Formula 1 records are a curious collection of the wonderful and bizarre, if one looks beyond the obvious most wins, most poles and so on.
A good example of this is German Markus Winkelhock, who took part in only one Grand Prix, driving a Spyker, after Christijan Albers’s sponsorship failed to materialise for the 2007 European Grand Prix.
Markus was the 27-year-old son of Manfred Winkelhock, who was an F1 driver in the 1980s, before his death in a sports car crash at Mosport Park in 1985 – when Markus was five. Winkelhock Jr qualified last on the grid at the Nurburgring, but by the third lap of the race he was in the lead by more than half a minute, having been the only driver in the field to be using the right choice of tyres. The decision was a risk, but when you have nothing to lose… His moment of glory was short because the rain was so bad that the race was neutralised with a Safety Car and then red-flagged. At the restart Winkelhock was on pole, and thus became the only F1 driver ever to start at both ends of the grid for the same race. And then he lost his job to a pay-driver…
There have, in fact, been three Winkelhocks who tried to be F1 drivers, the third being Joachim, Manfred’s brother and Markus’s uncle, who failed to qualify an AGS in seven attempts in 1989 – in the age of pre-qualifying. He was a very decent driver, but in the wrong car, although he did go on to win Le Mans. His cv is actually pretty impressive with a German F3 title, a DTM championship, victories the in Spa and Nürburgring 24 Hour races – and a BTCC title as well. Smokin’ Jo was also an Asia Pacific touring car champion.
In comparison, it is worth noting that there have been only three drivers in F1 history with the surname Hill – and all three won the World Championship, although Phil Hill was no relation to Graham and Damon.
But the weirdest of these three-of-a-kind records was at the European GP in 1997 at Jerez where the World Championship showdown qualifying resulted in the two title challengers and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, all lapping the track in 1m21.072s – having exactly the same pole lap time – to the thousandth of a second. The probability of the happening was less than tiny – and it is not likely to happen again for at least another 100 years, although perhaps some statistican out there will work out the mathematical probability.
Mind you, what is the probability of a driver achieving three pole positions in his Formula 1 career and never leading a single lap in a race? Well, that happened to Teo Fabi. He was quick, but his starts were obviously not much good – or he was just plain unlucky. I tend to go for the latter explanation as there was one occasion when his Benetton team-mate, Gerhard Berger, took the lead at the start and then broke down, handing Fabi the lead, but his car failed before the end of the same lap – and thus he never led a lap…
When it comes to records, being Italian seems to be a really bad idea. Nicola Larini, for example, holds the record for the number of races he took part in before scoring a World Championshiop point (44), while Luca Badoer holds the record for the most race entries without ever scoring a point (58) and, of course, there is the monster record of the most races by a driver without winning a race, which stands at 208 to the delightful but accident-prone Andrea de Cesaris. The Italians failed to get the record for the most races started by a driver before a first F1 victory, which currently stands to Mark Webber with 130 starts.
It is interesting to note that Nico Rosberg hold the record for the most GPs contested before winning a World Championship (206), while his father Keke has the record for the fewest F1 victories achieved before winning the World Championship. This stands at an astonishing one GP victory. Mike Hawthorn won the title in 1958 with only one victory that season, but he had won several races in previous years. Keke was champ after just one win, but would go on to achieve others.
There has been one occasion when the Constructors’ World Championship runner-up did not win a single race, which was in 2004 when BAR-Honda achieved this remarkably unremarkable feat, while I am rather fond of Narain Karthikeyan’s achievement as the only man ever to finish a World Championship Grand Prix in 24th place. No-one has done that before or since, despite the fact that there were 34 starters at the 1953 German GP – also a record.
My other favourite bizarre statistic is that German Hans Heyer is the only man ever to had recorded a DNQ, DNF and DSQ in the same Grand Prix. Figure that one out…