Fascinating F1 Fact:55

As the world is currently finding out, nationality is a complicated business.

Three of the 33 FIA Formula 1 World Champions were not born in the country under whose flag they raced. If they had been, Germany’s first World Champion would have been in 1970, rather than 1994; Italy would have had a third World Champion, to stand alongside alongside Nino Farina and Alberto Ascari, and Sweden would not still be waiting for its first F1 title holder…

By the same token, Niki Lauda would have been Austria’s only World Champion, Phil Hill would be the only American to have won the world title and Finland’s list of World Champions would be rather shorter…

How so? Well, Michael Schumacher’s claim to be the first German World Champion would not be valid because Karl Jochen Rindt, born in Mainz in April 1942, would have beaten him to it by 24 years.

Rindt’s father Karl was a 40-year-old German spice merchant, his mother was 29-year-old Austrian called Ilse Martinowitz. The pair lived in Mainz but were killed in July 1943, during the fire bombing of Hamburg, while they were away from their new baby, visiting the city. Rindt and his half brother Uwe Eisleben were sent to Austria and brought up by their maternal grandparents in Graz. They took Austrian nationality as a result…

Italy’s third World Champion could have been Mario Andretti, who was born to Alvise and Rina Andretti in the village of Montona in Istria in 1940. At the time this area was part of Italy, although after the war it became Yugoslavia. Today it is part of Croatia. At the end of the war the Italian settlers in Istria, who had arrived after it became part of Italy in 1919 (having previously been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), were ordered out by the Yugoslav government. After spending time in a refugee camp in Italy, the Andretti family went to the United States when Mario was 14. They settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and he became a naturalised US citizen in 1964. Mario is motor racing’s perfect example of the American Dream coming true…

Sweden’s theoretical World Champion is none other than Keijo Erik Rosberg, who was born to Finnish parents in Solna, a suburb of Stockholm. Keke’s father Lars Erik, known as Lasse, had moved there so as to study to be a veterinarian, because Finland did not get its first veterinary college until 1945, by which time Lasse was 23 and in the middle of his studies in Sweden. He went home for the holidays and in 1946 married Lea Lautaka, known as Lessu. She joined him in Stockholm and young Keijo appeared in 1948, although following the family tradition he took on a different name… They returned to Finland once Lasse had qualified.

Of course, if Keke had been Swedish then perhaps his son Nico would not have ended up being German.

Nationalities can be complicated sometimes…

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