 to 2011 before slipping to seventh this year (the overall title was won by the Texan driver Ryan Hunter-Reay). Franchitti himself might not have raced in F1, but his cousin does - his fellow Scot Paul di Resta.

Is "Scott Speed" the best name ever for a Formula One driver?! asked Laurie Marshall

It does sound rather like something you might find in Tiger comic, yes ... Sadly, the Californian Scott Speed's F1 career was not quite as exciting as his name: in 28 GPs in a season and a half for Toro Rosso, his best finishes were a pair of ninth places, in Australia in 2006 and Monaco in 2007. Under the system in use at the time, that left him one place out of the points both times. Midway through 2007, Speed lost his Toro Rosso seat to Sebastian Vettel. As far as good racing names go, I've long been amused by the current Indycar contender Will Power, while apparently there was a NASCAR driver in years gone by called Dick Trickle.