The challenge of the tight and twisty confines of the Monte Carlo streets, mixed with a splash of glamour and coupled to its near ever-presence throughout the history of the sport means that the Monaco Grand Prix holds an undeniable place as Formula One’s blue-riband event. Spoilt for choice, RichlandF1’s nostalgia buff Dan Paddock looks back on five of Monaco’s finest races.
1961 – Moss humbles Enzo’s finest
It was all change as the 1961 World Championship assembled ahead of the opening race of the season in Monaco, with the debut of the sport’s new 1.5 litre engine formula.
Sterling Moss would kick-off this new era from pole in his privately entered Rob Walker Lotus-Climax. Up against him would be the might of the works Ferraris, with three all-new ‘sharknose’ 156s, as well as the defending champions Cooper with Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren, and the factory efforts of Porsche and Lotus.
Moss, in what was now a year-old car, and running with a severe power disadvantage of around 30bhp, would go on to produce one of the finest wins of his illustrious career. Having fallen to third off the start, Moss seized the lead on lap 14, but the Brit was shadowed throughout the 100 lap race by the Ferraris. Both Phil Hill and Richie Ginter tried to make use of their obvious power advantage, but Moss was unbeatable on the day, winning a second-consecutive Monaco Grand Prix, and the third of his career, at the time the first man to do so.
Phil Hill, who finished third that day would go on to become the first, and so far only American born drivers’ champion at the end of the season, while 1961 marked the first of Ferrari’s record 16 constructors’ titles. Yet, their was an element of tragedy amongst the Scuderia camp, after Wolfgang von Tripps, Hill’s team-mate and rival for the drivers’ title was killed at Monza during the Italian Grand Prix.
1982 – Patrese triumphs amidst the madness of a frantic final four laps
The 1982 running of the Monaco Grand Prix had been a relatively average affair up until the closing four laps, with Alain Prost having led the majority of the race for Renault, after his team-mate, and pole man Rene Arnoux retired on lap 15 after a spin at the entrance to the swimming pool section.
Then, with rain starting to fall, the race exploded into life with just four laps left to run as Prost, the long-time leader, crashed coming out of the Chicane du Port, what is now the reprofiled Mirabeau.
This promoted Ricardo Patrese into the lead, but just a lap later the Italian spun his Brabham into the Loews hairpin, seemingly stalling the car and handing the race lead to Didier Pironi in the Ferrari.
Onto the final lap and Pironi seemed poised to take the win, only for the fuel-hungry Ferrari to grind to a halt in the tunnel.
This meant that Andrea de Cesaris would inherit the lead, that was at least until the Italian’s Alfa Romeo too ran out of fuel.
Derek Daly, who had been running in third was the next man still running, but he too pulled up at the side of the track, the gearbox seizing in the Williams, which had lost its rear wing in an earlier incident.
This meant that Patrese, who had managed to bump-start his Brabham on the run down from Loews after his earlier spin, took the lead, the Italian taking the chequered flag to secure the first of what would ultimately be six F1 wins.
Those final laps of that year’s Monaco Grand Prix would come to characterise what was one of the most bizarre seasons in F1 history. Eleven different drivers would win in 1982, with an incredible run of nine consecutive different winners during the middle of the season. Which left Keke Rosberg to secured the drivers’ title with just a single race win in his Williams.
1984 – Prost vs Senna – Round One
Two years after the majestic 1982 event, Monaco once again dazzled with a race that has gone down in Formula One history.
With the streets of Monte Carlo utterly drenched by heavy rain, it was McLaren’s Alain Prost that converted pole into an early lead, while behind him former team-mate Rene Arnoux made contact with the two Renault’s of Derek Warwick and Patrick Tambay, eliminating the pair on the spot.
Prost, suffering with an engine misfire as the heavy rain continued to fall, would lead until lap 11, when in a bizarre incident the Frenchman was forced to slow, clipping a marshal that was assisting to clear Corrado Fabi’s beached Brabham at the entrance to the tunnel.
