• Ask Steven

Success without winning

Steven Lynch November 9, 2012
BAR finished second in the constructors' in 2004 without winning a race © Sutton Images

What is the highest a team has finished in the constructors' championship without winning a race that year? asked John B from Australia

There has really only been one occasion when a team has finished as runner-up in the F1 constructors' championship without winning a race that year: BAR-Honda were second in 2004, despite never winning (Jenson Button was second four times). Ferrari, in the hands of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, won 15 of that year's 18 races: the only other cars to take the chequered flag were Renault (Jarno Trulli at Monaco) who finished third in the constructors' table, Williams who were fourth (Juan Pablo Montoya won in Brazil), and fifth-placed McLaren (Kimi Raikkonen won in Belgium). Technically this also happened in 2007, when Sauber were officially second (again behind Ferrari) despite their best individual placing all year being Robert Kubica's second spot in Canada. But they were only second as McLaren - who won eight races to Ferrari's nine - were disqualified from the constructors' championship after the "Spygate" controversy, in which they were found guilty of receiving technical documents from a former Ferrari employee.

Which current F1 track has the longest straight? asked Atif Ehsan from Pakistan

There doesn't seem to be complete agreement about the answer to this one, with the circuits at Shanghai and Abu Dhabi both claiming the honour. The official F1 website gives the palm to Shanghai, where the back straight (between Turns 13 and 14) is said to be 1170 metres long - 30 more than Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, and 50 more than the main drag at Monza. Mind you, in 2009 the same site said the straight at Abu Dhabi measured 1173m: but I don't suppose a few metres either way matters much to the drivers when they're trying to brake from about 200mph! Probably the longest straight on any regular circuit was at Le Mans where, prior to the introduction of two chicanes in 1990 to slow the cars down from around 250mph, the Mulsanne straight was about 6000 metres (6km) long.

Who has taken part in the most GPs without ever winning one, and who took part in the most without ever finishing on the podium? asked Christopher Morrison

Both these unwanted records belong to Italian drivers. Andrea de Cesaris raced in 208 GPs without ever winning one. He did finish second twice - in Germany and South Africa in 1983, while driving for Alfa-Romeo, one of ten different cars he raced during his F1 career. Eight other drivers, none of them current ones, have taken part in more than 100 GPs with winning one: Nick Heidfeld is next with 183. But at least de Cesaris finished on the podium five times: his fellow Italian Pierluigi Martini took part in 119 GPs without ever doing so - his highest placing was a pair of fourth places in 1991, in San Marino and Portugal, while driving for Minardi.

The Race of Champions is taking place in Bangkok this year © Getty Images

Is the "Race of Champions" taking place again this year, and has an F1 driver ever won it? asked George Mason

The Race of Champions is a competition for famous drivers from all types of motor sport, and involves them driving identical cars, often on a stadium circuit. The event assumed roughly its current format in 1988, and will take place this year at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, from December 14-16. Although the team event has been won in each of the last five years by Germany - represented by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel - the individual winner has tended to come from the world of rallying of touring cars. The only F1 driver to win it was Heikki Kovalainen, then an up and coming GP2 driver and recent World Series by Nissan champion, in 2004. Going back a bit, Brands Hatch used to stage a non-championship Formula One event which was also called the Race of Champions: it was held every year between 1967 and 1977, and also in 1965, 1979 and 1983. Jackie Stewart and James Hunt both won it twice. The 1983 race, won by Keke Rosberg, remains the last non-championship F1 race to date.

Which driver has the highest average points per Grand Prix? asked Corey Green from New Zealand

This table is rather skewed by the recent (2010) huge increase in points available, with the allocation for a win going up from 10 to 25. It means that Sebastian Vettel tops the table with an average of 10.38 points per race (after Abu Dhabi), with Lewis Hamilton second on 8.30. The best average prior to 2010 was Michael Schumacher's 5.48 points per race, which put him just ahead of Juan-Manuel Fangio's 5.34 from 52 races (and during his career a win was worth nine - and originally only eight - points).

You wrote in the last column that Luca Badoer had 58 races but only 50 starts - what's the difference? asked Vishnu from Australia

The difference usually arises if a driver fails to qualify for the race itself - he's considered to have taken part in the race meeting, so that would qualify as a race he'd been present at, but he didn't actually start the race. So Luca Badoer failed to qualify for eight of his 58 races, and thus only started 50. It's quite rare for this to happen now - although both HRTs did fail to qualify for the first race of this season, in Australia - but in the past there were often too many cars competing for too few grid places. For a while in the 1980s, there was a cut-throat session known as pre-qualifying, in which the "junior" teams competed for the honour of progressing into qualifying proper (where they might well still fail to qualify for the race itself!). In 1981, for example, the British driver Derek Warwick failed to qualify his outclassed Toleman car for 11 GPs in a row - then, when he did make it on to the grid for the last race of the season, at Caesars Palace, retired after 43 laps. The record for most races without ever starting is 14, by the unfortunate Italian driver Claudio Langes, in a Eurobrun in 1990.