The Monaco Grand Prix. Fewer sporting spectacles can rival it for its timeless unique appeal of glamour, sea, sun and crashes. As we return to the Principality for the event’s 72nd running, it’s worth remembering the classics that extend our love for the race, beyond that of its glitz and its unparalleled glamour.
One silver team in particular has dominated the blue riband race more than any other. Here at Badger, we take look at the three most memorable McLaren Monaco victories from the last 30 years.
1984 – Prost Wins and a Star is Born
Monaco 1984 was strange one, for it was the man in second who was celebrated more so than the eventual race victor, Alain Prost. For in young Brazilian Ayrton Senna’s performance, a star was born.
Starting 13th at his debut Grand Prix, he ploughed through the field (not literally, Grosjesn/Maldonado-esque), and dismissed the driving rain to take his slow and underwhelming Toleman-Hart to runner-up at the chequered flag.
“THAT’S NOT A MCLAREN”, I hear you say. Well, you’re right, but Prost was driving one. The race was significant for McLaren in that it drew the birth of the historic Prost-Senna rivalry. Firstly, McLaren did win; the race was red flagged on the 32nd lap, following repeated tantrums from Prost and the decision by the clerk-of-the-course Jackie Ickx to bring out the chequered flag somewhat abruptly. With Prost using a Porsche-designed, TAG-badged engine, and Ickx being a Porsche employee of the time, the decision was somewhat….shady.
What stuck from that Sunday afternoon though, was the birth of Monaco’s adopted son, Senna, and the beginning of the titanic Marlboro-clad driving battles between the top two that would follow.
1992 – Senna Cancels out Mansell
After his F1 debut in the principality, Senna went on to win a record 6 races in the Principality, which could have easily been more. In fact, 60% of all the races he ever raced there were victories.
But when it comes to win number four that sticks in the minds of most. With fierce Alain Prost taking a break from the sport in 1992, Senna had to keep at bay the charging Williams FW14B of Nigel Mansell for the final three laps of the race, with the Brit having lost the lead on lap 71 following a lose wheel-nut.
By the grip of his fresh rubber and the power of his moustache, Mansell destroyed the fastest lap record by two whole seconds to be up in Senna’s grill for an intense 3 lap showdown. Our Nige practically pushed Senna’s McLaren-Honda around the track, but with the Brazilian dropping anchor on the apex of every corner, he pulled through to take the chequered flag by just 0.215.
12 years later, de-ja-vu would strike with Jarno Truli holding off the BAR-Honda of Jenson Button to take victory for Renault by a whisker, but it was that original showdown that Murray Walker once described as one of the five “best ever” Formula 1 races, due to what he described as the “absolute magic” battle for lead between Senna and Mansell.
2008- Hamilton Rules the (wet) Streets
Lewis Hamilton made waves in 2007 in his first season with McLaren, and rode those waves in 2008 in Monaco. Starting behind the two Ferraris of Felipe Massa and reigning World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton got the jump on the Finn to take 2nd into Sainte Devote. Meanwhile, it was raining, hard. The stage really was set for Hamilton to put in a performance worthy of former McLaren man, and his hero, Ayrton Senna.
7 laps in however, it seemed Lewis got stage fright, putting his McLaren into the barrier on the exit of Tabac. Luckily, the only damage done was a right-rear puncture, and with only a few corners to hobble around between him and the pit lane, the Brit diving in to try to save his race.
Switching to a new set of Bridgestone’s and fuelling the Silver Arrow up for as long as possible, Hamilton embarked on second stint that left him head and shoulders above the rest in terms of pace – at one with the car, barriers, and continuing rain. With Raikkonen suffering a drive-through penalty, and the leading duo of Massa and Robert Kubica pitting on laps 33 and 36, Hamilton took the lead, and continued to pull away.
With the track drying out and Hamilton’s wet tyres worn, the Brit pitted for dry rubber, a whole 37 seconds ahead of Massa. Despite a late safety car following a hefty crash for Nico Rosberg at the swimming pool chicane, Hamilton took a dominant victory; perhaps one of the three finest of his career so far. The yellow helmet searing through the rain around the Monaco streets was every bit the epitome to Senna that he aspired to be.
In truth, we could have picked any of the 15 McLaren victories in Monaco. Any win around the infamous streets is special; suffice to say that a 16th win for Ron Dennis and his team this weekend would surely be up there with the best of them. One thing’s for sure – stranger things have happened in Monte Carlo.