Mansell, taking advantage of Prost’s troubles was through, leading a grand prix for the very first time in his Formula One career. But the moment would be spoilt just four laps later, the Briton losing the Lotus on the run up to Massenet, and walloping the barrier, damaging his right-rear suspension and rear wing.
With Mansell out a lap later after a spin at Mirabeau, Prost once again led the race, with his team-mate Niki Lauda a distant second, the Austrian shadowed by the then relatively unknown Ayrton Senna, driving the unfancied Toleman. On lap 19 Senna was through into second, pulling off a forceful move around the outside of Lauda into Ste Devote.
The final laps of the race have since gone down in Formula One legend, as Senna, revelling in the torrential rain, reeled in Prost lap after lap, cutting a 31 second gap down to just 11, while the Frenchman, clearly unhappy with the conditions waved his hands to the race officials in an effort to have the race stopped.
Prost’s wishes were granted on lap 32. Jacky Ickx, the former Monaco Grand Prix winner and race director appeared on the start-finish line to display both a red and chequered flag, signifying that the race was over. Senna, seeing Prost pulling to a halt swept past into what he rightfully believed was the race lead. Unbeknown to Senna, who celebrated on the slow-down lap, the race would be declared from the last fully completed lap, that being lap 31, when Prost led.
The Brazilian is often painted as the hero of the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, after his show of skill in the wet. Yet, it often forgotten that Stefan Bellof, driving the only naturally aspirated ‘atmo’ car in the race that had been the fastest man on the circuit when the red flag was shown, in the slight and nimble Tyrrell. Bellof would finish third on the road, but he and his team were later stripped of their ’84 results following a curious fuel infringement penalty. The multi-talented German, who that same season won the sportscar world championship for Porsche, was tragically killed a year later racing at Spa.
The 1984 Monaco Grand Prix will forever be remembered as a pivotal moment in the history of Formula One, in that it marked the first clash of Prost and Senna. The pair would go on to dominate the following decade of Formula One, winning seven of the next ten drivers’ titles between them. In fact, it would be ten years before a driver other than Prost or Senna would win a grand prix around the streets of Monte Carlo. Only in 1994, with Prost retired and Senna killed, would someone else step up to take the Monaco crown, that man was Michael Schumacher.
1996 – Panis and Ligier delight in a rain-soaked race of attrition
The 1996 season up until the Monaco Grand Prix was one of utter domination by Williams. Damon Hill had won four of the first five races, while his team-mate Jacques Villeneuve had taken his maiden F1 win on just his fourth start, two races earlier.
Michael Schumacher, in his first year with Ferrari, had been the only man to genuinely threaten the Williams duo to that point, having taken something of a shock pole in Imola, a feat the German repeated in Monaco.
With the rain pouring down all eyes were on Schumacher, the anointed Regenmeister to make it a third Monaco win in as many years. However, a tardy getaway saw Hill, not the German, lead out of Ste Devote off the start. Schumacher gave chase, up the hill to Massenet, and then plunging back down out of Loews, but that was where the German’s race would end. In a moment of pure disbelief, Schumacher was in the wall at Lower Mirabeau, with what looked like the most simple of mistakes. The rain master was out, with less than a lap completed.
While cars were crashing out all around him, Hill remained unfazed, stretching out a lead of over 30 seconds from Jean Alesi. Hill, the son of Mr Monaco himself – Graham – looked set to follow in his fathers footsteps and claim a special win around the streets of Monte Carlo. But, on lap 40 there was heartbreak in the Williams camp, as exiting the tunnel the engine of Hill’s FW18 released a plume of smoke. The problem was terminal and Hill was forced to park his car, the dream of emulating his father over, at least for another year.
This promoted Alesi into the lead, but the Frenchman, who at times seemed cursed with an unnatural amount of bad luck, was forced into the pits 20 laps later, the suspension on his Benetton broken beyond repair.
Olivier Panis, who had been running in a well deserved third in his Ligier, now suddenly led the Monaco Grand Prix.
