We now approach the race where the drivers want to win around this iconic and long-standing street track in the Formula One Calendar, which has provided us with so many memories over the past few decades. The Mediterranean principality brings glamour and high rollers to the event from the four corners of the globe every year, with supercars, beautiful women, casinos, parties and yachts galore as a welcome part of the background for the ‘fastest sport on four wheels.”
But as ever, Richland F1 has decided to provide you fans out there with an eclectic mix of those magic moments that have provided both action and controversy over the years, but we can’t mention them all, as there is quite a list to go through. Therefore, it was best to focus on five to never forget, so why not take a trip with us down the “Road of Nostalgia”, as looking back at history beckons…
1984: Ayrton Senna (Toleman)
A very young Ayrton Senna made his mark as one of the rising talents within the sport, as Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Niki Lauda were among the main protagonists that battled amongst the streets of the principality, but were upstaged by this plucky Brazilian, who was lapping at least three seconds quicker than the eventual winner of the race, McLaren’s Prost.
Prost was initially caught and passed by Mansell on Lap 11, where the Briton led for four glorious laps for the very first time in his career, before sliding into the barriers heading up the hill in the worsening rain. Senna and teammate Stefan Bellof fought their way through the field, as the laps increased, with Lauda being dispatched by the pair of uncompetitive Toleman-Harts on just lap 19.
Senna was on course for his potential first Grand Prix victory around the streets of Monte Carlo, but with Prost wildly protesting that the race be stopped, race director Jacky Ickx finally obliged with his countryman’s request on Lap 31. Senna passed his soon-to-be fierce rival as the chequered and red flags were waved signaling the end of the race, where half points were awarded as a result of half distance not being reached.
It was a moment of Formula One history that saw the beginning of a career, which would see the Paulista become one of the greats that have won several times in the principality over his short but impressive career.
1992: Senna VS Mansell
We fast-forward eight years later, with Senna now a master of the streets of Monaco, having already won four times. Mansell was the man on a mission in a bid to secure his only Drivers’ title with the Williams-Renault FW14B, where the British driver had won every race from Pole Position so far that season. But Monte Carlo was to provide an unusual blip on the radar for Mansell, as he was leading on Lap 69 going into the tunnel.
His Williams went sideways, with the car suffering a suspected puncture against the barrier, forcing Mansell to pit. The pit crew were not that quick changing the tyres, as getting the eventual 1992 World Champion back in front of his Brazilian rival did not transpire, leaving Mansell to try and fight his way past to try and obtain his first victory there.
However, Senna was able to keep him at bay for the remaining eight laps with pinpoint precision, and thereby equalled the late Graham Hill’s record of five wins in Monaco, with some gaps coming into corners being no more than the equivalent of a cigarette paper between the two drivers. It is one of the closest finishes seen in Monaco, and one that we may not see again for many years to come.
2004: Jarno Trulli takes the win
It was an action-packed affair from the very beginning, as an early Safety Car period on Lap 2 was as a result of Takuma Sato’s BAR blowing its engine, giving Giancarlo Fisichella no visibility whatsoever, meaning the Italian slammed into the McLaren of David Coulthard and his Sauber flipped as a result.
Jenson Button was on the front row of the grid alongside the Italian qualifying specialist, and would eventually finish just under half a second behind the now-retired F1 driver, who is as busy as ever off the track, following his decision to not continue racing after leaving Caterham at the end of 2011.
Trulli’s then teammate, Fernando Alonso, was chasing hard to try and usurp his colleague, but tried to put Ralf Schumacher down a lap down by passing him in the tunnel, which ended with the Spaniard crashing out. However, there was a subsequent retirement from Michael Schumacher a few laps later, as he tangled with Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya under Safety Car conditions.
So it was left to Trulli to drive a controlled and safe race to the end of the 78 laps, with the top three drivers, which included himself, Button and Scuderia Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello being the only drivers to finish on the lead lap, as Montoya was a lap down after the eventful proceedings.
It may have the year when Fernando Alonso was on his way to his second successive drivers’ championship, as well as winning in the principality, but it would have been a very different story for the race had Michael Schumacher’s actions in Q3 not caused major controversy. The 7-time world champion has been known for tactics of an unsporting matter, and ‘Rascasse-gate” was no exception, as he intentionally seemed to stop anyone from securing pole position.
This completely overshadowed the race itself and saw the German driver protest his innocence, which only meant that the indiscretion was further compounded, as Michael was sent to the back of the grid as a punishment for his behaviour on track.
Nevertheless, he still was able to make his way back up the field and secure P5 overall, thanks to a Safety Car period on Lap 48 caused by Mark Webber’s Williams going up in flames. Another memorable moment of this was David Coulthard securing Red Bull Racing’s first podium in Formula One. Team principal Christian Horner had promised to jump naked into the harbour should such a result come about, but a Superman cape and the Red Bull Energy Station swimming pool spared his blushes.
1955: Ascari ends up in the drink
And now we go way back to the early days of the sport, where motor racing was truly dangerous. The days of Moss, Fangio and Hawthorn were fast-paced with no safety concerns to speak of, with speed and glamour going hand in hand at Monte Carlo.
1955 was a tragic year for Formula One, as the explosive race at Le Mans on June 11th saw four Grand Prix cancelled following the devastating aftermath of driver and spectator deaths following a horrific accident, with Mercedes’ Pierre Levegh losing his life after his car went airborne, cartwheeled and split apart into the onlookers.
Another driver that was lost to the sport that year, following a testing incident just four days after the Monaco Grand Prix was Lancia’s Alberto Ascari. The Italian driver was very fortunate at that race, as Sir Stirling Moss’ exit was felt all around the track, with the crowds showing their unhappiness of the Briton’s retirement due to an engine failure on Lap 81.
Ascari was distracted by this so much that as he exited the tunnel, his entry to the chicane was misjudged, and due there being no safety barriers as such, the Italian ended up in the harbor, and was stretchered out to safety after a spectacular near miss. Sadly, at Imola, it was not the same story…
As we now head to the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix this coming Bank Holiday weekend, the history books continue to be written, as the speed and noise of Formula One roars around the glamorous Mediterranean once again…
(Images courtesy of Octane Photographic, flickr.com, f1fanatic.co.uk and yallaf1.com)