The Monaco Grand Prix is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious, historic and glamorous events on not just Formula 1’s calendar, but sport as a whole. The streets of the principality are famed for their tight, bumpy and undulating characteristics that make Grand Prix cars dance around them in a way that is utterly unique. The race is sometimes called a procession because it is extremely hard to overtake, but if you look at the history of the event, it is rarely so simple. So, with that in mind, here are my top 5 Monaco Grands Prix:
5: 2008 – Hamilton’s recovery
It was a Ferrari front-row lockout for the 2008 race, which started in rainy conditions. Lewis Hamilton, a man who usually excels on a wet track, passed Kimi Raikkonen at the start to move into second place while Felipe Massa maintained his first position. But even Hamilton was caught out by the tricky conditions, sliding wide at Tabac after just a few laps and getting a puncture. He crawled back to the pits and re-emerged in fifth.
Massa continued to lead but the safety car eliminated his advantage over the rest of the field. Raikkonen was handed a drive-through penalty and Massa and Kubica both pitted which meant the Hamilton was now into the lead by Lap 33 of 76. The track eventually dried out and Hamilton maintained his lead throughout to complete an amazing comeback and achieve his first win at Monaco.
4: 1992 – Senna v Mansell
The 1992 Williams car was one of F1’s most dominant in history, Nigel Mansell had won the first five rounds of the season and already looked certain to win the world championship. Mansell was on pole, with his teammate, Riccardo Patrese alongside him on the starting grid. Ayrton Senna, the winner of the last three Monaco Grands Prix, jumped Patrese at the start but Mansell lead going round Sainte Devote.
Mansell dominated the race and in the days before tyre stops became mandatory, never relinquished his lead. After 70 o78 Laps, his advantage over Senna was huge but disaster struck. A wheel nut came loose on the Briton’s car and he had to pit for new tyres. Senna took the lead but Mansell smashed the lap record to catch back up after just a few laps, he was right on the McLaren’s gearbox.
Nigel was so much faster than Senna, but the Brazilian had track position. Even so, Mansell was all over him, trying to dive through at every corner but they never touched, this was a classic example of two great champions at the top of their games.
But Senna held on, against all the odds, to equal Graham Hill’s record of five wins in the principality, a superb achievement.
3: 1984 – Senna’s emergence
Full race report: http://essaar.co.uk/classic-races-monaco-1984/
A Monaco monsoon drowned the circuit back in 1984 in what has to be one of the wettest races in Grand Prix history. Alain Prost in his McLaren lead away at the start with Nigel Mansell’s Lotus following closely behind. After seven laps, Mansell made a move for the lead and passed Prost. The Englishman held first place until he lost the rear of his car just before the Casino.
Prost retook the lead with his teammate, Niki Lauda in second but, sensationally, a then-unknown Ayrton Senna was third in his Toleman. It took the Brazilian rookie only a few laps to pass double world champion, Lauda and he set about catching Prost for the lead.
Senna was catching Prost by over 3 seconds a lap at times and this rattled the Frenchman. He waved his hands in the air to stop the race and he got his wish, as the red flag was brought out a lap later. Prost pulled over by the start/finish line but did not cross it before Senna did.
Senna coasted around the circuit, waving his fist in the air in sheer ecstasy as if he had won but sadly, when a race is red-flagged the positions from the previous lap are taken as the results. His time would come though.
2: 1996 – The most unlikely winner ever?
There was another wet start to the Monaco Grand Prix back in ’96 and this race has gone down in folklore as one of the craziest of all time. Damon Hill got the jump on pole-sitter Michael Schumacher at the start but it got worse for the German, as he slid wide at Portier and broke he suspension. Hill looked almost certain to emulate his late father but his engine failed at the halfway stage and he was also out.
That meant that Jean Alesi in his Benetton now lead but this didn’t last either, as his suspension failed after 60 of the 75 Laps that day. That all meant that Olivier Panis in the Ligier now somehow lead the Grand Prix. He held off David Coulthard’s McLaren to earn Ligier’s one and only F1 victory after starting all the way down in 14th. Who says you can’t overtake at Monaco?
In the end, the three men that stood on the podium were the only ones that crossed the line, remarkable.
1: 1982 – The race that nobody wanted to win
But nothing, not even 1996, can top what happened back in 1982 for sheer chaos. Rene Arnoux started the race from pole position and held the lead going into Turn 1 and his teammate, Alain Prost, made excellent progress up the field by passing both Riccardo Patrese and Bruno Giacomelli in the early stages. Things were looking good for a Renault 1-2 until Arnoux spun at the Swimming Pool and was out with a stalled engine on Lap 14.
Prost assumed the lead and held it all the way until Lap 73 of 76 when the rain began to fall and he violently slammed into the barriers at the Chicane. Patrese only had to keep going in his Brabham to win but he couldn’t manage it, spinning at the hairpin and handing the lead to Didier Pironi. However, the Ferrari was a very thirsty car and Pironi stopped in the tunnel just over a lap later. Andrea de Cesaris or Derek Daly would’ve taken the lead but both had separate incidents and they joined the ever-growing list of retirements.
Incredibly, this now meant that Riccardo Patrese once again took the lead to win his first Grand Prix. Pironi was classified second and de Cesaris was third despite both of them running out of fuel.