David Coulthard, now with a victory in sight, began to reel in the Ligier, but it was all too late for the McLaren man. The two hour race expiration mark had passed and Olivier Panis crossed the start-finish line to take his maiden Formula One win. Coulthard was a disappointed second, while Johnny Herbert rounded out the podium for Sauber, as the last man still running at the flag, to this day still the lowest number of finishers ever recored in a Formula One race.
Panis’ Monaco win was Ligier’s first in 15 years, and would ultimately prove to be the French team’s last, before it was bought and rebranded into Prost Grand Prix for 1997.
Panis too would likewise never win a grand prix again, despite coming close on occasion during the early part of 1997. He remains the last Frenchman to win a Formula One race.
2004 – Trulli at last
Like 1996, the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix is fondly remembered because of the upset it caused to the status quo in the sport at that time. 2004, like 1996, was a year dominated by a single team, Ferrari, and more precisely, Michael Schumacher, who at the wheel of the F2004 had won the first five races of the season.
The upset for which the race is remembered kicked off on Saturday, when contrary to the form guide, Jarno Trulli took the first pole position of his career driving for Renault. The Italian would be joined on the front row by Jenson Button in the BAR, while Fernando Alonso in the second Renault and Schumacher made up row two.
After two aborted starts, Trulli finally led the field away from pole, followed by the fast-starting Alonso, and the two BARs of Button and Takuma Sato.
But Sato would not stay fourth for long, as on lap three he suffered a colossal Honda engine failure, throwing up a cloud of smoke which caused Giancarlo Fisichella to barrel roll his Sauber over David Coulthard’s McLaren. All three drivers walked away unhurt as the safety car was deployed.
With the safety car clear, Trulli rattled off a series of fastest laps, but the Italian was shadowed by his team-mate throughout the opening stint. Trulli maintained his lead from Alonso at the opening round of stops, while Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen jumped Button in the pits.
Raikkonen was soon forced to retire, but the major turning point of the race came on lap 41, when Alonso, still chasing Trulli, came upon Ralf Schumacher in the tunnel. Alonso, in attempting to lap the Williams man, was forced wide onto the marbles, losing control of the Renault and slamming hard into the left hand wall, his car emerging battered and broken into the sunlight at the tunnel’s exit. The Spaniard’s abrupt hand gesture to the younger Schumacher said it all.
With a safety car called to clear Alonso’s Renault, the front-runners, aside from Michael Schumacher and Juan Montoya, ducked into the pits. The track clear, the safety car readied itself to pit, only for Schumacher, the leader of the snake of cars, to pile on the brakes in the tunnel, forcing Montoya behind him to take avoiding action. The Columbian, with nowhere to go hit Schumacher’s right-rear tyre, forcing the German to swerve uncontrollably into the left hand wall. As the field appeared out of the tunnel it was clear that Schumacher’s race was over. His run of consecutive victories had come to an abrupt end.
With 32 laps left to run, the battle would be between Button’s BAR, and long-time race leader Trulli, in the sole remaining Renault. In shades of Senna and Mansell in 1992, Button reeled in the Renault, slicing through the traffic in his pursuit, but try as he might, like Mansell, Button could find no way through. Instead, it was Jarno Trulli, who had been faultless on the day, who collected his first, and what would ultimately be his only Formula One win.
Monaco would mark a career high for Trulli, but just four races later his season would unravel when his relationship with Renault team boss Flavio Briatoire imploded, the Italian having lost a certain third place to Rubens Barrichello at the French Grand Prix. Trulli would walk away from the Enstone-based team after his home race, joining Toyota, where he would taste a modicum of success over the next five years.
For Renault, Trulli’s Monaco win simply hinted at the potential that bubbled under the surface of the team. Renault would sweep the board over the next two years, winning back-to-back drivers’ and constructors’ titles and picking up 16 victories, 14 of those courtesy of Fernando Alonso, and two via Trulli’s replacement, Giancarlo Fisichella.