• Ask Steven

The most dramatic race of them all

ESPN Staff
December 7, 2012
Sir Stirling Moss was the championship runner-up for four consecutive seasons but never won the title © Sutton Images

After Sebastian Vettel's world championship hat-trick, how many drivers have won three in a row - and has any unlucky soul been runner-up three times in a row? asked Neil Foreman

Sebastian Vettel was just the third man to win the world title three times running, following Juan-Manuel Fangio (1954-57) and Michael Schumacher (2000-04). At just 25, Vettel is easily the youngest of any of the three-time world champions (there are six others who have won it three times, not in successive years): Ayrton Senna was six years older at 31 when he won his third title in 1991. As for being runner-up three times in a row, the one and only Stirling Moss finished second in the championship every year from 1955 to 1958 - and never did win it - while another charismatic Brit, Graham Hill, was second each year from 1963 to 1965. He did win the title twice, though, to make up for it.

Was the 2012 Brazilian GP the most dramatic F1 race of them all? asked Geoff Templeton

I suppose this is a matter of opinion, although the recent race at Interlagos was a real show-stopper: it's rare for any Grand Prix to have so much drama throughout, and to keep you on the edge of your seat for so long. Other action-packed races that spring to mind usually involve late changes of leadership, and the 1982 Monaco GP had plenty of those, with four different leaders in the last three laps before eventually a rather surprised Riccardo Patrese took the chequered flag, having jump-started his car not long before after stalling it. The 1964 Belgian GP at Spa was another with a lot of excitement in the closing stages - Jim Clark, who had been running in fourth place with not long to go, eventually won - but ran out of fuel on his slowing-down lap so didn't find out for ages. And for one-on-one drama it would be hard to beat the 1986 British GP at Brands Hatch, when Nigel Mansell remorselessly closed a big gap on his team-mate Nelson Piquet, and swept past into the lead just before the finish.

I was sorry to read that HRT may be missing from the grid in 2013. They lasted for three years yet never finished in the top ten - has there ever been a less successful F1 team? asked Clive Robinson

It will be a shame if HRT do not appear in 2013 - although the leading drivers may well be relieved not to have quite so many "mobile chicanes" to avoid in the races. HRT started in 2010 and took part in 56 GPs, with a best position of 13th, by Tonio Liuzzi in Canada last year. As far as the most unsuccessful F1 team goes, this is a difficult one to work out, as team names frequently change. If you consider the current Marussia team to be the same as the Virgin one that competed in 2010 and 2011, and the current Caterham to be the same as the 2010-11 Lotus, then they both have the same record as HRT, give or take a race start. I don't think any other constructor has entered as many as 50 races without ever finishing in the top ten. Zakspeed were a contender, but their 74 races between 1985 and 1989 did produce two minor points finishes. Probably the palm should go to Minardi, who had 637 GP starts and never had a podium finish, although their drivers did occasionally pick up the odd point.

Nico Rosberg was likened to Britney Spears during his time at Williams ... and the nickname stuck © Sutton Images

Which driver is nicknamed "Britney"?? asked Jim Llewellyn

The man rejoicing (or possibly not) in this nickname is Nico Rosberg, who was named after the American singer Britney Spears a few years ago, apparently on account of his blond hair and interest in fashion. Mark Webber, his team-mate at Williams at the time, is thought to have come up it: Nico has grumbled good-naturedly that it's "not the best nickname". In Abu Dhabi in 2010 Rosberg checked in at his hotel and was somewhat taken aback to discover that someone had stuck a picture of Ms Spears over his own one in his passport.

Jackie Stewart won his first world title in a Matra. Did anyone else ever win a Grand Prix in one? asked Simon Hayes

Jackie Stewart won the 1969 world title driving a Matra MS10, recording six wins in it that season. He had also won three races the previous year - and these were the only GP victories Matra managed in their brief foray into F1, which lasted from 1967 to 1972. Stewart's team-mate Jean-Pierre Beltoise finished as runner-up in the 1969 French GP - bringing up the team's only 1-2 - and also finished second in the previous year's Dutch GP, while Johnny Servoz-Gavin was second (behind Denny Hulme) at Monza in 1968. After Stewart left for Tyrrell (via March) in 1970, Beltoise, Chris Amon and Henri Pescarolo all made it onto the podium, but none of them could finish higher than third.

Was Sebastian Vettel the first world champion to win in a car using Pirelli tyres? asked George Sandford

My immediate thought was that he probably was - but actually a number of teams used Pirellis in the 1950s, and in 1957 Juan-Manuel Fangio won the championship in a Pirelli-shod Maserati. The first four world titles - shared by Fangio, Nino Farina and Alberto Ascari from 1950-53 - were also won in total or in part by cars using Pirellis. Red Bull (and everyone else) switched to Pirelli tyres last year, so Vettel won in 2011 with those too, having taken his first title in 2010 using Bridgestones.