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The big, the small and the unlucky

Steven Lynch March 18, 2010

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Unlucky No. 13 - The wreckage of Paul Torchy's two-litre 2LCV Delage GP in which he was killed © Getty Images
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I've noticed that no-one these days ever races with the No. 13 on their car. Has anyone ever done it in a Grand Prix? asked Sarah Norman from London
The number, traditionally superstitious in Britain, was actually dropped by the Automobile Club de France after fatal accidents involving Paul Torchy (1925) and Count Giulio Masetti (1926), both of whom were driving cars numbered 13. That legacy has continued and No. 13 has almost never been used in Grand Prix racing. I can find only two instances of it happening in a Grand Prix: in 1963 the local driver Moises Solana piloted No. 13 in the Mexican GP: driving a BRM in his maiden championship race he was a rather distant last of 11 finishers, eight laps behind the winner (and 1963 world champion) Jim Clark. The only other occasion came in the 1976 British GP at Brands Hatch, when Divina Galica drove a Surtees bearing the No. 13. It certainly proved unlucky for her: she failed to qualify for the race (so Solana is the only person actually to drive car No. 13 in a Grand Prix).

There were four world champions on the grid in Bahrain - Alonso, Button, Hamilton and Schumacher - and I wondered what the most in any one season was? asked Becky Wright from Manchester
The last time there were four former world champions (including the reigning one) in a Grand Prix was in 1999, when Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve contested most of the races before Schumacher broke his leg at the British GP. There have been several instances of five world champions in a race, although none since 1970 (Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Denny Hulme, Jackie Stewart and John Surtees).

Who is the tallest F1 driver at the moment, and who's the shortest? And - where's a cheeky one - who is the heaviest? asked Neil Davies from London
The tallest drivers scheduled to compete in 2009 are the two newcomers Nico Hulkenberg (Williams) and F1's first Russian Vitaly Petrov (Renault). They are both 1.85m tall - a touch over six feet. The shortest is Felipe Massa, at 1.66m (5ft 5½ins). I wasn't sure how to find out the drivers' weights - wandering around the pit lane with some scales seemed like a good way of getting run over - but then I found the season preview in F1 Racing magazine, which did the dangerous bit for me: Force India's Adrian Sutil admits to weighing 75kgs (not far off 12 stone), while the lightest is Massa, at 59kgs (just over nine stone).

There must be a lot of Grand Prix winners in the history of F1. How many different winners are there, and which country has produced the most? asked Imre Minjo from Estonia
Before the start of the 2010 season a total of 92 different drivers had won an F1 world championship Grand Prix (this excludes ten Americans who won the Indianapolis 500 when it was considered part of the championship between 1950 and 1960). Michael Schumacher leads the way with 91 wins, with Alain Prost second on 51. Schumacher's wins make up a large percentage of the total of 108 victories by German drivers, but that only ranks second behind Great Britain - 19 British drivers have between them won 208 GPs. Nigel Mansell won most with 31, followed by Jackie Stewart (27), Jim Clark (25), Damon Hill (22), Stirling Moss (16), Graham Hill (14) and David Coulthard (13): Lewis Hamilton currently has 11 wins. The only other country to have recorded a century of Grand Prix wins is Brazil, with 101 (Ayrton Senna 41, Nelson Piquet 23, Emerson Fittipaldi 14, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa 11, Carlos Pace 1).

Clay Regazzoni, flanked by Rene Arnoux and Jean-Pierre Jarier, after his victory at Silverstone in 1979 © Sutton Images
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Who was the first driver to win a Grand Prix in a Williams - and who was the last? asked Jeremy Le Roux from Sussex
The first man to win an F1 Grand Prix in a Williams was the Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni, who won the 1979 British GP at Silverstone in a Williams FW07. It kick-started a period of dominance for the Williams team: Regazzoni's team-mate Alan Jones won four of the next five races, and continued in fine form the following year, when he won five races and took the drivers' championship for the only time. The last occasion (to date) that a Williams driver finished on top of the podium was in 2004, when Juan Pablo Montoya won the Brazilian GP in an FW26, in his last race for the team.

Rubens Barrichello seems to have been around for ages - has he had the longest F1 career of anyone? asked David Protheroe from Streatham
Rubens Barrichello actually claimed the record for the longest F1 career at the first race of the 2010 season at Bahrain. The race was held on March 14 - and Barrichello's F1 career started in South Africa on March 14, 1993. His 17-year career eclipses the previous longest, which was enjoyed by Graham Hill: his first Grand Prix was in May 1958, while the last one he started was in January 1975, although he did not retire until after that year's Monaco GP in May, where he failed to qualify (if you include that race, his career was a week short of 17 years)..

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If you want to ask Steven a question, use our feedback form. The most interesting questions will be answered here every other Friday. His long-running Ask Steven column on Cricinfo remains one of that site's most popular features Ask Steven features a number of experts, headed by Steven Lynch, who answer your questions across Formula One as well as a variety of other sports