• Ask Steven

The lowest-placed winner

ESPN Staff
February 1, 2013
Pastor Maldonado's 15th place in the championship in a race-winning season is a new record © Press Association

Pastor Maldonado finished only 15th in the drivers' championship last year despite winning in Spain. Has any driver ever finished lower overall in a season in which he won a race? asked Ferenc Horvath from Hungary

My first thought was that it might have happened during the years when the Indianapolis 500 counted towards the championship, as hardly any of the winners of that took part in any other F1 races. But it turns out that Pastor Maldonado's 15th place overall is indeed a record low for a driver who won a Grand Prix during the year: I suppose it is actually more likely to happen now there are far more races than in the early days. Two previous drivers finished 13th despite winning a race during the season: the 1958 Indy 500 winner Jimmy Bryan, and Jean-Pierre Jabouille in 1979, when his only points of a 15-race season came from victory in the French GP at Dijon, the first win for the otherwise fragile turbocharged Renault.

Sebastian Vettel started from the front row in 18 of the 19 GPs in 2011. Has anyone ever managed a 100% record? asked David Browne

Sebastian Vettel's 18 front-row starts in 2011 is the overall record for one season. But three drivers managed to start from the front row in every GP of a 16-race season: Ayrton Senna for McLaren in 1989 (13 pole positions), Alain Prost for Williams in 1993 (also 13 poles), and Damon Hill, also in a Williams, in 1996 (nine poles). Prost and Hill both won the world championship in the year in question, but Senna was pipped by Prost in 1989.

Who was the first Australian to drive in a Grand Prix? asked Mick Hughes

The first Australian to take part in a world championship Grand Prix was Tony Gaze, who drove an HWM in the 1952 Belgian GP, finishing 15th. He started two further races that year, but failed to finish. Gaze was a much-decorated fighter pilot during the Second World War, in which he flew alongside the likes of Sir Douglas Bader. There have been 15 Aussie F1 drivers since then, including world champions Jack Brabham and Alan Jones: Daniel Ricciardo was the latest in 2011.

Sebastian Vettel won for Toro Rosso at Monza at the age of 21 © Sutton Images

I know Sebastian Vettel won a Grand Prix in a Toro Rosso. Has anyone else done so? asked Bob Harrison

Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 Italian GP in a Toro Rosso, thereby tweaking the noses of the team's "senior partners", Red Bull, who hadn't won a race themselves at that stage (although they have certainly made up for it since). No one else has yet won a race - or even finished on the podium - in a Toro Rosso: the best performances have been Vettel's fourth places in China (2007) and Brazil (2008). The best by a driver other than Vettel was Tonio Liuzzi's sixth place in China in 2007. Jean-Eric Vergne managed four eighth places in the 2012 car.

I noticed that Alan Jones, during an otherwise miserable comeback, scored some world championship points in 1986, five years after his previous ones. Is this the biggest gap between points? asked Bill Meldrum

Alan Jones seemingly retired after the 1981 season, going out with a win for Williams at Caesars Palace, but reappeared in one race in 1983, then again at the end of 1985 before trying a full season for Lola in 1986. But the car was not very competitive, and the best he managed was fourth and sixth in successive races in Austria and Italy towards the end of the season: nearly five years elapsed between Jones's points finishes. But that's not a record - the Belgian driver Lucien Bianchi finished sixth in the 1960 Belgian GP, and didn't score another world championship point for almost eight years, when he finished third at Monaco in 1968 in a Cooper. There were 74 races between the points finishes of both Bianchi and Jones (and those of Alexander Wurz between 2000 and 2005). But there were 83 races between points for Mike Hailwood, more famous as a brilliant motorcyclist. He was sixth in the Monaco GP in 1964, and fourth in Italy in 1971 (that's the total number of races staged: Hailwood himself only took part in nine of them).

What is Ralf Schumacher doing these days? Is he still racing? asked Colin Mackay

Ralf Schumacher's last season in F1 was 2007, when he had a quiet time in the Toyota. Since then he's been taking part in the German Touring Car (DTM) series, with limited success - his best result in five seasons so far has been a third place at Hockenheim in 2011. The DTM is a very competitive series, as Timo Glock, who has just left Marussia, may be about to discover. The winner in 2012 was the Canadian Bruno Spengler, just ahead of Britain's Gary Paffett and Jamie Green.