ATLAS F1   Volume 6, Issue 47 Email to Friend   Printable Version

Atlas F1   The F1 FAQ

  by Marcel Schot, Netherlands

Have a question about Formula One statistics or history? Well you're not the only one, and it's about time someone came up with the answers to Formula One's most Frequently Asked Questions. Send us your questions, to - we may not know everything, but we will sure make the effort to find out

"Could you tell me who was the oldest driver to enter F1? and how old was he? Thank you so much, Juliana"

The oldest driver to ever enter a Formula One event was Louis Chiron, who came out of retirement to drive in his home Grand Prix in Monaco one more time in 1958. On the 18th of May, Chiron, however, was a spectator. Born on 3 August 1899 and thus aged 58 years, 9 months and 15 days, he did not qualify for the Grand Prix. Two years earlier, he had also tried, but that time his Maserati engine stood in the way of competing in his beloved Grand Prix (he started his first Monaco Grand Prix back in 1930).

Before that, the oldest driver to start a Grand Prix was Frenchman Philip Etancelin, who in 1952 classified eighth in his home race at the ripe old age of 55 years, 6 months and 9 days.

The oldest driver in recent times to compete in a Grand Prix was Nigel Mansell. The Briton raced in his final Grand Prix in 1995, when he drove in the Spanish Grand Prix for McLaren, aged 41 years, 9 months and 6 days.

"Can you tell me why the Damon Hill car number was 0 in 1994 or 1995? Francois"

The first year Damon Hill started with number 0 was 1993. Nigel Mansell was World Champion in 1992, but decided to switch to CART for 1993. As the FIA rules clearly state that the use of number 1 is exclusive to the reigning World Champion, the number could not be used in 1993. Instead, the team of the champion got numbers 0 and 2. Apparently then-three times World Champion Alain Prost didn't think the number 0 looked good on him, so his teammate Damon Hill got the number. Alain Prost became World Champion with number 2, then retired and left Formula One with another year without the reigning World Champion. Again, another three times champion picked 2 over 0: Ayrton Senna. Thus Damon Hill raced with 0 on his car for two years.

"With V10s being the defacto standard in F1 I have to wonder if anyone has ever considered a Flat 10. With its low center of gravity a Flat 10 would seem to have some benefits. Ferrari was certainly very successful with its Flat 12 engines in the 70's and I wonder why we don't see this configuration today. Paul"

It's very hard to give an answer to this question, simply because you can't really tell whether the benefits would overcome the deficits. To my knowledge, there have been four teams who have used flat 12s throughout Formula One history:

  • Ferrari, 1964-1965 and 1969-1980
  • Tecno, 1972-1973
  • Brabham, 1976-1978
  • Alfa Romeo, 1979

Brabham and Alfa Romeo in this case can be regarded as one case of flat 12, as it was the Alfa engine that was used by Brabham. Of course, Ferrari were very successful with its engine, but for Brabham there were only two wins in this era (Niki Lauda in Sweden & Italy, both in 1978). Of those two wins, the one in Sweden was by the notorious fan car and can hardly be credited to the engine. Of Alfa Romeo's seven entries in 1979, three were with the flat 12. The results were one retirement, a 12th place and a 17th place (no less than five laps behind). Now you can argue whether Vittorio Brambilla and Bruno Giacomelli were the best drivers in the world, but dropping the engine after three races says something about their belief (or lack of) in it. As for the Tecno attempt, the facts are even more overwhelming: 17 attempts, with just one sixth place finish by Chris Amon, the unluckiest driver in Formula One history. In short, it looks like it wasn't the engine, but rather the whole Ferrari package of the 70s that scored the points for them.

The last time a non-V shaped engine finished was in the 1988 Portuguese Grand Prix when Derek Warwick finished fourth in his Arrows, powered by the Megatron 1.5 litre L4 turbo engine. The last non-V shaped win is even longer ago : Gerhard Berger won the 1986 Mexican Grand Prix in the BMW 1.5 Litre L4 turbo powered Benetton. From all this, it appears that V is still the concept designers are happiest with. They either don't bother to try something else, the costs are too high or they've already found that with the current rules it wouldn't work. I think it might very well be the latter reason, as Formula One cars have been made a lot smaller in recent years and flat engines are bound to be rather wide.

"Hello, do you know why Jean Todt stopped to come on podium when Ferrari driver has won? Last time I remember him on the podium was I think GP of Monako in 1999. Thanks for answer. Juraj"

Since you originally asked your question, Jean Todt has been back on the podium in Japan. From what I understand from various sources, constructors' trophies at Ferrari are being accepted by different people each time. This gives everyone a chance to stand in the spotlight.

"was there any grand prix of casablanca (morocco)? amadea"

Yes, there was a Moroccan Grand Prix. In 1958, Formula One raced on the Ain-Diab circuit on the southern outskirts of Casablanca. It was the final race of the season, and the championship was being battled between Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn, one driving for Vanwall and the other for Ferrari. Whatever happened, it would be the first time a British driver would win the World Championship. Despite Moss winning the race, Hawthorn was crowned champion as he did his job of finishing second behind Moss. All festivities then had a bit of a shadow over them, as Stuart Lewis-Evans had blown his Vanwall engine and crashed heavily, receiving severe burns from which he died days later.

"my name is kevin, i wonder if anyone could help me with a little project am doing. if anyone at atlas F1 know anything about the front wings of the F1 along the lines of dimensions, and how they work and also some statistcs on them, could they please, either email it to me or do a feature on the site about it."

Firstly, the height of the front wing must be at least 5 cm from the ground and no more than 25 cm from the ground. This is defined by rule 3.7 of the technical regulations. No bodywork and thus no wing may be located in the box shaped form that goes from the center of the wheels 35 cm forward and between 40 cm and 90 cm from the middle of the car (rule 3.12). Another demand is that any bodywork ahead of the rear wheels may not be wider than 140cm (rule 3.4.1). These are the major limits bound to front wing design. If you want to take a look at every little detail that designers are plagued with, visit the FIA's technical regulations page at

Editorial Remarks:

  • Some of the questions we receive have already been replied to in previous F1 FAQ columns. Therefore, before sending in a question, we suggest you have a look at the back issues, by searching the FAQ database. Not that we mind getting so much mail, just that we feel bad for those who feel they are left unanswered...

  • We receive quite a few questions from you all, and it is absolutely impossible for us to research and respond to each of you, be it here or privately. Please, don't feel discouraged if your question was not replied to; it might come up in the next column. And don't forget - you can always look for answers at the Atlas F1 Bulletin Board.

Marcel Schot© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.
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